WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Memorial Day is set aside to honor America's veterans, those who have served and those who have given what Abraham Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion. Indeed, you will not be able to turn your head today without confronting invocations of honor and duty. While it is all well and good to do this, the reality behind what our veterans endure today obscures these pious platitudes with the hard reek of hypocrisy.
Facts: Average wait time for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans filing their first claim to receive the benefits they earned: between 316 and 327 days. Those filing for the first time in big cities wait up to twice as long: 642 days in New York, 619 days in Los Angeles, and 542 days in Chicago.
The ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 in December, an increase of more than 2,000%. The VA expected the number of veterans waiting - currently about 900,000 - to continue to increase throughout 2013 and top a million by the end of this past March.
There are, on average, 22 veteran suicides a day. "I'm not surprised at the number of us that kill ourselves," Lincoln Capstick, an unemployed Iraq War veteran in Indiana where the average wait on new claims is 612 days, said to Time Magazine.
So today, as the politicians heap praise upon America's veterans, and as American businesses use veterans as props to boost their sales, remember what their sacrifice has truly meant...and remember that their sacrifice is ongoing, is happening right now, and will continue to happen until this country that so deeply values war finally steps up to care for he and she that has borne the battles.
A nation that does not care for its war veterans has no business making new ones.
(Photo: William Rivers Pitt)