On Monday we celebrated Veterans Day, which is supposed to be a moment for us as a nation to stop, reflect and thank our veterans who served our country. It seems like in recent years Veterans Day has transformed from a day of random department store sales into a day of people sharing memes on Facebook and lots of restaurants doing various giveaways for veterans.
I am a fan of veterans getting meals for free to celebrate the day and they absolutely deserve a day of recognition and thanks.
However, the pessimist and realist in me gets upset that our government fails our veterans every single day in multiple ways. And most of these get almost no public outrage when, like so many other things happening in our country, it deserves outrage.
According to the Veterans Administration, approximately 11% of America’s homeless population are veterans. This is approximately 40,000 veterans sleeping on the streets every night. The homeless veteran population is on average younger than the total veteran population. What is even scarier is that 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of being homeless due to no support networks, poverty, etc. A part of this is because of the rising costs of affordable living, plus a lot of military occupations and training do not always transfer to the civilian world. Which makes it harder for Veterans to find good jobs post service.
What is interesting, and is another massive way we are allowing our government is failing our veterans is the healthcare options they have. The Veterans Administration states one of the biggest contributing factors to the veteran homeless crisis is the lack of ability to access health care — even though they are responsible for providing health care. A large number of homeless and at-risk veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and the issues that come with it, including substance abuse. Our veterans deserve to be treated wholly, quickly and with compassion for all the injuries to both their bodies and mind, no matter their age.
Our VA system as a whole is a joke. Every day it seems like there is another news story about the continuing bureaucratic nightmare.
The final way the American government fails its veterans that I will mention may not be as widely discussed or prevalent as veteran homelessness or health care but it also merits outrage. It has been approximated that thousands of our veterans have been deported. It is not a widely known fact, but serving in the military as an immigrant is a path to American citizenship.
The Department of Defense approximates that right now there are 25,000 immigrants serving in the armed forces. A lot of these immigrants serving in our military bring a different set of skills. For example, about two-thirds of dentists serving in the Army Reserves are immigrants. However, it does not matter the education level — if you are brave enough to serve in our military for eight years and be discharged honorably you should be treated with honor. These veterans should not be allowed to fall through the bureaucratic cracks and be mistakenly deported. Once they are deported, it is almost impossible for them to reenter legally to America. They are sent to countries many times they know little about, and I assume it is not appreciated that they served the U.S.
Changes must be made to how we treat our veterans. They deserve much more than a free meal at Applebee’s once a year. They deserve to live a safe, secure and fruitful life. After all, they fought for us to have the same abilities.