Politicians Spit on Veterans
By Bruce Macdonald
We have all heard stories of troops returning from Vietnam being spat upon. Whether fact or urban legend, the message was that, having participated in an unpopular war, the public did not honor or respect their service. When my brother returned from Vietnam, he told of immediately changing into civilian clothes upon landing in Seattle, undoubtedly to avoid the wrath of the anti-war public that he had heard about.
I never experienced disrespect from the public during my Navy service from 1969 to 1972.
But sadly, 46 years later, I know the feelings of disrespect and dishonor my brother faced – but for very different reasons. Congress is poised to pass the “VA MISSION Act of 2018” (H.R. 5674). Although it was just filed on May 3, because President Trump wants to sign the bill by Memorial Day, it is being fast-tracked with no public hearings and no input from the 9 million veterans who receive health care from the VA. The bill dramatically accelerates the privatization of the VA and sets the stage for closure of VA hospitals. Several “sweeteners” were inserted in the bill to gain the endorsement of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans, the largest Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) in the country. Most of the other VSO’s have fallen in line, ignoring the inconvenient reality that 80% of VA patients express satisfaction with their care, and want the VA fixed and fully funded, not privatized. Siphoning money from the VA budget to fund more expensive care in the private sector will place the VA in a death spiral, which is exactly what the Koch brothers and the health care lobby want.
Politicians are quick to say how much they love and respect veterans, even calling them heroes. One politician made a promise to veterans 153 years ago. President Abraham Lincoln promised in his second inaugural “to care for him who hath borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” That is the motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs. By rushing this bill to passage without hearing from healthcare experts, from VA line staff and from veterans who actually receive VA healthcare only to give President Trump a photo op on Memorial Day is shameful. I now know what my fellow veterans who served in Vietnam felt on their return. As someone whose life literally depends on VA healthcare, I now know what it feels like to have my service to my country dishonored and disrespected. I now know what it feels like to be spit on, not by an anti-war public, but by hypocritical politicians.
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U.S. Navy, 1969 – 1972