Politicians and dignitaries from President Obama on down praised the service and sacrifice of the nation’s military veterans as they commemorated Veterans Day Wednesday.
“The brave men and women of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard demonstrate a resolute spirit and unmatched selflessness,” Obama said in his official Veterans Day proclamation. “Our true strength as a nation is measured by how we take care of our veterans when they return home, and my administration is committed to ensuring our heroes and their loved ones have every chance to share in the promise they risked their lives to defend.”
Yet while the vast majority of the country’s 22 million living veterans have a positive view of their military service, just one in five say they feel the government treats veterans well and fewer than half believe they are receiving the benefits and support they were promised, according to a comprehensive new survey of veterans’ attitudes commissioned by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a leading service organization.
According to the findings of the DAV Veterans Pulse Survey released Tuesday, 84 percent of veterans believe their military service had an “overall positive impact” on their lives and nearly 80 percent say that they would repeat their service if they had to do it again.
However, only 38 percent said they felt they had received adequate government support while re-entering civilian life, including job training and placement, assistance in finding housing, counseling on personal finances and health care.
While more than half of those surveyed believe that veterans are well treated by the public, only 22 percent said that veterans are being well treated by the federal government. Moreover, only 44 percent of the veterans surveyed said they have received the health, disability, financial and educational benefits they were promised, according to the study.
The findings underscore the problems of hundreds of thousands of veterans who returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade. Many of them have required prolonged hospitalization and treatment for physical and mental health ailments and are prone to high rates of alcoholism, divorce, depression and suicide.
“The survey shows veterans of every generation are proud of their military service and believe it had a positive impact on their life, even though many paid a price,” Marc Burgess, DAV CEO and national adjutant, in a statement accompanying the survey. “Yet the results also point to major gaps in the support, health care and disability benefits they receive. It also reveals challenges many younger veterans face finding employment. It’s clear our government and country need to step up and keep the promises made to America’s veterans.”
During his address today after laying a wreath at the Arlington National Cemetery, Obama said that his administration had made important progress in reducing veteran homelessness, improving medical service response time and slashing the once massive backlog of disability claims by 90 percent.
“Still, the unacceptable problems we continue to see … is a challenge for all of us if we are to match our words and deeds,” he said.
Republican and Democratic presidential candidates also voice concern about the country’s veteran population and promised vast improvement in services if they win election in 2016.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, yesterday praised progress made by the Obama administration in addressing some of the worst health care and social service problems at the VA, but said there is still plenty of work to be done. “Today we are failing to keep the faith with our veterans,” Clinton said in a speech in New Hampshire, according to The Washington Post.
She unveiled proposals for reforms of the VA and vowed “zero tolerance for the kinds of abuses and delays we have seen.” While her approach would preserve the current VA model of combining the stand-alone VA health care system with some private-sector health care services funded by Medicare, she said she would strongly oppose GOP proposals for privatizing health-care services.