For Veterans Day, Reason TV has a good video about how the bureaucracy that’s supposed to serve veterans is failing them.
This issue is not new, of course, but it should get all the attention we can give it. Back in March, The Economist had a story about the incredible lines and waiting periods veterans have to put up with before receiving benefits. While expanded eligibility standards explains part of the stress on the system, the real problem is a broken bureaucracy. Here is what it means on the ground for those waiting:
A grim result of this bottleneck is that in the past fiscal year over $400m in retroactive benefits was paid to family members of veterans who died waiting. One such veteran was Scott Eiswert, a National Guardsman who returned from Iraq in 2005. Tortured by nightmares of roadside bombs and fallen comrades, Eiswert took to drink. When the doctors at the VA at last found time to see him they diagnosed him with PTSD. But the VA rejected his disability claims, on the ground that his condition could not be tied to specific incidents from his service. In 2008, after learning that his unit was going back to Iraq, he took his own life.
About 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are thought to suffer from PTSD, though many do not report their problems. Instead they try to dose themselves. A VA study found that veterans suffering from PTSD or depression were about four times more likely to have drug or drink problems. Too many end up in the same desperate place as Eiswert. The VA reported that, on average, 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010. Last year more active-duty soldiers took their own lives than were killed in combat.