Generally, we progressive Democrats have had little confidence in the Bush Administration to run an effective, fair, humane Federal government. Over and over again, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condelezza Rice, and their cronies have promised one thing and then did little or nothing in follow-up. Cases in point include protecting our borders from unrestrained immigration, rebuilding a hurricane ravaged New Orleans, protecting the health and welfare of the rescue workers at New York’s ground zero, and developing a cohesive, cogent plan to defend the United States against terrorism at our seaports, airports, power plants, water ways, and metropolitan areas. Bush and his cronies are more interested in commercial profit than in preserving and protecting the Union.
The Bush Administration has done little to nothing in order to help our armed forces, National Guard, and Reservists. First, they developed a piss-poor plan for the occupation of Iraq. Second, the Bush Administration and their war machine did little to protect the troops in harm’s way. Now, from the Walter Reed scandals onward, they have done nothing to process and assist returning Iraqi war heroes who are in dire need of psychological services. I know from personal experience working in the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Brooklyn, as a summer psychology intern in 1995-96, that the Reagan Administration decimated psychological services at the DVA in an ill-advised attempt at eliminating cost in the Department.
People in the Bush Administration have, as elsewhere, been on a crash course to privatize the DVA and in its ill-conceived and anti-government pursuit, has left our brave soldiers, National Guard, and Reservists without adequate services.
Finally, with the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate, Constitutional oversight has begun. As indicated earlier, in a Press Release, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kit Bond (R-MO), Barack Obama (D-IL), and John Kerry (D-MA) requested that Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, George W. Bush, so-called President of the United States, and the Department of Defense guarantee impartial psychological assessments of soldiers when needed. Not ‘when needed’ from the Bush perspective, but from a common sensical perspective.
Now, Senators Kit Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are urging Bush to create a Special Review Board for discharged troops and to place a moratorium on the DoD’s use of Personality Disorder Discharges.
It is a moral outrage that U.S. Senators have to urge a President of the United States of America to provide ‘fair treatment of combat veterans.’
The Press Release is below the flip….
“Bond, Boxer, Obama, McCaskill Demand Fair Treatment of Combat Vets
“WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kit Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are urging President Bush to create a Special Review Board for discharged troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and to place a moratorium on the military’s use of Personality Disorder Discharges.
“”Our government has a lifelong responsibility to care for the brave volunteers who have served our nation honorably in combat, unfortunately, the government is failing some of our wounded warriors,” said Bond. “It is critical that the government starts treating all of our troops’ battle wounds – physical and mental, visible and invisible.”
“”It belittles the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform when you punish-instead of treat-those with combat injuries,” said Boxer. “When our brave service members are injured in combat, we cannot deny them benefits, blame their conditions on a pre-existing disorder, or refuse them the care and support they deserve.”
“With thousands of American service members suffering every day from the less visible wounds of war, reports that the Pentagon has improperly diagnosed and discharged service members with personality disorders are deeply disturbing,” said Senator Obama. “These heroes make incredible sacrifices for our country, and our brave men and women shouldn’t have to fight a second war at home to get the benefits and care they deserve. The President should halt this practice until the military can review its policies and establish a special review board to examine the cases in question.”
“”The horrors of war are bad enough without a service member coming home only to have to fight against the government they fought to protect,” McCaskill said. “I’m please to be fighting side by side with Senator Bond in requesting a review board to study personality disorder discharges, so that those men and women who bravely fought for us and returned home with the mental scars from war get a fighting chance to receive the benefits they so greatly deserve.”
“This bipartisan group of Senators has been examining mental health care for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and leading the effort to end the military’s inappropriate use of personality disorder discharges.
“Much like the program created by President Carter to examine the records of Vietnam veterans discharged less than honorably, the Senators are urging the President to create a Special Discharge Review Program to look at administrative discharges for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If established, the Board would give service members who served honorably in combat but subsequently received a discharge that does not entitle them to benefits the opportunity to have their cases reviewed.
“This is particularly important for those who failed to receive an appropriate diagnosis of or treatment for Posttraumatic (sic) Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The Senators believe such a process will help reduce the stigma associated with such discharges and allow those who served our nation honorably to resume normal lives after their service.
“The discharge review board will also look at cases where service members were diagnosed for personality disorders. In the past six years, more than 22,500 service men and women have been discharged with a “pre-existing” personality disorder. The Senators have expressed concern that some of these discharges appear to be the result of misdiagnoses and are being used to force out troops who may instead be suffering from service-connected psychological injuries – like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury. The use of a personality discharge can result in a loss of disability benefits and medical care from the VA, and can even lead to service members having to repay thousands of dollars in re-enlistment bonuses.
“The Senators continue to urge for the adoption of short-term, commonsense safeguards to protect service members. The Senators emphasize that just limiting the use of this discharge is not enough. A moratorium, which would temporarily suspend the Pentagon’s use of personality disorder discharges for those service members who have served in combat, is necessary until there is a comprehensive review of the current procedures and additional safeguard to prevent misdiagnosis.
“Bond, Boxer, Obama and McCaskill were joined by a bipartisan group of their Senate colleagues including: Joseph Biden (D-DE), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbra Mikulski (D-MD), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Bernard Sanders (I-VT).”
I am glad that the U.S. Senators are finally beginning to do their duty under the Constitution to provide oversight on an Administration that subverts the Constitution, suborns perjury, and fails to protect and defend the United States of America. Kudos to the Democratic Senate and the emboldened moderate Republicans.