During the past two days, veterans and their supporters arrived in Washington, DC for a number of events geared to petition their government for their grievances. Those who couldn't make it to the national Capitol descended on their own state Capitols. Let's take a quick review of a few of the actions that took place.
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
In Montana, from the Billings Gazette:
When Shane Pierson of Seeley Lake came home from the Gulf War, he had to wait six months before a Veterans Affairs doctor had time to see him.
Now, Pierson told a small crowd gathered on the steps of the Capitol, there are 30,000 soldiers waiting for room in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health system. "Our returning veterans can't wait six months," Pierson said. "They need help now."
The Montana rally, which drew almost as many politicians and reporters as veterans and activists, ran in conjunction with a national Washington, D.C., rally held Tuesday called Operation Firing for Effect. ...
Morgana Rhys of Bigfork, the wife and daughter of veterans, organized the Montana event. "(Veterans) are not cannon fodder to be thrown off to the side when we're done with them," she told the small crowd.
Rhys urged people to do something more to support troops than merely putting a yellow magnet on their cars. She said people should write their senators and representatives and urge them to support money for the VA, including a recently defeated provision that would have made full funding for the VA medical system mandatory.
According to information from Disabled American Veterans, funding for the VA is discretionary, which means that Congress must authorize the money every year, and the funding competes against other federal spending. Mandatory VA funding would mean that the full cost of paying for veterans' benefits would be automatically incorporated into the federal budget.
In New Jersey via the Asbury Park Press:
As the U.S. Senate considered a massive new spending bill Tuesday, military veterans gathered in Washington, outside a Veterans Administration clinic in Ocean County and elsewhere across the nation to press their case against health care cuts. "There's demonstrations going on as we speak down in Washington," said James Robinson, commander-elect of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 20, Brick. "Veterans' benefits are being cut. All of our coverage (costs) are going up. The money isn't being appropriated for us, and for the veterans coming home now."
The "shadow rally" outside the James J. Howard Veterans Clinic in Brick attracted about 60 people in support of Operation Firing for Effect, a national coalition of veteran activists who staged a Washington event Tuesday.
New Jersey organizer and Mantoloking resident Don Scholtes said the group organized in response to last year's VA budget shortfall when Congress had to scare up an additional $1.5 billion for the agency. The group's message to Congress is "mandatory funding, or no vote," said Gary DeRosa of Toms River, a vice commander for DAV Chapter 20.
The demonstrations' title is a play on the military phrase "fire for effect" — a message for artillery gunners to begin bombarding an enemy target once they find the correct ranging. The implied threat is to "fire" members of Congress who don't support more VA funding, organizers say. "They want to change the (medical) definitions for veterans," DeRosa said. "They're proposing changes for post-traumatic stress disorder, head trauma. Everything is under a microscope. Their objective is to cut as much funding as possible."
From Michigan's Daily Mining Gazette:
They were there for the young men and women who are about to become veterans, not for themselves, said Backwoods Vets member Paul Jensen.
About a dozen representatives of local veterans groups, including local Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts and Backwoods, rallied at Veterans Park Tuesday in support of veteran affairs. “The people from Afghanistan and Iraq are going to have nothing to come home to, this rally is for them and not for us,” he said.
Houghton’s rally was a shadow rally of a bigger rally called “Operation Firing for Effect — Veterans’ March” Tuesday in Washington D.C. Jensen said the rallies are to draw attention to the many veteran issues that are in front of Congress right now. Veterans meet with legislators today. “We face so many things over the years,” he said. “One of the major things is our health care system.”
According to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in the Democratic office, the number of new veterans enrolled in the department’s health care system and waiting for their first clinic appointment to be scheduled has doubled during the year. As of April 2005, 15,211 veterans were waiting. This month, the number increased to 30,475.
Will add more as I come across them. Good going, states!