• Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

    VA Makes Veterans Beggars

    Service benefits are not entitlements. It’s time to force the VA to change, writes Army vet Chris Miller.

    I come from a family of combat vets. We’ve all been fortunate enough to make it home, from WWII, Vietnam, and for me, Iraq. Military service is a family tradition, as is bitching about the VA. Dinner conversations include horror stories about wait times, neglect, and endless red tape. Often lost in the cycle of stories about VA screw-ups and VA reforms (inevitably followed by more stories of VA screw-ups) is the demoralizing affect that the process has on individuals by taking the very values the military teaches—integrity, hard work, accountability—and undermining them by making veterans act like beggars.

    The term “red tape” in America actually derives from Civil War veterans’ records being bound together in the stuff. The story of veterans getting stiffed by the government is an American tradition going back at least 150 years. In the present day, while bill payments can be done online and any song ever recorded is instantly accessible, we are still using a paper-based VA system that has the upshot of being noncompatible with the Department of Defense system used for tracking active-duty soldiers.

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  • Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool/AP

    PTSD

    Why PTSD Deserves The Purple Heart

    Healing invisible wounds. We can honor veterans with PTSD by awarding them the Purple Heart writes Benjamin Tupper.

    Criteria for the Purple Heart medal seems straightforward: “any action against an enemy of the United States” in which a service member is “wounded or killed” merits the award. But in practice granting of the award is a contentious issue among combat veterans and a charged field for both the wounded and those who judge the wounds.

    In Afghanistan, I knew soldiers who earned Purple Hearts for very minor wounds sustained in combat. Bruises and small lacerations that required no stitches were technically eligible, and soldiers who received them were rightly issued the medal. But technical criteria aside, most soldiers look down on awards given for minor injuries, arguing that doing so cheapens the Purple Heart’s significance for those who were killed or more gravely wounded.

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  • Paul Morse

    MEMORIAL DAY

    How George W. Bush Really Rolls

    From the Wounded Warrior 100K, Mark McKinnon on the ex-president’s behind-the-scenes work for veterans.

    The wounded warrior in front of me rode so well, and so fast, dusting me in the flats, that for a while I forgot he was a veteran. And then I noticed and remembered what was different. Staff Sgt. Matthew DeWitt has no arms. They were blown off by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. As I watched him navigate the difficult terrain, snapped into handlebars with a prothesis on each arm, the obvious questions surfaced: How in the hell is he braking? And shifting? 

    Well, thanks to his absolute determination not to let his injuries stop him from his love for bike riding—and Ride 2 Recovery’s fantastic mechanics and technicians—DeWitt rode a specially outfitted mountain bike with a pad on the back of his seat that allows him to lean back to brake. He manipulates small buttons on the frame of his bike with his knees to shift. Which, unless you actually see him do it, seems impossible.

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  • Sheryl Cornelius, widow of Vietnam veteran Jack Cornelius, initially was denied burial benefits and a survivors' pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs. By the time the agency reversed itself a year later, she'd lost her home to foreclosure. (Paul Hellstern/Center for Investigative Reporting)

    Investigation

    Backlog Follows Vets to Grave

    Internal VA documents show an escalating number of widows and widowers are waiting for burial benefits and survivors’ pensions—breaking America’s final promise to its veterans, reports Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

    Jack Cornelius sat in a wingback chair in his living room in the small town of Hinton, Okla., pointed a .22-caliber Sears, Roebuck & Co. rifle at his left temple and pulled the trigger.

    When his wife, Hinton Mayor Sheryl Ann Cornelius, arrived home that evening, he was slumped in his chair, still clutching the gun.

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  • Navy veteran Hosea Roundtree, 54, at his home in Yuba City, says he suffers from flashbacks of the shelling he witnessed in Beirut while aboard a U.S. Navy ship in 1983. (Michael Short / Center for Investigative Reporting)

    Veterans Fail

    Chronic Errors Clog VA Claims System

    VA claims are slowed by errors in as many as one in every three cases, reports Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

    U.S. Navy cook Hosea Roundtree watched the 1983 shelling of Beirut from the deck of a ship, feelings of helplessness washing over him as people perished onshore. That memory haunted him, resurrected in flashbacks eight years later after a tour in the Gulf during Operation Desert Storm.

    But when Roundtree’s claim for disability compensation crossed Jamie Fox’s desk at the Department of Veterans Affairs more than two decades later, it was slated for denial on the grounds that he had never seen combat. Fox, herself a Navy veteran, tried to straighten things out—and for that, she lost her job.

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  • John Moore

    #vetchat: Michael Daly on Post 9/11 Apathy

    Welcome to another #vetchat, a weekly Twitter conversation—every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST—where Newsweek and the Daily Beast’s @HeroSummit and a guest host talk with tweeters about a topic of importance to the military and veteran communities. Follow and join the conversation at the hashtag #vetchat.

    This week's host was Newsweek and the Daily Beast columnist Michael Daly (@mihald), who has written extensively about 9/11 and the war on terror. He held nothing back.

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  • John Moore / Getty Images

    WAITING GAME

    Report: Vets Aren’t Receiving Benefits

    Only 80 percent of claims being met.

    It’s called “the backlog.” More than 1.3 million claims were filed last year to the Department of Veterans Affairs, double the number from 10 years ago. Even though the organization has added nearly 4,000 new workers since 2008, less than 80 percent of those claims were completed. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of veterans are either not receiving or are being forced to wait punishing lengths of time for decisions on claims for disability, pension, and educational benefits. At the start of this week, 890,000 pension and compensation claims were pending, The New York Times reports.

    Read it at The New York Times
  • Nationwide, the VA took an average of more than eight months to process a claim in June – about 50 percent longer than the year before. Veterans in New York and North Texas waited the longest, at more than a year on average. Above, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York City. (Michael Loccisano / Getty Images)

    UNFAIR

    Vast Wait Times For Big City Vets

    Wait times for veterans get longer, and geographic inequalities increase, according to a new study by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

    If you’re a Northern California veteran who has waited a year for a decision on a war-related disability claim, you might consider a move to South Dakota—where the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs typically responds in less than half the time.

    Returning home from Afghanistan to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Atlanta? Veterans who live in Lincoln, Neb., and Fargo, N.D., get their benefits faster.

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