President Abraham Lincoln in his second Inaugural Address said “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” These words would be adopted by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in 1959 as its motto. These immortal words are still as powerful today, as they were when President Abraham Lincoln uttered them 148 years ago. As Memorial Day approaches I hope we once again remember the President’s words.
Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started 2.2 million troops have been sent overseas. A recent NBC news article said about 34,000 U.S. service members will return home from Afghanistan in the next 12 months. The same article talked about a new report which showed that about half of those troops who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle to adjust back to American life upon returning home. The reason for this is that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has had difficulty dealing with the increased number of returning troops.
I know that Memorial Day is supposed to be a day of remembering for those men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. I can think of no better way to honor those men and women who died in service to our great nation then to care for those who served our nation recently and have returned home.
There is no excuse for the fact that about 22 Veterans commit suicide every day. There is no excuse for the fact that about 203,000 post 9/11 veterans were unemployed as of February 2013. There is also no excuse for the U.S. Veterans Affairs nearly 882,023 backlogged benefits claims. Did you know that nearly 70 percent of the V.A. backlogged claims are for cases more than 125 days. Since President Obama took office the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backlog has increased nearly 2,000 percent despite a 40 percent increase in its budget.
I think President Lincoln would be ashamed of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs today. Our Veterans deserve better. After bravely serving our great nation our Veterans deserve a efficient Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans also deserve a VA that can more efficiently deal with unemployment and suicide. This year as you are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend, remember those brave men and women we have lost while serving our nation. You can also contact your elected officials and tell them to not forget about the veterans returning home. I urge Congress to step in and end the V.A. backlog once and for all.