A panel on veterans issues met Tuesday, sponsored by Volunteers of America – with the aim to “shine a light on the critical issues and promote solutions.” The panel was a good one: David Gregory from Meet the Press was the moderator; and Lee Woodruff of the Bob Woodruff Foundatiaon; General Barry McCaffrey; Betty Moseley Brown, Associate Director of the Center for Women Veterans; Department of Veterans Affairs’ Barbara Banaszynski, VoA Program Operations Sr. VP, were the panelists.
After a brief introduction, the panel began a freewheeling discussion about veterans issues . As General McCaffrey pointed out, it all starts with making sure the veteran has a home. This group of young men and woman, with their multiple deployments, have a homeless rate that is shocking – 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Many have additional problems, with alcohol, drugs or mental health. The signature wounds of this war, PTS and TBI (sometimes together) are one reason for this epidemic of homelessness.
Lee Woodruff also reminded us that we as a country were not prepared for the numbers of wounded, nor the length of the wars. She asked a pertinent question of the VA – why are we demanding that veterans ONLY go to the VA hospitals and clinics when they no longer need the primary care, when the veteran may have a hospital or clinic in their area that can work with their wounds, whether physical or TBI? Let’s let them get civilian care, after all many hospitals can care for severe concussions and limb injuries from car accidents and incidents in the civilian world. General McCaffrey agreed, and he has a suggestion that Veterans get a healthcare card – and be allowed to go to their local facilities, especially those National Guard or Reserve service members in a little town hours and hours away from a VA facility.
Ms. Moseley Brown talked about the various programs and the upcoming increase in counselors, but agreed that working together with Veteran Service Organizations is crucial to successfully being able to help the veterans and their families. Ms. Banaszynski, a military mother herself, mentioned the many ways that VoA helps the veterans, and the many veterans they have hired.
The consensus was that the needs of some veterans are not being met, that we as a country must step up, must realize that our veterans need support. As General McCaffrey noted, “we are not doing them a favor, we owe it to them” as the country that sent them to war.
Both before and after (the business of networking), the business card swapping was in full swing! This is the beginning of what the Volunteers of America calls a “three year conversation.” Is it too late? Maybe. This conversation should have started 10 years ago – but better late than never. In this time of budget cuts and belt tightening, if we want to make sure that our veterans don’t slip between the cracks, that the families of these veterans don’t continue to give up hope – that the parents who are the chief caregivers of a severely injured wounded servicemember are able to keep their home, their jobs — that there is support for the families, we need to work together.
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