The Long Wait for Veterans

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Our veterans are waiting. They have fought for our country. They have experienced unimaginable trauma. They have returned home, and now they are waiting. It isn’t a small group of our veterans who are waiting for their disability or other benefits to be approved. Nine hundred thousand men and women continue to wait. This is really enough of a travesty in and of itself.  However, it doesn’t stop there.  A probable majority of these men and women are experiencing serious mental health issues.  These issues are being resolved via suicide in some cases rather than treatment. Twenty two veterans commit suicide each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  More veterans are dying by suicide than by combat.

Aaron Glantz, author of “The War Comes Home:  Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans,” attributes this rate of suicide to the isolation that is often felt by veterans once they return home. In a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Glantz stated:

“There’s no draft. Most people have never interacted with somebody who served in Iraq or Afghanistan … and I think that further contributes to the suicides and the other problems, not only because, you know, the government is failing to deliver these programs efficiently, but also because of the alienation that sets in when you’ve had this incredible experience in your life — perhaps the most incredible experience — and you’ve seen your friends be killed, and all you can see in the media is a discussion of the iPhone. And in the meantime, the VA won’t even approve your disability claim for an extended period of time, and that claim, for many veterans, is not only about the money and the access to health care but also about respect and an official acknowledgement from the government of what you’ve lost in the war.”

The VA has been confronted with a confluence of factors such as an increase in claims, making the switch from paper claims to computerized ones, and issues with understaffing. Hopefully, with the increase in funding as well as the focus on the bureaucratic problems, the VA will make the necessary changes to put an end to the waiting.

Click here to listen to the interview.

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