Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bush To Wounded Troops: Drop Dead & Shut Up

Dissing our wounded vets

2 stories in the Army Times over the past week, by Kelly Kennedy, make quite clear how the Bush administration really feels about the troops who have sacrificed their health and, in many cases their limbs, for the George W. Bush war games.

On February 20th the Army Times reported that wounded vets were getting shafted on health care.

Kennedy detailed the experience of seriously wounded 20-year old Pvt. Robert Van Antwerp, who lost 2 friends in an explosion that "fractured his skull, ruptered his spleen and ripped out his colon."

According to the report:
"Yet when it was time for the Army to take care of him, one of its wounded warriors, Van Antwerp gave up before he even began. Rather than fight for a higher disability rating, he quietly signed for 20 percent — and no medical benefits — saying he knew he couldn’t do better. He inherited his father’s stubbornness, he said, and refused to ask anyone to pull strings based on his dad’s rank. Then his first medical board counselor, the person who would help him make his way through the medical evaluation board system, left. The second, he said, 'wasn’t on the ball.'

"'The Army is trying to give you the lowest amount of money possible,' he said. 'A lot of people are appealing, but I’ll be going to [the Department of Veterans Affairs]. I want to go home.'

"Van Antwerp is one of thousands of wounded troops rushed from the war zone for health care and then stranded in administrative limbo. They are at the mercy of a medical evaluation system that’s agonizingly slow, grossly understaffed and saddled with a growing backlog of cases. The wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are stuck in holding companies awaiting hearings and decisions on whether they will continue their military service or be discharged, and if so, at what level of benefits — if any."
That article painted a disturbing picture about how our wounded Iraqi and Afghani war veterans were essentially left to fend for themselves upon their return.

Understaffed and out of touch

Part of the problem is attributed to understaffing, but part of it is also attributed to a system that is certainly not set up to look after the best interests of the men and women who have sacrificed their bodies and psyches in service to our country.

Also telling is the total lack of empathy and reality from officials.

For example, that article referred to
"Col. Ronald Hamilton, commander of the medical center brigade at Walter Reed", who "beamed when asked about the work done through the medical evaluation board.'

"'I think it’s being handled extremely well,' he said. 'There are some outliers, where it takes longer than we would expect it to, but we’re not saying, ‘You’re at 365 days — we need to process you out.’ We’re trying to do what’s best for each soldier.'"
Sounds like a man after Bush and Cheney's own heart.

The attempt to punish the wounded and wronged

One would think such an expose would shame Bushco and his war machine to switch into high gear to make things right.

Well, they have switched into high gear all punishing soldiers and going into cover up mode.

In today's article in the Army Times, in a report titled "Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet," Kennedy writes:
"Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

"'Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,' one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity."
Additionally, patients are being moved to a building that will have much harder access by the media and media coverage has been shut down, under the excuse that it cannot occur while an ongoing investigation is taking place. According to the most recent report, planned projects by both CNN and the Discovery Channel have been suspended.

No comment?

Most telling, "as of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes."

Everybody should be petitioning their local representatives in Washington to have the administration answer this outrage.

Could it be any clearer how much George Bush and his chickenhawk warriors hate the troops?

The 2 Army Times reports can be accessed both here and here.

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