Thursday, August 26, 2004

Gen. Wesley Clark: 'Don't Leave Veterans Behind'

Anyone who fights in a war knows that there is one lesson you do not forget: never, ever leave a soldier behind. Knowing that our country values and defends every soldier is a source of great strength on the battlefield. It is the principle that binds our troops together in combat as they put their lives on the line to defend our nation.

As Americans, guided by this same principle, we have always strived to help and protect our veterans, many of whom still suffer from combat related injuries and sickness. Our commitment to these veterans is fundamental to our values as a people and as a nation. We protect those who have protected us.

Unfortunately, President Bush has not lived up to this principle. Through dramatic budgetary cuts, hospital closures, staff layoffs and service backlogs, our commander-in-chief is leaving our veterans behind. The demands on our Department of Veterans Affairs have never been greater. More than 18,000 soldiers who have returned from Iraq have sought care at VA health facilities. Most of these service men and women are members of the National Guard and Reserves. In too many cases help is hard to come by. As of the end of March the average wait for disability rulings was 171 days. The backlog of service, increase in demand, and rising national health care costs require a renewed commitment from our government and nation.

Under President Bush's leadership, VA health care services have been slashed, numerous VA hospitals have been shuttered, and the prescription drug co-pay for vets has been doubled. President Bush has opposed expanding health care for reservists, many of whom have carried a heavy load for our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan these past few years. The president has also proposed fees for veterans just to get in the hospital door once they come home. He has even dramatically reduced education funding for military families, seeming to forget our tradition of education aid to veterans going back to the GI Bill.

Veterans: another reminder to look very closely at who you are voting for, and who will care about what happens to your health and well-being. It won't be George Bush. His record is clear.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link