Saturday, December 26, 2009

Veterans kept waiting all these months later

Howard Jenkins is the local veterans employment representative for the Heartland Workforce in charge of the Veterans Work Study Program. He said he didn't know the number of students other programs have, but it is a big problem.
He's spoken with his counterparts in similar programs in Florida and they are having problems, too, he said.
"I have one that's affected also," said Jenkins. "He hasn't gotten paid for the hours he's been working here. He started working in October. He's never been paid. The Veterans Work Study Program augments their standard of living while they go to school."
Many of these veterans have families with children, he said.
"The young man I have is working for college for next semester," he said. "There are about 90 veterans signed up for classes at SFCC (South Florida Community College)."
About 277,000 veterans have signed up for school under the GI Bill across the country and only about 50,000 had been processed, he said.

The above is from Joe Seelig's "GI Bill payments sluggish" (Highlands Today/Tampa Tribune). Checks due at the start of the fall 2009 semester still have not been issued for "thousands" of veterans. There's no excuse for it. And the Congress needs to hold hearings in the new year to demand answers because this is ridiculous. In October, the problems became known due to the press, not because the VA got honest. The VA appeared before Congress, did a song & dance, and swore they didn't need additional resources or employees. They had what they needed and they were on it. Two months later, the same problems continue. There's no excuse for this and it may be time to call for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of the VA. The same man who was told, after he assumed the position, that the VA wouldn't be able to issue the checks in a timely manner. The same man who then confirmed that assessment with an outside consultant. The same man who 'forgot' to inform Congress of that until October after the press had made it a big story.

Congress should have gotten serious in October. They did not. The passively accepted a song and dance. Veterans have continued to suffer as a result. There's no excuse for this nonsense. There was never an excuse for it and that the VA can't get their act together goes to the leadership or lack of it. For more on this topic, see Mike's post from last night.

Courage to Resist's Sarah Lazare's "The US military is exhausted" (Al Jazeera) covers the overextended US military:

US army soldiers are refusing to serve at the highest rate since 1980, with an 80 per cent increase in desertions since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the Associated Press.
These troops refuse deployment for a variety of reasons: some because they ethically oppose the wars, some because they have had a negative experience with the military, and some because they cannot psychologically survive another deployment, having fallen victim to what has been termed "Broken Joe" syndrome.
Over 150 GIs have publicly refused service and spoken out against the wars, all risking prison and some serving long sentences, and an estimated 250 US war resisters are currently taking refuge in Canada.
This resistance includes two Fort Hood, Texas, soldiers, Victor Agosto and Travis Bishop, who publicly resisted deployment to Afghanistan this year, facing prison sentences as a result, with Bishop still currently detained.
"There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan," wrote Agosto, upon refusing his service last May. "The occupation is immoral and unjust."
Within the US military, GI resisters and anti-war veterans have organised through broad networks of veteran and civilian alliances, as well as through IVAW, comprised of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
This organisation, which is over 1,700 strong, with members across the world, including active-duty members on military bases, is opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and openly supports GI resistance.
"Iraq Veterans Against the War calls on Obama to end the war in Afghanistan (and Iraq) by withdrawing troops immediately and unconditionally," wrote Jose Vasquez, the executive director of IVAW, in a December 2 open letter.

Finally, Veterans For Peace notes:

December 27 will mark the first anniversary of the Israeli attack and invasion of the Gaza Strip. And although the Israeli tanks have left, the complete closure of the borders continues. The Gaza Freedom March will show the residents of Gaza that the international community of citizens has not forgotten them, and will call worldwide attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Through this effort and other activities, we hope to force the leaders of our governments to tell Israel "enough is enough; open the borders!"

December 31, 2009 over a thousand people including authors, activists, musicians, and VFP members will begin a week long trek called the "Gaza Freedom March." VFP members participating include Board Member Ken Mayers and Board Member elect Mike Hearington, along with Ann Wright, Bill Perry, Terry Perry, Billy Kelly, Will Covert, and Hedy Epstein. Learn more about the Gaza Freedom March.

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