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Being a veteran has never been easy. An average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and even more suffer from irreversible psychological damage caused by war. President Trump recently signed a bill into order that was aimed at helping veterans receive adequate mental healthcare, an effort which that many praised. However, this is only one good deed in a reign of misdeeds that have directly impacted the vulnerable veteran community. Even with a record of disrespectful comments about the military and members of the military, President Trump has taken no steps to show that he cares about the longevity of veterans after serving their country. Within his first three days in office, he signed an order that froze pay for thousands of veterans – or 31% of the federal workforce. Additionally, he’s made numerous campaign promises that he has yet to keep, including shorter care wait times for veterans, disability compensation, and increased funding for vet programs. In the most recent blow against veterans, the VA proposed a funding cut that would have left elderly and disabled veterans with less care than they already receive. It’s clear that this administration does not put the heroes that defended our country at the top of its list, but it’s something that the country must do to help one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations after they have given so much for their fellow citizens.
The state of veteran welfare within the nation is appalling, but many turn a blind eye to it. With the number of programs that support veterans, it is easy to see how the American public is lulled into the sense that their war heroes are being well taken care of. In the United States, over 22 million Americans, or 7% of the population, are veterans, or 7% of the population.
The percentage sounds small, but it is still too many people to be taken care of under the limited resources of governmental branches and nonprofits. All veterans, regardless of the state of their mental or physical health, require healthcare, housing, and compensation. Sadly, many of these veterans do not receive any of these benefits.
And, when people who have sacrificed their time to defend their country aren’t supported, it costs us all. In 2014, 50,000 homeless veterans were reported in the United States. Among those homeless vets, 45% of them showed signs of mental illness. Instead of focusing efforts on counting the number of homeless, measures should have been taken to prevent those former service members from ending up on the street. However, even for those vets who are not homeless, mental illness still runs rampant. The same report showed that 77.3% of those service members in active duty had been hospitalized at some point for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – a disorder that requires consistent treatment. The mental health of service members and veterans also takes a toll on their families, and the same report showed that 56% of spouses of military members and veterans were stressed or experienced anxiety because of their partners’ mental health. The state of mental health care among veterans is certainly sordid, but so, too, is the physical health of veterans. Of the 22 million veterans in the US, 3.8 million have service-related disabilities. In 2014, it was estimated that 19 veterans died in the month of January waiting for care in conditions that could have been prevented. These veterans depend on the care that the VA offers them, as their average income is only $37,307. This is hardly enough to pay for the average American life, let alone the insurmountable health bills that come with being disabled or treating a service-caused mental health issue.
The current budget for the United States military is approximately $824 billion. Of that $824 billion dollars, only $78.9 billion is focused on Veteran Affairs while a whopping $574.5 billion is spent on the base military budget alone. With wars raging endlessly on and our national debt creeping up, it is high time that priorities are refocused on the people of the United States. Veterans gave more than just service to the American people – they put their lives on the line in defense of the country. Even with the few benefits, meager pay, and harrowing statistics that face them, they still opted to serve their country in a manner that could have cost them their lives. It is both fair and in the best interest of the United States to support them in as many ways as possible. We have the money in the military budget to eradicate homelessness among veterans and to increase their mental health funding. We can’t wait until the next presidential administration to increase the VA budget. Lives are on the line on our own soil.
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