The War Against Veterans

Toledo Blade (Ohio)

The War Against Veterans

President Bush gives plenty of lip service to men and women in uniform. Now it’s time for the President to put his money where his mouth is and fully fund veterans’ benefits.

An official of the Department of Veterans Affairs admitted last week that it is short $1 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, but giving short shrift to those who have served their country is nothing new for this administration.

For several years now, the Bush bean counters have been slashing funds for veterans’ medical care. Playing cheap with those who have put their lives on the line would be a concern any time. Coming as the shortfall does as soldiers return home daily from war in Afghanistan and Iraq with horrific injuries, it’s a scandal.

The outrage on Capitol Hill is bipartisan, even though Republicans have continually thwarted Democratic attempts to give the VA more money under the guise of budget restraint.

Sen. Larry Craig (R., Idaho), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, let it be known that he has reamed out Jim Nicholson, who heads the VA.

Sen. Patty Murray (D., Washington), a member of an appropriations subcommittee overseeing the VA, declared that the administration is unwilling “to make the sacrifices necessary to fulfill the promises we have made to our veterans.”

The result has been a longer wait for medical care and the closing of some VA clinics.

Veterans groups are understandably hot, with most of their ire directed at Republicans, who control Congress and have made a priority of cutting so-called “domestic spending” at the behest of Mr. Bush. One thrust of the Bush policies has been to direct benefits mostly toward those with certain medical problems that are directly attributable to military service.

Steve Robertson, legislative director of the American Legion, says the spending cuts “are inconsistent with a nation at war.” He’s especially critical of dividing veterans into “little groups, the ones that ‘deserve’ and the ones who ‘don’t deserve.’”

Such discriminatory policies clearly are out of line. The federal government cannot be all things to all of the American people, but the least it can do is to keep faith with those who kept faith with it by serving in the armed forces

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