Who In The VA Has The Vets’ Back?

I brought my Honda in for service this morning. The car in line ahead of me had the following bumper sticker which I understand is given to donors to the Democratic National Committee.

The car was driven by a middle-aged woman who also had a VA employee parking decal for the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville.

As long-time readers may know, my father was a career US Army non-com. When he was medically retired in 1972, he depended upon the VA health care system for his medical care. From what I remember, he received good care from VA hospitals in both North Carolina and Maine. I don’t remember him ever speaking of having to wait to receive care.

Looking at the most current VA wait time statistics for the Charles George VA Medical Center, one sees some significant wait times especially for new patients. It takes over 31 days for a new patient to see a primary care physician/FNP/PA, 43.57 days to see a specialist, and almost 32 days to see a mental health professional. The stats are better for existing patients in that they average a week or less across the board. It could be worse as the wait times at the VA medical centers in both Durham and Fayetteville are significantly longer.

After looking at these numbers, I still am moved to ask – who has the vet’s back?

Gettysburg Veterans (video)

I stumbled across this really interesting video of a reunion of both Union and Confederate veterans from the Battle of Gettysburg. The reunion was the 75th reunion in 1938. The most touching part is when they were going to re-enact Pickett’s Charge and the Union vets ended up surging towards the Conferates and hugging them.

With the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor just past, it is a reminder of the sacrifices that all veterans have made for this country over the years.

Sen. Richard Burr On The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act

Sen Richard Burr (R-NC) has always been concerned about the proper treatment of veterans during his time in Congress. He is currently the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

One of his major beefs with the Department of Veterans Affairs is that they report any veteran who has an appointed financial fiduciary to manage their financial affairs to the FBI’s NICS system as being ineligible to own a firearm. These are not, mind you, individuals who have been adjudicated mentally deficient, incompentent or a danger to themselves or others but rather veterans who need help managing their finances. Currently, 114,000 veterans have been reported by the VA to NICS because of how Veterans Affairs has interpreted the law.

In July, Burr introduced S. 1707 – the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act – to remedy this. The bill currently has 18 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle including such gun control backers as Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT). A companion bill, HR 1898, was introduced in the House by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). This bill was merged into HR 2349 which passed the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate on October 11th.

These bills say that a veteran will not be considered adjudicated mentally defective unless a finding or order has been rendered by a judge, magistrate, or other competent judicial authority saying the individual is a danger to himself or to others.

To put the 114,000 veterans who have lost their Second Amendment rights into perspective, currently there are 7.6 million people receiving Social Security benefits who have an assigned fiduciary. None of these 7.6 million people with assigned financial fiduciaries has been reported to NICS nor have they lost their Second Amendment rights.

Cam Edwards interviewed Sen. Burr about this problem and his bill on Tuesday. While the Senate has not been able to pass a budget for over 900 days, let’s hope this is one bill they can get their act together on and pass.

Reflections on D-Day – 66 Years Later

June 6, 1944

So many years now, and so many with the memories of that day now gone. We look back on D-Day and the other horrific set-piece battles of World War 2 with an air of unreality, through goggles of the omnipresent media…perhaps the epic celluloid battles against the Sith or the dinosaurs of Jurrasic Park are more “real” to us than our fathers’, or our grandfathers, great sacrifices. As Americans, I believe we cannot look back at D-Day, at the Second World War, without a sense of utmost reverence, a profound sense of the power of good to triumph over evil even in the face of unimaginable pain, suffering and death.

Excellent post from Michael Bane on the 66th anniversary of D-Day. Read the whole thing.

Another Way to Honor Our Veterans

Yesterday on Memorial Day, I was listening to a podcast that discussed recording interviews with family members who have served in the military. They thought it was an excellent way to honor the vet’s service and to preserve these memories for later generations. I agree wholeheartedly!

It is estimated that World War II veterans are now dying at the rate of 1,000 a day. Some have estimated that by 2020 – only ten years from now – less than 2% of the 14.5 million vets of that war will still be alive. In my own family, my Dad, who was drafted into the Army in October 1940, died in 1981 and my Uncle John, a Navy vet who enlisted on December 8, 1941, passed away in 2008.

While my Dad served 28 years on active duty in the Army, he did it in two distinct segments. The first segment was from 1940 until 1945 during WWII and the second was from 1953 until his retirement in 1972. In between these segments, he served in the North Carolina National Guard while going back to college. Dad spoke of his memories of his second segment of service but never of WWII. He served a good part of WWII in the Caribbean Command – one of the least publicized theaters of the war. Thus, I don’t have thousands of books written on his theater of the war to reference about his service unlike those with relatives who served in the Pacific or Europe.

For those of us who have lost of fathers or grandfathers and didn’t get to really talk to them about their memories, it is still possible to find out about their service. The military records of all US veterans are available from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The next of kin of deceased veterans are eligible to request a copy of their records. You either fill out a DoD Standard Form 180 or you can just do it online through eVetRecs.  I did this for my Dad back in 2004 and got his full military records AND his replacement medals and campaign ribbons. Having his Bronze Star earned during his service in Vietnam is something I’ll always treasure.

In the past, many of this generation of vets came home, got a job (or went to college), raised a family, and never spoke of their military experiences. They just wanted to move on with their lives. Fortunately, the passage of time has given many of these men and women the distance they needed so they can talk about it now.

When you consider that the youngest vets of Desert Storm are now almost 40 and the youngest Vietnam vets are now in their mid 50s, time is of the essence. So sit down with your relatives who served in the military and record or write down their memories now. You may not have tomorrow to do it.

UPDATE: Welcome to the listeners of the GunDudes podcast. I hope you’ll take some time and read some of the other blog posts.