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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Musing from my friend, Leo D

The following post was written by my friend, Leo D.  Leo is a moderator with me at  He's a Veteran and long time Veterans Advocate.  If you have an appeal and you're looking for a good man to represent you, Leo D., may just be your man.  He is not affiliated with any service organization which is just one of the reasons I like him so much.  The bottom line is that Leo is just a nice guy.  If you have basic questions about your VA benefits or claims questions, feel free to contact him at Straight Talk.  If you are looking for a representative for claims, contact him at his email address.  Leo is bright, knowledgeable and very thorough.  He will only take on a case if he truly believes he can help you.  It's nice to come across someone with integrity who works hard for you.

Two days ago I opened up my email box to find the following from Leo.  I emailed him back to ask if it was a forward or something he'd written.  It was a Leo original and with his permission I am reposting it here.  Leo said,
Every Memorial Day, or Veteran's Day, or sometimes both, I "wax nostalgic" (for lack of a better term) about what veterans mean to America.  More often than not now I end up back at the state of veterans affairs and the lack of Congressional understanding of the kind of effect their actions and inaction's have on veterans.
So now, for your enjoyment, I present to you, my friend, Leo.  

Congress has not been especially concerned about veterans, despite the fact that they have approved two wars in two different countries.  They willingly spend tons of money to support these wars and yet seem blissfully unaware when it comes time to assure that veterans of these and other wars receive timely disability decisions and quality medical care.
The number of veterans serving in Congress has steadily decreased in the past 5 decades.  This is pointed out in the November/December issue of the VFW magazine.
According to the magazine, "only 23% of members of Congress are veterans, and that includes National Guard and Reserve veterans."  The article states further, "Only two vets are in the present Administrations's Cabinet - the fewest since Herbert Hoover."
Now comes the statistic that most glaringly stands out.  "In comparison, during the 1970s, 74% of those holding a seat in Congress had served in the military."
Casual readers might conclude from this short article that veterans no longer care enough or are interested enough to serve in Congress but that ignores what has happened in the arena of military service between 1970 and today. 
What is the biggest difference between now and then?  In the 1970s, there was a military draft.  Every young man, unless exempted for justifiable reasons, faced being drafted into the military to serve our country.  Consequently, it was difficult to find a person who had NOT served in the military.
Today, it is difficult to find a person who HAS served in the military.
Veterans better than anyone understand that life in the military is sometimes harsh, sometimes mundane, often very dangerous, and as often as not life changing.  Veterans also understand that they are - whether willingly or under conscription - giving up a very important part of their lives to serve our country.
Combat veterans, in my humble opinion, are the only ones who truly understand what it is like to fight, to shoot at and kill, to be shot at and wounded or killed, or to survive that experience.  For many, the survival is as difficult as the fight or the wound.
With more than a million veteran claims in backlog, with claims taking sometimes more than a year to receive a first decision on claims, and many years to receive a decision on appeals, Congress is disconnected and that disconnection is disenfranchising veterans from American society.
Approximately one-fifth of the entire population of homeless people are veterans yet only 8 % of the general population are veterans.  Of adult homeless, about one-third are veterans.  VA's own estimates are that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. (
It is not difficult to imagine that at least some of these homeless veterans are homeless because they cannot work, suffer from physical or mental illnesses interfering with their ability to work, and are waiting for a decision on a disability claim with the VA.  Even a denial of a claim would be a blessing to these veterans because they could then move on with the process.
Veterans, as a group, are not vocally challenging an uneducated and inexperienced Congress on these issues.  A review of many, many candidates running for election or reelection this campaign season demonstrate that few have any mention in their campaign platforms of assisting veterans - or righting these wrongs.
Congress has the power to send young men and women into combat and they control the purse strings of the United States Government.  We need to, and have needed to for a very long time, challenge Congress to remember these young men and women when they come back home.  We are the only group in American society that know military service is a life altering experience.  Otherwise, those who never served will never know.
Write a letter to your Congressman or Congresswoman, and to both of your Senators.  Do it routinely for as long as they do not visibly commit to change these issues so adversely affecting those who serve (in many instances so that their children do not have to serve).  Those of us who are still left from the last war in which young people were drafted need to do this to help the current generation of veterans because simply put, we outnumber them.  Our numbers are extremely important to them and we can not only give them their voice but teach them how to use that voice.
The alternative is to watch more and more veterans suffer because our Congress will not step up to the plate and take care of those they send into combat.
Leo D.

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