Thursday, February 22, 2007

Walter Reed Rant

Chuck Z has an excellent post on the situation at Walter Reed. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Then read this:

“Disgraceful,” said Gary Kurpius, a Vietnam veteran from Anchorage, Alaska, who had served 20 years as a veterans’ service officer to help others obtain due compensation and benefits from the government.“It is an absolute disgrace that it took national media attention before corrective action would begin on problems that had been reported months if not years ago. Walter Reed’s world-class reputation has now been tainted by a behind-the-scenes support element that, in part, doesn’t work,” he said.“If money was needed to ensure that Walter Reed had the necessary personnel and programs to properly serve our wounded and their families during a time of war, then people were derelict in their duty for not reporting the need, and then for not following up on their reports,” said Kurpius. The VFW is now calling for Congress to exercise its oversight authority and investigate how this situation was allowed to happen by Walter Reed and Department of the Army officials.“Supporting the troops isn’t just a bumper sticker for civilians,” he said. “It’s a solemn pledge that those who wear the uniform also make.”

-statement from VFW Commander-in-Chief Gary Kurpius from the VFW website

There is a similar statement from the American Legion.

And now for the rant.

The VFW and its Auxiliaries participate extensively in the VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) program. I am wondering why, if the VA uses volunteers to such a large degree, the military does not encourage that for their hospitals. As far as I can tell, the American Red Cross seems to be the only volunteer organization officially involved at military hospitals. That’s a shame, because it is obvious that they could benefit from the help that could be given by our veterans’ groups.

My only experience is with VA hospitals, so I hope I’m not talking out my ass. But the Illinois VFW has VAVS representatives from both the VFW and the Ladies Auxiliary in every hospital and clinic and veterans home in the state and surrounding areas. I have been to the VA hospital in Madison, WI many times as part of the VAVS commitment we have towards our veterans. It is a big responsibility and one that the VFW takes very seriously. And we aren’t the only ones. This is a list of groups that participate in VAVS in Madison:

American Ex-Prisoners of War
American Gold Star Mothers
American Legion and Auxiliary
AMVETS Auxiliary
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
Daughters of the American Revolution
Disabled American Veterans and Auxiliary
Forty and Eight
Knights of Columbus
Masonic Service Association
Military Order of the Cootie and Auxiliary
Military Order of the Purple Heart and Auxiliary
National Woman's Relief Corps
Polish Legion of American Veterans and Auxiliary
Salvation Army
Telephone Pioneers of America
Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary

So why haven’t we stepped up to the plate for the armed forces? I’d really like to know if it is because the military doesn’t want us there, or our leadership hasn’t pushed the issue enough.

We also provide service officers to help vets with the intricacies of VA paperwork, transportation to appointments, assistance with benefits…wouldn’t the efforts of the men and women who volunteer to do this for the VA be a blessing to the Army?

Commander, we don’t need a Congressional investigation nearly as much as we need you and your officers to start talking to the military to see how we can help.

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