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Vietnam Veterans and Iraq Veterans Release Memorial Day Report on Veterans' Healthcare Crisis

By VVAW National Office

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For Immediate Release: May 26, 2005

"As Memorial Day approaches, we protest the coming cuts to an already underfunded system of health care for veterans. It seems like the current administration is more interested in our deaths than in our lives, said Dave Curry, VVAW National Staff. Curry, author of the report, served as a captain in army counter-intelligence in Vietnam during that war. Now a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he will be attending the annual VVAW Memorial Day ceremony and will release his new report, "From Vietnam to Iraq: Ignoring the Veteran Healthcare Crisis."

In the new report, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) detail how the Veterans Affairs health-care system is under-funded and overwhelmed by a growing number of veterans seeking quality medical care. The result is that hundreds of thousands of veterans must suffer with untreated medical injuries and mental ailments. Their illnesses worsen while their disabilities push them towards bankruptcy.

In "From Vietnam to Iraq: Ignoring the Veteran Health-Care Crisis," VVAW and IVAW has compiled information, statistics and stories for three main areas:
- The dismal future of health care for new veterans
- Funding inequities for VA benefits and health care
- The impact of cuts on VA health-care services

The report delves into issues including the use and impact of depleted uranium on American veterans, how the current administration is cutting funding for the VA health-care system and the increasing cost burden for veterans. This crisis will continue to grow as the system is flooded by new veterans who have been injured during their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Curry and Romo of VVAW and Anderson of IVAW are available for interviews before or on Memorial Day.

"Out of the 360,000 discharged veterans from the current Iraq War, nearly one in four had already visited VA for physical injuries or mental health counseling by February 2005," says Curry. "In Vietnam they poisoned us with Agent Orange, and now they are poisoning another generation with depleted uranium and other toxins. When the Pentagon minimizes the hazards of depleted uranium, they are playing politics with Iraq Veterans' health."

Without massive changes, millions of veterans who have been promised access to health care will slip through the cracks of the VA system. To provide quality health-care for American veterans VVAW and IVAW recommends the following:

1) Iraqi veterans have been exposed to dangerous levels of depleted uranium by the U.S. military. The United States must immediately cease production of depleted-uranium weapons and stop their use in overseas military efforts. Like Agent Orange-a herbicide used by the military during the Vietnam War which caused serious physical damage to U.S. soldiers-the short-term military gains made with depleted uranium can cause long-term and possibly life-threatening mental and physical repercussions.

2) Budget allocation for VA health care must change from annual discretionary funding to mandatory funding. The budget should account for rising costs in health care and the increasing number of veterans dependent on the VA health-care system for quality medical care.

3) The VA must expand current services and improve access to quality medical care in order to meet the actual needs of the millions of veterans across the country in a timely manner.

"Our government has an obligation to provide meaningful support for the veterans of this unjust and immoral war. Over one million soldiers have rotated through Iraq in the two years since the invasion and there is still no viable exit strategy. As our government pursues policy that will create new veterans, they have a sacred duty to provide the educational, medical, and financial benefits promised to all soldiers upon enlistment." says Charles Anderson a member of IVAW. Anderson served in the Middle East from February 1, 2003 to May 28, 2003. He was a hospital corpsman with a tank battalion and entered Iraq on March 20th with the first wave of U.S. troops.

The report will be released and discussed at VVAW's annual Memorial Day event on Monday, May 30 at 11 a.m. on the corner of Wabash and Wacker in Chicago.

Commentary on VVAW.org: