Can being a veteran (or soldier) get any worse?


I have been in screaming and crying mode since this morning.  When I got started, I wanted to look up more info about veterans to help out my beloved veterans who have told me that they are having hard times getting enough benefits to survive.  I’m sure you read or have heard of by now about the story from the LA Times. Trying to figure out what happened is tough.  But it seems that about a decade ago, someone offered the California National Guard monetary rewards of ten thousand dollars and up for re-enlisting, which they took. I don’t think anyone can blame them for that.

Now when I was in the Army many years ago I knew a few recruiters and I do know that these kinds of folks are under horrible pressures to make quotas.  Especially when the U.S. needs people on the front lines in all of these places in the world. And somewhere somebody decided that a draft is political suicide, so that was out. “Overenthusiasm” is too light a word for what has happened with the excessive re-enlisting bonuses. Since the order has come down from the Pentagon to recuperate these funds from the vets themselves, with some of the bonuses being up to 20 thousand dollars or more, and added interest, veterans are losing their homes, having money taken from wages — horrible financial punishments, when they have no wrongdoing, no crime, but have simply accepted what was offered to them. To say that veterans have been “betrayed” is also an understatement. Of all of the ways I have heard of veterans getting screwed, this may be one of the worst.

To have what you have built in your life taken away from you, because you accepted what you were offered — and THEN went on to put yourself on the line for the nation. It’s just plain wrong. And somebody with more power than me ought to be doing something about it, and fast. 9700 California soldiers have already given back 22 million dollars. People who file fraudulent claims go to prison, but this is not that.  These are honest, decent folks who served. California guard officials are trying to help vets and soldiers file appeals with the National Guard Bureau and with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records.  These appeals will surely be long and complicated and may not actually work. The LA Times article cited above has plenty of examples of the great personal hardships caused by the recuperation of funds from the veterans.

It seems to me people have had revolutionary wars for things less serious — not that I am advocating violence — but there has got to be a way.  As if that is not enough for now, another military-related controversy.  US military veterans have been and are still being deported. That’s right — men and women from the Philippines, Mexico and other countries who joined our military to defend this nation qualified by virtue of their military service entitled for naturalization. But the federal government failed to ensure that the service members became naturalized during their time in the military. So because the government goofed — people who fought, and may even have been wounded — are being deported instead of rewarded with the citizenship they earned. I guess the ACLU is jumping in and has made a statement on this one. From my years as a VA doctor, I treated a lot of veterans who had been natives of the Philippines and fought as part of the US Armed Forces in the far East in WWII, Korea and Viet Nam.  They were naturalized American citizens and got American benefits and deserved every penny as far as I could tell. America has always accepted folks from elsewhere.  I grew up believing that was what made us strong in many ways.  I joined the Army long after my grandmother of blessed memory told me she did not feel anywhere in the world was a safer and better place than the country then known as Russia, where she did not feel safe.  Granted, she was no soldier.  But people who have fought for us — we got to keep and take care of.  I never questioned that one. Now somebody is. Their service can date back as far as Vietnam.  Some have been decorated.  What on earth is going on? People from other countries serve in our armed forces still.  ACLU says they are “supposed” to be naturalized as citizens after that service.  There have been changes in immigration laws.  Allegedly, some have committed crimes that can justify deportation — even for folks who have come to the US just after birth, and have lived pretty much all of their lives here.

The word in California is that many are in northern Mexico.  I did once see a patient, a veteran, whose anguish I remember vividly, in a California jail.  He was awaiting extradition to Mexico.  I can’t remember the nature of his crime, but he did not speak a word of Spanish and was very frightened about going there.  Of course there is someone from the government to say all this is justified by current US law.  But there are people who fought for the nation in Tijuana in the “Deported Veterans Support House.” They reach out to me on Facebook. I can’t chronicle more in this post, but I do not know how much America knows about what America is doing to its veterans. I want everyone to know.  This is our great national shame. Please share this information and tell as many as you can. We really do need to take much better care of our veterans. Help me try to help veterans get the dignity, honor, the better treatment they deserve.

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