Saturday, May 28, 2022
May 28, 2022

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In Our View: Salute veterans by improving services, systems

The Columbian
Published:

Today we commemorate Veterans Day, when we pay tribute to those who have served in the United States’ armed forces. These men and women have dedicated themselves to the protection of their country, its ideals and their fellow Americans.

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 Armistice Day, commemorating Nov. 11, 1918, when World War I ended. It was declared a legal holiday in 1938, but in 1954 was changed to Veterans Day to recognize the sacrifices of World War II and the Korean War.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ website states that Veterans Day is, “A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

Figures from the VA’s website illustrate our service members’ sacrifice in stark terms. Starting with World War I, nearly 670,000 of them have lost their lives; another 1.8 million have been wounded.

Today seems an especially apropos time to address the challenges facing some of America’s veterans.

There are more than 19 million living veterans, and for some their lives are difficult. Too many have to struggle to get the health care they need — and were promised — from the VA. In addition, according to Policy Advice, almost 40,000 veterans are without shelter on any given night in the U.S.; they account for 11 percent of homeless adults. The leading causes of homelessness among veterans are PTSD, social isolation, unemployment, and substance abuse, Policy Advice says.

Philip Carter of ForeignAffairs.com wrote for AmericaServes, which describes itself as the first coordinated system of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working together to serve veterans, service members, and their families: “Service members are an irreplaceable component of U.S. national security. And because the United States relies on an all-volunteer force, how the country treats its troops during and after their service matters when it comes to sustaining this critical component of national strength.

“But despite some recent improvements, the VA and other federal agencies struggle to keep other promises to active service members and veterans after they come home. Aging bureaucracies struggle to meet the needs of a diverse and dispersed population. Educational and economic support programs fail to keep pace with the changing needs of veterans and their families. To fix these problems, the United States must rewrite the contract it strikes with its service members, building a support system that not only ameliorates their battle wounds and financial losses but also helps them thrive after their service in a 21st-century economy.”

The National Academy of Sciences also weighed in on this issue: “Several federal departments and agencies collect data on the physical, psychological, social, and economic challenges facing veterans, but no database combines demographic and deployment data with health outcomes, treatment, access to care, or employment before and after deployment. If these data were linked and integrated, many key questions about the reintegration of veterans into civilian life could be answered.”

We should never miss a chance to salute our veterans for their service. And one way to do that would be to make it a priority to bring clarity and efficiency to the programs and services meant to support them for all they’ve done for their country — and for us.

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