The hollowness of Veterans Day (NB: outrage warning)

Here's a thought for "Veterans" Day: one out of nine people in the US is a veteran but one out of four homeless persons is a veteran. That's something for Americans to be proud of for sure. Support Our Troops is either just a slogan or they stop being worthy of support when they stop being cannon fodder:

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000. (AP via Yahoo; hat tip daedulus)

The Vietnam veteran experience was bad but apparently the Iraq/Afghanistan vet experience is worse. It took about ten years for Vietnam vets to show up in homeless shelters. The early presence of today's combat vets is a very bad sign. If the mental health consequences are as bad as current indications, we are in for a social service catastrophe for veterans. Of course we are also cutting the budget for social services. don't want to raise those taxes. Support our Tax Cuts!

The Iraq vets seeking help with homelessness are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness ? mostly related to post-traumatic stress, said Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at the VA.

Overall, 45 percent of participants in the VA's homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both, Dougherty said.

If I hear one more chickenhawk tell us we have to "Support our Troops" and then turn around and argue we can't afford to do what's needed because it will raise our taxes I think I will explode.

You broke 'em. You fix 'em.

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"The Iraq vets seeking help with homelessness are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness ?"

This line makes me wonder if men are more predisposed to handle violence with less negative long term effects. It would certainly make an interesting study.

By Dudley Fox (not verified) on 12 Nov 2007 #permalink


There are a lot of other ways you could look at the data: what percent of current vets are women now as opposed to Viet Nam?

I have seen veterans in VA hospitals with an endless list of injuries: blind, mentally ill, loss of one or both legs, loss of one or both arms, paralyzed, and with cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange, and much more. I grieve for them all and for our homeless veterans.
And I grieve for the death of our Constitution, the death of our Bill of Rights, and Habeas Corpus, with the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
I am sad our new attorney general states he does not know if waterboarding is or is not torture. I grieve for the over 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians our military has killed.
And I am concerned because the Pentagon has plans ready for an attack on Iran, possibly with tactical nuclear weapons. If the order is given to launch that attack, there will be many dead on both sides.
Iran has a surface to sea missile called the sunburn, which was built by China, that is capable of sinking an aircraft carrier, with all 5000 US sailors aboard. And if those nuclear reactors in Iran are hit, they could go critical and release massive quantities of radiation, killing thousands of innocent people in Iran. These nuclear reactors are near population centers, and people in the cities could die of radiation poisoning.
How many of our brave military would die if ordered to attack Iran? How many of our young men and women would return from the war, knowing hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed in Iran?

Thoughtful selection and analysis should be put into finding the appropriate soldiers for combat. Prevention of sending soldiers into war considered to be high risk for post traumatic stress sydrome should be the first step. Then required counseling should be required for all combat tested soldiers. It is unfortunate that the good people of this country must sometimes kill and bare witness to the horrific nature of warfare. It is also necessary. It is not our countries fault that we are engaged in war, it is our countries obligation to be engaged in war. Those who fight for this country should be given the best care and the most comprehensive social programs. The fact we can't afford the best for our troops isn't the fault of uncaring politicians, but the takers(liberal democrats). If it weren't for the welfare programs that feed their laziness more could be afforded for a lot of deserving groups. If we didn't waste millions supporting enemies like Pakistan and France we could afford more for the soldiers of our country. How much do we have to give without receiving gratitude before we realize our handouts don't help the world. Conviction in our beliefs will.

Context gentlemen, I dont know how many are products of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or the latest one that are out there. They are like this from every war. They ARE there though as Revere says. But for what reasons? Some like it like that and there are big time attempts by the VFW's to get them off the streets and get them all jobs. The Union Mission here in Memphis has at least 100 a day floating thru to get a meal, shower, etc.

Some just saw too much, some just faded into the woodwork and we see them around town but dont pay too much attention. Many are certifiable but they or someone they know have to commit themselves to get help. Most GI's know how to raise a stink in the loudest way if you try to get them to do something they dont want to. Part of the above is that. A lot of it is what Revere says, they are broken.

I went to both the National and Tennessee Veterans Cemetaries today. Sobering to see how many gave it up for this country. The oldest? 1863 and noted to be the oldest known man to fight in 1812 and the Civil War on his gravesite. Died at age 66 with a rifle in his hands defending what he believed to be right in both wars. That made him 15 in 1812...and 66 in 1863. Pure guts on both ends of his life. It would be like fighting with a pacifier in your mouth and with a fifth of Jack Daniels and a wheelchair on the other.

Veterans have always gotten short shrift in every war. We were warned about the lack of care post of a conflict and that in combat you would see things that you wouldnt ever talk about again. On the other hand, the survivors remember them and deal with it the best way they can. I was in an undeclared war, without any support and I learned how to fend for myself and come back in one piece. I got a little metal as a permanent present in my legs, bad knees and both landed me at the VA. No Revere, not for the psych eval. Thats automatic now anyway or supposed to be. Our facilities here are pretty good and it has a lot to do with whats acceptable where you are. I go about once every six months and they do what they can but its not much. Some places are good, some not so good and others terrible. Many of the veterans are walk ins off the street and are WWII and Korea, lots of Vietnam types. There are others that are permanent residents of the VA due to their physical conditions. Then there are the ones that Revere speaks of. Cant deal with it and they just never came back. You start talking to them like you are just another GI and they get the 1000 yard stare. They start talking and you can see them start to twitch. Doctors see it and try to get them into treatment, but no they aint having that. Fastest way to get them into treatment I have seen? Tell them that you think they are throwing their rifle down and running away from it. Gets them fired up and angry. I can deal with angry and I think I have used that line when they try to admit them just about everytime. I have been there and shooting the breeze with them when the nurse or doctor comes by and tries to get them in. Docs say that they need to see a shrink and they will start for the door before they will talk to them. Basically in using that line you are calling them a chickenshit. You get them mad and talking to you and then the shrinks can act as a mediator and get them to talk. I dont know how many end back out on the streets. I am there just to get an xray to make sure the metal isnt moving around so I can only use it on one or two each time. There are a lot of them. There will be more after this latest gig is over too.

The veterans dont get shit and its the Congress's fault that they dont. Not the Presidents because with veterans its all about the money and Congress votes the money. Every veteran knows that they might end up with a peg leg or worse and that you dont depend on the VA to solve your problems. Some will never solve their problems.

Getting the magic bullet might be better than surviving in some cases.

Herman-I am not going to address that one million bullshit statistic on this day. If things are so bad then why why arent you out getting waterboarded, your rights infringed upon, and being spied on actively?

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 12 Nov 2007 #permalink

War changes all who take part. Some are damaged profoundly. Some need to get away from it all for a period of time, and a few of those never make their way back. Not all wounds are obvious, and not all kill quickly. And as long as we treat mental illness as a moral failing we will lose more than we otherwise would.

Thank you for reading my post. At least I now know one person read it. As for the 1 million number, it is incorrect.
Thanks for keeping me in line. I read something about over 1 million, but it relates to the civil war dead, and collateral damage from US bombs and shells.
I need to read your posts to get a different point of view.
Please do not stop.

Just off the top of my head, and therefore not reliable at all, I figured there were more women vets from Iraq than Vietnam, WWII, etc. Therefore more vets who are women from the Iraq war being homeless or seeking VA assistance seemed to indicate a bias (natural or otherwise) based on gender. I was just wondering what the underlying cause was, and off the top of my head, after watching too many nature shows, hypothesized that men could be predisposed to handle violence more easily than women could. It is just a hypothesis of course.

By Dudley Fox (not verified) on 13 Nov 2007 #permalink

Oh hell yeah I forgot Ms. Melanie. In the VA I know of at least six combat nurses that have PTSD from the Gulf War. I forgot as do one helluva lot of goddamn America that those combat chicks suffered by percentage just as bad as the guys did. I counted 22? recent deaths of women with the rank of major on down at the TennVet cemetaries yesterday. I put them mostly at the Vietnam gig and some at the Gulf War.

Forgive my oversight... classic dumb guy response...Sorry Mel. They should get the Congressional as far as I am concerned. Chicks in a combat zone....Geez!

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 13 Nov 2007 #permalink

Kevin... Its illegal to spy on Americans from US soil. You are worried? Give me a break old son... Check into a web search of something called Echelon. They have been happily spying on Americans and others from foreign soil for some 40 years. And no one has violated the law.

Listen, if they start kicking down doors as they did during Johnson and part of Nixon' days without warrants and based on horseshit then I'll get worried. If they do it a lot, then I'll do something about it as many of the veterans above would. This is a constantly fluid gig that we cant keep trying to say, "You cant do that." The enemy used the laws and there were thousands of emails, telephone calls from Ramzi Youssef to Pakistan and other places and to the phones of known terrorists. So you fight fire with fire and until everyone gets it that these guys are actively trying to kill us pre, during and post 9/11 no one will ever understand the reasons for it. DO I LIKE IT? No, we are afforded the right to privacy but security too and that is the reason we have the FISA courts. Those courts get modified and I agree...its a little bit too far to the right. But I fear it will swing too far to the left as it did under S. Berger. The Clintons actively used it to spy on their opponents. Just as it did under Johnson and Nixon.

It isnt the thought thats wrong, its the lack of oversight that is over the NSA. Thats something we have to watch and make sure its not used for domestic spying. By definition, the NSA is the most dangerous agency in the USGovt. They can and do have a load of firepower under their belt and its wielded by whomever is in the White House at the time. So far other than rounding up those Islamic extremists that our courts system said were innocent (yeah right) they havent gone after Bubba in Decatur Alabama, or you or me. If they do then the pendulum will swing and their powers will be limited again.

Remember one thing Kevin. If the Democrats take the W. House, control the Senate and the House in the coming election I can ASSURE YOU THAT THEY WONT CHANGE ONE DAMNED THING!!!! Its a weapon and how its wielded is the thing we have to watch. They will of course turn around and say its necessary... Just as Bush has.


By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 13 Nov 2007 #permalink

Randy: Just explain to us why this isn't against the law (since that seems to be your major issue when it comes to other things, like teenagers copying 30 seconds of a movie on their cell phone cameras).

Because Revere, the law hasnt been tested in the courts. At least not to my knowledge and you know I am watching it. They can take the law and have any AG interpret it. That gives the Administration or prosecutors the cover they need to do what they need to do. They got immunity from prosecution the second it happens. This turns it into a civil matter. Same if we get another round of Clintonites in there.
They will do EXACTLY what Bush is being accused of and use the former and present AG's opinion's to do it.

Then it will move to the courts. It becomes a civil matter and those courts will rule whether yours, my or others rights were violated. IMO I doubt it because they are able to do it to everyone. The law is ambiguous and that is because Congress wanted it that way. Absence of malice against any one person or group. Therefore its legal. Believe it or not the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhow Administrations had laws on the books that they used frequently under a man named Hoover. It was the sole way he stayed in power. In fact he was the one who likely chose who was going to be President. Either by pressure applied or knowing that he could manipulate someone like the Kennedy's because of their exploits. We have had a steady stream of people thru that office as of late both Clinton and Bush's... might be because the ability to stay in power WAS removed by other Congress's.

But you know Revere, I dont think there is a warning label on your phone or phone bill that states that if you use the phones, emails, fax, or radio waves to commit or cause to commit fraud, death, injury to other people that you can be held as actual suspects or as a co-conspirator by just being a person who has that phone in their name. Maybe they should. But its another tool. How has your particular life been affected by the change? Not much I bet. If this law is used to spy on people other than the enemies of the US then the NSA will be disbanded. They aint stupid over there you know, even in a Democrat White House. They get caught just like the rest of them. They go off the reservation with their mandate and someone is going to end up being someone's girlfriend in Atlanta FP or Leavenworth.

You are right though. This HAS to be watched and tightly. The opportunity for abuse is large and the instant the threat is dropped then so should the ability to do it. It should be like a on the backshelf dusty law that is brought out only when necessary. They do have the ability to suspend a law when they think its necessary. I personally like the suspension provisions rather than the lets go make a new one each time. That way everyone knows whats about to happen, what the courts held and what they will be allowed to do.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 13 Nov 2007 #permalink