I know we are in the midst of another campaign season and all the politicians are vying for their sacred post, but this should not concern or affect a certain group of our citizens — specifically, our returning veterans.
Earlier last month, the Republicans blocked a vote in the Senate on the “Veterans’ Job Bill”which, according to an article in The Hill, would have created jobs for returning veterans in the fields of national park conservation, police, firefighters and historic preservation projects.
Our returning veterans have the highest unemployment rate (17 percent total and 30 percent for those younger than 30) of all demographic groups in our country. Only five Republicans had the decency to cross lines and vote for our veterans. The rest repeated the same mistake they made before the Iraq war started when they blocked an amendment to a bill that would have allowed for funding the Veterans Administration hospitals to prepare for returning wounded soldiers. As we all saw when the wounded returned, that didn’t work out so well.
Along with the highest unemployment rate, our soldiers have the highest suicide rate in the nation. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, reported in an interview with USA Today, “suicides are the most-common form of death in the Army, claiming more lives than combat or motor vehicle accidents.”
In the same USA Today article, Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, cited the lack of “qualified mental-health professionals, stigma of receiving counseling, and further compounded by family stresses and financial problems” as being a primary cause of the suicides. He stated, “The unemployment rate among military families is a particular problem.”
Playing politics with our veterans is unfathomable. They found the money in the budget to give subsidy to the oil and gas industry, they can find the money for our veterans.
We cheer for them as they go. We use them as props in our ads. We scream from the rooftops our love for them. We invent imaginary medals to dish out for photo ops, but when the time comes to pay them back, we spit in their faces again.
If support for our veterans is more than a hollow political slogan to you, get angry.
Let’s not repeat the sins of our past by forgetting our veterans now. Now is not the time for politics. Call U.S. Sen. David Vitter and your representatives in the U.S. House and demand that they do what is right for our veterans and get them back to work. It is the very least we can do as a thankful nation.
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