‘Our Veterans’ digs deep into vets’ challenges
Friday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day this yr. There shall be parades. Politicians will make speeches “honoring the sacrifices” of the women and men who serve or have served within the armed forces, and households with a relative with a army background will spend time desirous about that individual.
However as Suzanne Gordon, Steve Early and Jasper Craven clarify of their new e-book, Our Veterans: Winners, Losers, Associates and Enemies on the New Terrain of Veterans Affairs, desirous about veterans as a monolithic group with the identical experiences, identical outlook and identical wants is improper. The extensively researched and sourced Our Veterans units out to elucidate why.
In a phone interview, Richmond-based Gordon and Early famous that ever since 1973, when the army draft was changed with all-volunteer forces, main generational adjustments have challenged the parable of veteran solidarity. And even earlier than that point, the way in which by which vets getting back from Vietnam have been handled—together with their wrestle to pressure the federal government to acknowledge the results of Agent Orange—started to create rifts.
As soon as conscription ended, recruiters’ pitch to patriotism wasn’t sufficient, mentioned Gordon, co-founder of and senior coverage analyst for the Veterans Healthcare Coverage Institute. “It turned about upward mobility, house loans, training, well being advantages,” she mentioned. “They don’t inform [recruits] that the profession success you possibly can obtain as an officer may be very totally different from what you possibly can obtain as enlisted personnel.”
And most younger individuals, together with members of Gen Z, now being enticed with adverts that resemble video video games, don’t know the way comparatively simply the army can renege on promised advantages via the method of “unhealthy papering,” or receiving a less-than-honorable discharge.
Our Veterans reviews “about 575,000 former service members have been discharged beneath circumstances ‘apart from honorable,’” together with many Black Vietnam-era troopers who participated in anti-war protests. Put up-9/11 vets with PTSD or traumatic mind accidents might be discharged for conduct that’s the direct results of their army service. “Receiving a ‘normal discharge’ may end up in lack of training advantages,” mentioned Gordon.
Bay Space-based nonprofit Swords to Plowshares has been preventing “unhealthy papering” for years, mentioned Gordon, by arguing that the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was solely meant to exclude these with dishonorable discharges.
Rifts have additionally arisen, the e-book paperwork, between vets who assist causes similar to Black Lives Matter, and those that don’t, together with ones indoctrinated into far-right causes. As conventional veterans’ organizations, such because the American Legion, decline in membership and clout, others, similar to Koch Brothers-funded Involved Veterans for America have emerged, espousing rightwing candidates and causes.
Considered one of these causes was the controversial “Alternative Act,” promoted by its Republican sponsors as a solution to increase veterans’ medical choices past the Veterans Well being Administration (VHA). Though endorsed by vets similar to John McCain, its results have been harmful. Our Veterans quotes vet and Montana Sen. John Tester as saying, “The Alternative program has been a wreck. Each veteran up right here will inform you that.”
Not surprisingly, given Gordon’s background, a lot of Our Veterans offers with the struggles—and successes—of the VA/VHA. “The VA,” the authors write, “[serves] 9 million predominantly poor and working-class sufferers, lots of whom are individuals of coloration.” They quote one vet explaining why vets of all generations want to return collectively “to guard the VA as a result of the VA saves lives day-after-day. It saved my life.”
The VHA employs 100,000 vets, mentioned Gordon, offering peer assist to these affected by a variety of circumstances attributable to their army service, together with psychological well being points. Between 2006 and 2015, the e-book states, the variety of vets requiring VA-provided psychological well being care rose from 900,000 yearly to 1.6 million.
VHA analysis successes embody the event of the shingles vaccine, the nicotine patch and the primary implantable cardiac pacemaker. The COVID pandemic, Early, Gordon and Craven write, “supplied a well timed reminder of the VHA’s little-known fourth mission—appearing as a backup system throughout a nationwide public well being disaster.”
But regardless of this, political forces linked to the for-profit well being business proceed to push for elevated privatization of the VHA. Already one-third of the company’s funds goes to pay “outsourcing” payments, as allowed by the Alternative Act, “which has led to over-billing and fraud,” mentioned Gordon. Early pointed to a hyperlink to ongoing efforts to denationalise the U.S. Postal Service, which employs 1000’s of vets. The VHA as a profitable mannequin of “socialized” drugs is value saving, he urged.
One other subject mentioned within the e-book is the “vet-to-cop” pipeline. “Policing is the third commonest occupation for women and men who’ve served within the army,” the authors write, and so they now signify 19% of all regulation enforcement personnel.
Though many police chiefs laud these recruits for his or her self-discipline and work ethic, the draw back, as research doc, could be a tendency to “blur the traces” between fight and civilian crime conditions. Mentioned Early, “There’s too nice an inclination for cops to [have an] ‘occupying military’ mindset.”
“Vets are two-to-three occasions extra possible to make use of their firearms,” mentioned Gordon. “Army indoctrination doesn’t educate you to suppose in shades of grey.” As an alternative, she mentioned, the vary of choices for post-service supplied and promoted needs to be expanded.
What ought to People involved in regards to the many points going through veterans do to really assist them, apart from waving a flag on Veterans Day?
In case you make a charitable donation, make it to a corporation that’s genuinely preventing for veterans’ finest pursuits, “like Swords to Plowshares,” steered Gordon. Discover the nonprofit at www.swords-to-plowshares.org.
“Be a part of with labor unions and others to assist them defend good public sector jobs,” mentioned Early.
Maybe most essential of all, Our Veterans advocates, combat to place an finish to the cycle of “perpetually wars.”
‘Our Veterans: Winners, Losers, Associates and Enemies on the New Terrain of Veterans Affairs.’ Suzanne Gordon, Steve Early and Jasper Craven, authors. Duke College Press, 2022.
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