Supporting Veterans

You’ve probably seen a lot of news about veterans recently, and very little of it has been good. Millions could be the victims of identity theft. A staggering 144,000 veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment from the VA system, but the VA can do little but try to care for them on ...

608523_Vet5.jpg
608523_Vet5.jpg

You've probably seen a lot of news about veterans recently, and very little of it has been good. Millions could be the victims of identity theft. A staggering 144,000 veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment from the VA system, but the VA can do little but try to care for them on the cheap, given its slashed budget. Astonishingly, 33,858 more vets asked the VA for treatment in just the first quarter of FY2006 than the VA expects all year.

So in honor of Memorial Day, FP's Seven Questions this week is with Jon Soltz, director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America PAC. We asked him about veterans' financial debts, the "patriot penalty", and why there are reports of high homelessness among Iraq veterans. In response to our question about how this administration should be graded on its treatment of vets, Soltz had this to say:

The veteran who walks into the Department for Veterans Affairs (VA) today is drastically worse off than he or she was four or five years ago. They pay more for their prescription drugs. There is now a fee for them to enroll into the system. Iraq war veterans put a tremendous demand on the VA, specifically because we’ve deployed so many members of the Guard and Reserves. There’s also a problem with diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A lot of people with PTSD get diagnosed with “adjustment disorder” primarily because there’s not enough money in the VA budget to provide these heroes with the disability payments they should be given. 

You’ve probably seen a lot of news about veterans recently, and very little of it has been good. Millions could be the victims of identity theft. A staggering 144,000 veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment from the VA system, but the VA can do little but try to care for them on the cheap, given its slashed budget. Astonishingly, 33,858 more vets asked the VA for treatment in just the first quarter of FY2006 than the VA expects all year.

So in honor of Memorial Day, FP‘s Seven Questions this week is with Jon Soltz, director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America PAC. We asked him about veterans’ financial debts, the “patriot penalty”, and why there are reports of high homelessness among Iraq veterans. In response to our question about how this administration should be graded on its treatment of vets, Soltz had this to say:

The veteran who walks into the Department for Veterans Affairs (VA) today is drastically worse off than he or she was four or five years ago. They pay more for their prescription drugs. There is now a fee for them to enroll into the system. Iraq war veterans put a tremendous demand on the VA, specifically because we’ve deployed so many members of the Guard and Reserves. There’s also a problem with diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A lot of people with PTSD get diagnosed with “adjustment disorder” primarily because there’s not enough money in the VA budget to provide these heroes with the disability payments they should be given. 

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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