Another Veterans' Day is upon us, and there's perhaps no more appropriate time to pause and consider the challenges facing our 23 million military vets. There's the obvious: wars on two fronts, which affect our troops-to-be-vets and the VA system at large, and the Ft. Hood massacre, which magnifies the severity of dual (and expanding) wars, being fought by a beleaguered and traumatized fighting force.
Today will be full of symbolism and remembrances, but there are also real policies being negotiated on Capitol Hill that can help support vets in the long-run. Two weeks ago, President Obama signed a bill to keep funding steady for veterans' health care services during protracted budget negotiations. Yesterday, Sen. Tom ("Dr. No") Coburn (R-Okla.) continued to be the roadblock on a $3.7 billion bill that would expand mental care and offer home assistance to wounded veterans, citing "wasteful spending" in his opposition to the bill. This was the same day that the VA settled a lawsuit pending over a two-tour Michigan vet with PTSD who died after an overdose; his family said the VA failed to hospitalize him or enter into a mental-health facility.
Mental- and other health-care funding, troop levels in Afghanistan, the state of our taxed VA system, these all have residual effects on vets today and vets tomorrow. And we can Support Our Troops with banners and bumper stickers all we want, but when it takes a domestic attack on a military base by one of our own for Texas to ramp up mental health funding for its veterans, we all must not be paying close enough attention.
Have a look at some of Mother Jones' coverage over the past few years on the state of veterans' affairs. These are stories that investigate all fronts, from ex-torturers back stateside, photos of hidden caskets (and of the hidden-from-sight injured), to a military with combat fatigue, and the Pentagon's PTSD problem. There's more, and we can do more. Look around, tell us what you think.