MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH, 2018

The men and women that serve our country live by a code of honor on the battlefield: no man left behind. However, when they return home, they are often abandoned by the very people they were fighting for. Our veterans are subject to dozens of social injustices, the most prevalent being the negligence of our  government in providing sufficient healthcare and financial support.

The government has recognized the issue, and, to their credit, has tried to finance possible solutions. These solutions include the creation of organizations such as the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). However, the rates of homelessness and unemployment, as well as a lack of health insurance among veterans, continue to rise.

The foundation of the problem is not a lack of resources, but rather an ineffective system provided by the government.

According to Palo Alto High School (Paly) sophomore Joey Passarello, whose grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force, there are many steps that need to be taken in order to support our veterans.

“We need to start by expanding current foundations designed to support veterans and to do more feature articles for the reality that veterans must face when they come back,” Passarello said. “Additionally, we need to update the VA system and manage military spending better, so that there will be more money left over for veterans when they come home from the military.”

In recent years, the U.S. has conducted numerous military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria  and the Gulf War, among others. This has led to an increase in the number of veterans returning home. The VA has not kept up with this increase  or the increasing number of requests for injury compensation sustained during war. Veterans Hospitals are not adequately prepared to handle the large number of veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a common mental illness that results from traumatic and violent experiences. This leaves many veterans unable to find work because they are dealing with a mental illness.Social Justice activist and Clinical PsychologistPaula Caplan explains that the problem with the VA system is its large backlog.

“[A]ccording to the VA itself, the backlog of unanswered disability claims has grown from 325,000 to more than 600,000,” Caplan said.“The entire claims process is designed to identify veterans who are trying to cheat the system rather than compensate soldiers whose war service led to their injuries.”

Although extensive amounts of money are constantly being poured into the VA, the government will not be able to sufficiently support veterans until the system is altered completely. According to Jillian Weber, an employee of the VA for over nine years, the scanning process required for veterans to receive compensation for their disability claims includes a 23-page form consisting of evidence of the injury and a detailed description of the specific events that caused it. The VA should do everything possible to support veterans, rather than present more hurdles. In addition to their intense inspection, the VA’s systems for processing claims are prone to mistakes, such as denying legitimate claims for healthcare.

Byron Pitts, a journalist for 60 Minutes, explains that the VA’s method of processing requests is “…a convoluted system of earning points for processing the paperwork in a claims file. The idea is to bring down the backlog, but it also leads employees to make mistakes…as opposed to dealing with [a] veteran’s case properly, they’re focused on getting their points for that case.”

It is evident that the organization set up to help our veterans has only let them down. It is essential that  the government change this failing system This is nearly impossible, however, considering the lack of representation for veterans in Congress.

Without representation in our government, veterans are powerless, and all suggestions and complaints will fall on the deaf ears of politicians with no military experience.

According to Jillian Weber’s 2017 study titled ‘Legislative: Providing Veteran-Specific Healthcare,’ “… the number of congressional staff members with a military background remains incredibly low; less than one percent of policy staffers have military experience.”

Only the government has any real power to change the flawed systems that continuously leave our veterans vulnerable when they return from their service. After these men and women put their lives on the line to protect our country, it is unjust to treat them as poorly as we do when they return. Societal norms contribute to this injustice through various ways such as discriminating against veterans in application processes, and through a lack of recognition for the problem and lack of action. Although a lack of government funding for veterans has resulted in many of these injustices, Paly sophomore Will Morange believes that a communal lack of education is a major contributor.

“What needs to be done is people have to understand the injustices towards veterans through educating themselves.There is a good amount of information about this but it just doesn’t get exposed to the people that need to know about it.”

Will Moragne

A study by the Military Times reveals that a majority of the population is unaware of the social injustice that veterans suffer. In a survey of Paly students, 51.1 percent of students y said that they did not know enough about the social injustices towards veterans to comment on them, let alone seek a solution.

If more people are informed of these  issues, our government will feel obligated to recognize their failures and seek institutional reform within the VA. No soldier is left behind on the battlefield, but that doesn’t mean they should be left behind at home.

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Lucy Nemerov
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