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Editorial: Honor veterans with services

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Today is Veterans Day, a special day set aside to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, will make an appearance at a ceremony in Iowa City today. It is often easy to forget that the freedoms we take for granted today are available only through the sacrifices our predecessors have made. Elmer Davis, the director of the U.S. Office of War Information during World War II, famously stated, “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

Americans often have skeptical views regarding their country’s involvement in foreign affairs. In 2007, a poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News showed that 61 percent of Americans believe that the United States should have stayed out of Iraq.

Despite this, polling shows that Americans do not transfer their dissatisfaction with foreign policy onto their perception of returning veterans. A national poll released by Military.com in 2012 indicates that 86 percent of Americans view Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as “valuable assets.”

The poll’s results were not all positive. Most Americans also have misconceptions about veterans being less educated than non-veterans and that the majority suffer from PTSD. Both of these stereotypes are factually inaccurate.

Most disturbing, however, is that our government’s track record of treating veterans has been horrendous. The Department of Veterans Affairs  was established to provide support and benefits to veterans after their service. In April, a scandal shook the VA when it was reported that at least 40 veterans had passed away while in the process of awaiting treatment at Phoenix VA facilities. A later audit found that more than 120,000 veterans remained waiting or never got care. The schedulers cooked the books to make waiting times seem better than they were. The fiasco led to the early resignation of the VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

In July, a Gallup poll demonstrated the obvious: Veterans are unhappy with how they are treated. An astounding 55 percent believe it is difficult to access care.

Things in the VA seem to be getting better. New VA Secretary Bob McDonald unveiled on Monday that the VA will undergo an entire restructuring. He plans to fire or discipline more than 1,000 public workers.

Where the government seems to have been failing recently on the issue of helping veterans, the private sector has stepped up. A report put together by the RAND and J.P. Morgan Chase highlights the success of a program known as the 100,000 Jobs Mission. This partnership of 179 private companies has a goal of increasing the hiring of veterans. More than 200,000 veterans have been hired since the coalition’s inception in 2011.

The Labor Department’s report from October shows that the unemployment rate for veterans was 4.5 percent for the month. Comparably, the civilian unemployment rate for the same month was 5.8 percent. Remarkably, veterans actually had a better time finding jobs than civilians. As early as January of this year, this trend was reversed.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that providing excellent care should be a vital priority for the government. Accounting for the previous embarrassments, the VA has a lot of work to do to regain the public’s trust. While the new secretary seems to be on the right track, Congress should continue to monitor the VA’s progress with scrutiny to make sure scandals of this magnitude never happen again. Additionally, private companies helping in the hiring of veterans should be applauded for their successful efforts.


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