A recent Newsweek article by Michael Isikoff and Jamie Reno ('How Do You Fund a War, But Not the Casualties?') tells the story of a simple question being asked by the families of our current-day service members. If only the resolution to this problem was as simple. Here's the gist of their story.
The secretary of Veterans Affairs presides over the U.S. government's second largest Cabinet department, after Defense. It is a politically sensitive job with studies showing the current administration has vastly underestimated the cost of providing health care to the more than 750,000 soldiers who have returned home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three months ago, former secretary James Nicholson resigned abruptly after a difficult tenure. To date there have been no nominations for a replacement. Some veterans advocates say the VA is in such disarray that the administration has been unable to find a top-notch candidate willing to take the job, much less go through a confirmation hearing.
USA Today reports a new internal VA study shows the number of Iraq and Afghanistan vets diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress disorder is rising rapidly; from 29,041 a year ago to 48,559 this year. Yet few of these soldiers are even counted in the Pentagon's official tally of 27,753 wounded in Iraq. Still, a Pentagon task force recently concluded that the number of mental-health professionals available to vets is "woefully inadequate." Linda Bilmes, a policy analyst at Harvard recently testified before Congress that over the next decade, the disability costs for vets will be at least $60 billion - more than six times the administration's official projections. The numbers coming out of government budget offices, she says, "are significantly underestimating the reality."
I would love to have the President live my life for one week to see how difficult it is,
" says Annette McLeod, wife of Army specialist Wendell McLeod, who is suffering from PTSD after serving in Iraq. "
How do you fund a war but not fund the casualties?
This Week's Not Commented on Topic
COMPLAINT LEADS TO FLAG-FOLDING RECITATION BAN AT VETERANS' CEMETERIES -- "It is a perfect example of government choosing to ignore religion in order to avoid offending some religions." Flag-folding recitations by Memorial Honor Detail volunteers are now banned at the nation's 125 veterans graveyards because of a complaint about the ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery. During thousands of military burials, the volunteers have folded the American flag 13 times and recited the significance of every fold to survivors. The complaint revolved around the narration in the 11th fold (see below), which celebrates Jewish war veterans and "glorifies the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." The National Cemetery Administration then decided to ban the entire recital at all national cemeteries. Details of the complaint weren't disclosed.
: These meanings, not part of the U.S. Flag Code, have been ascribed to the 13 folds of American flags at veterans burial services:
1. Symbol of life.
2. Symbol of our belief in the eternal life.
3. In honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.
4. Represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.
5. A tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."
6. Represents where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
7. A tribute to our armed forces.
8. A tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother's Day.
9. A tribute to womanhood.
10. A tribute to father.
11. In the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
12. In the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
13. When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God We Trust."
My three-day stay at the Bronx VA (Wednesday morning through Friday afternoon) was, for the most part, uneventful. Next week I'll share some of the other-than-uneventful parts. As I've often said, you can't make this stuff up.
--- Regards, Walt Schmidt