This date lives in infamy thanks to the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force against the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The raid killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 more. The following day, President Roosevelt issued his “Infamy” speech, and an hour after that, the U.S. declared war on Japan, entering World War II in earnest.
After the war, those veterans were greeted by a society geared towards their assimilation and success. In 1944, the G.I. Bill granted these vets a host of benefits to see them thrive. While there is a new G.I. Bill, there is not a society-wide effort on behalf of vets. We now know how psychologically crushing warfare often is, and, too often, how horrible the Veterans Administration is in honoring our commitment to the men and women who served.
Barak Obama’s VA so poorly treated veterans that they were allowed to die on weeks-long waiting lists for medical attention. It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will continue that toxic legacy or turn a corner on veterans’ affairs. As Politico reported, on December 1st, Secretary Shulkin’s staff announced an end to the VA’s main homeless aid program:
The decision would have affected $265 million immediately and $195 million more under the VA’s 2018 budget. Under the program, HUD offers housing vouchers for veterans, and the VA provides case management — finding them apartments and making sure they stay there.
The new setup would direct the money to local VA hospitals that could decide how to use it. Politico discovered “[t]he original VA decision was buried in a September circular without prior consultation with HUD or veterans’ groups.”
To say the decision did not sit well with those groups is an understatement. All manner of advocates decried the choice as insufficiently thought out, and every member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the VA, signed a letter to VA Secretary Shulkin that expressed grave concern over the changes and asked for delays so that all the many moving parts could be adjusted deliberately.
In response to such objections, Secretary Shulkin announced today:
“There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless program,” he said in a news release, adding that the money would not be shifted to the Choice program, which enables veterans to get health care outside the VA system.”
Jeffrey S. Nast, Esq., member of the Congressionally-chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, speaking exclusively to Liberty Nation, said:
“It doesn’t seem to make sense to take money from a program to aid homeless veterans while the veteran homeless population is increasing. Any program from the previous administration should come under scrutiny, as any federal agency needs to be a good steward of taxpayer money. I applaud Secretary Shulkin’s decision to reverse course because without a viable alternative program waiting in the wings; this didn’t seem to square with the President’s commitment to support veterans especially the most vulnerable of veterans, the homeless.”
Sadly, some portion of those veterans will always be homeless due to profound mental health issues. For the rest, however, the Veterans Administration needs to act thoughtfully, and with plenty of notice and deliberation. Quick changes that threaten marginal veteran populations do no favors to those who served and now struggle, often as a result of that service.