Here's an interesting email from my inbox this morning:
Thank you for writing about how the current administration is hiding
the escalating human and financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Veterans for Common Sense
Post Office Box 15514
Washington, DC 20003
When I googled Mr. Sullivan's name, I came across some information about another deplorable situation going on in the VA. The group Veterans For Common Sense has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, James Peake, because, as they say, "the Department of Veterans' Affairs ("DVA") is failing to provide adequate and timely [disability]benefits and medical care."
This comes after the VA's Undersecretary for benefits, Daniel Cooper, resigned this month for "personal reasons," after Mr. Sullivan from Veterans For Common Sense demanded an investigation into Mr. Cooper's comments in an interview where he said that Bible study "is more important" than doing his job because "the job's going to be there, whether I'm there or not."
Naturally there is nothing wrong with Bible study, but when a person like Mr. Cooper is in charge of handling an ever-increasing number of more than 600,000 benefit claims, many from new veterans, the job has to be done.
Under Mr. Cooper's tenure, where Bible study was "more importan" than handling benefit applications, "the average number of days to process a claim grew by three weeks to 132 days." If a veteran is denied a claim and decides to appeal, the process often drags on for more than three years, during which many veterans become homeless, addicted, or simply die.
Even though we are now involved in two wars, "the number of soldiers approved for permanent disability retirement [by Mr. Cooper's office] has plunged by more than two-thirds," since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, there has been a large increase in the number of veterans put on "temporary disability" and "lump sum" severance pay, which, of course, places a far lighter burden on the government who reserves the right to arbitrarily lower payments as they see fit.
The total amount spent on disability and severance payments totaled less than $1.5 billion dollars in 2004. Apparently the government was starved for money that year to help out retired veterans, although our President found it necessary to sign over $22.5 billion dollars worth of pork barrel spending for more than 10,000 different projects, including $6.1 million dollars earmarked to research ways to use wood.
Ironically there was an editorial in Madison (SD) Daily Leader last week calling
every earmark proposed by Congress to "be compared to what that money could do for a wounded soldier. If the earmark is more important (and many of them are, like providing clean water for thousands or safer schools), then it gets funded. If it doesn't (a museum for the Woodstock music festival, or playground equipment for a small town, or landscaping for downtown Miami), then it shouldn't."
Many of the 2 million disabled vets receive served by the VA receive only a couple hundred dollars a month, if they're lucky to get anything at all. President Bush should be ashamed for spending tens of billions each year on useless pork while letting the vets fend for themselves.