Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why doesn't the VA reach out to all veterans?

While this is a good step, what they don't want publicized is the fact they are not reaching out to all veterans. Vietnam veterans are still seeing their claims denied when all the evidence and their experiences have proven they suffered even worse treatment since they returned but have been the last ones on the list to receive the care they earned and desperately need.

VA reaches out to veterans

Star-Tribune capital bureau Sunday, July 06, 2008

CHEYENNE -- When Mike Alverson finished his service with the Marine Corps in 1988, military doctors told him he was in great shape and wished him luck in the civilian world, he said.

It wasn’t long before he was feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and other health issues. The problem was, he didn’t know where to turn for help.

"When I got out of the Corps, I was one of the ones who dropped through the cracks," said Alverson, now 44 and living in Cheyenne.

Alverson, who subsequently served 20 years with the Wyoming National Guard, said he had a completely different experience when he returned home from 11 months of service in the Iraq war.

"The (Department of Veterans Affairs), they stepped it up," said Alverson, who plugged into his health benefits through a VA program for service members who spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan called the OEF/OIF program. "They made me aware of what their services are and what they could do for me."

The 2-year-old OEF/OIF program is so called because it was created specifically for veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.

The main objective is outreach. So instead of waiting for veterans to seek help, the VA now sends OEF/OIF program representatives out to meet National Guard soldiers before they set foot in Wyoming.
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Why aren't Senator Akaka and Congressman Finler holding hearings on the fact most of the backlog claims are from older veterans still suffering without getting the help they've been waiting for even longer? How about the Gulf War veterans just about forgotten? The older veterans from Korea and the few survivors of WWII still waiting for help? What is this all about? Is one war more worthy than others? One veteran more worthy than others?

We need to take care of the new veterans as soon as possible but have they ever once looked into the eyes of a Vietnam vet carrying around their wound for over 30 years when no one bothered to take care of them with any kind of effort? Their claims are not only trapped in the backlog piles, they are being denied as well as being pushed back on VA appointments because there is not enough staff to take care of all the veterans. It's about time the advocates started fighting for all our veterans equally. We cannot just fight for the ones coming home now trying to make it look like we're accomplishing something when so many of the older veterans are suffering in silence.

Senator Akaka and Congressman Filner need to acknowledge that as the VA and the DOD have failed to provide the care the new veterans need, they have yet to address the problems the older veterans have had to endure all these years. They are not invited to hearings. Their families are never asked any questions when they have been living with all of this for over 30 years. Do they really want to know what the problems are and find solutions or do they want publicity for doing anything at all?

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

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