Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bush Administration Exploits, Neglects Soliders on Memorial Day

Memorial Day celebrations seemed muted this year, and underreported. I think that's becasue we're all ashamed of the Iraq War, and the abuse, neglect and exploitation heaped on our armed forces by the Bush Administration....

From the Center for American Progress....

Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, President Bush stated: “[W]e take comfort from knowing that the men and women who are serving freedom’s cause understand their purpose and its price.” For all its rhetoric about advancing freedom’s cause, the Bush administration has done precious little to honor those servicemen and women who have put their lives on the line to advance democracy for the rest of us. The failure to maintain adequate health benefits for returning veterans during a time of war is particularly shameful.

The Bush administration’s idea of honoring service to the country is to make millions of veterans pay huge increases for health care. President Bush’s 2006 budget proposal included legislation that would raise veterans’ premiums over 100 percent on prescription drugs and add an annual $250 enrollment fee for veterans who want care for conditions not directly caused by military service and who generally earn more than $25,000 a year. The user fee would increase costs for nearly 2 million veterans nationwide.

Right-wing leaders have basically told servicemen and women: “Fight our wars now and then you’re on your own.” Right-wing leaders in Congress recently blocked $2 billion in emergency funding for veterans health care from the $82 billion supplemental funding bill to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the Bush administration requested a mere 2.7 percent increase in VA spending, hardly sufficient to deal with an expected influx of Afghanistan and Iraq-war veterans in the coming years. Nearly 28,000 soldiers who served in Iraq and were discharged have already sought care at a VA facility. Of the nearly 245,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan already discharged from service, 12,422 have been in VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms associated with PTSD.

With servicemen and women fighting two wars and an on-going battle against global terrorism, our veterans need to know that America stands behind them. The deteriorating condition of VA health care has elicited plenty of criticism from the nation’s veterans. The American Legion called Bush’s budget, “the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong constituency.” The Vietnam Veterans of America said the budget did a “disservice to those of us who donned the uniform to defend the rights, principles, and freedoms that we hold dear.” And the Veterans of Foreign Wars decried Bush’s decision as “especially shameful during a time of war.”

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