Tomorrow's editorial tonight:
Last Saturday, about 25 veterans drove from the Plaza to uptown Charlotte, where they climbed aboard a float bearing patriotic colors and rolled along Tryon Street for the Veterans Day parade. The vets were representing Post 7775 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and like every year, they were heartened by the waves and applause they received.
“It was such a good crowd,” post commander Jim Hopkins told the editorial board this week. “We’re always treated very good.”
Which is as it should be. Today is Veterans Day, the day we officially thank living veterans for their service in wartime and peace. Those thanks are noticed, says Hopkins, who as a Vietnam veteran is aware that our country didn’t always fully appreciate its military.
But new and troubling numbers are reminding us that when the parade applause quiets, our servicemen and women – especially the newest – are struggling.
Many of the difficulties are financial. The unemployment rate for post- 9/11 veterans continues to hover around 12 percent, almost 50 percent higher than the general population, and a new report by homeless advocacy group 100,000 Homes found that veterans stay unemployed significantly longer than non-veterans.
Those veterans, who make up a disproportionately high portion of the homeless, also are more likely to need emergency room care because of health issues ranging from heart and liver disease to tuberculosis. A Veterans Affairs Department study also shows that veterans suffering from substance abuse problems and mental health issues are straining staffs at VA hospitals.
What can be done? On jobs, the Obama administration is proposing a bill that would enhance the tax credits businesses can receive when they hire veterans. The credits, which offer tax savings up to $9,600 for hiring jobless or disabled veterans, are not a salve for the nation’s unemployment woes, but they help veterans who are entering a still-dire job market after serving our country. The Senate unanimously passed the bill Thursday; the House should do the same next week.
We’re encouraged, too, that Veterans Affairs has publicly acknowledged and confronted inadequacies in how it serves veterans’ mental health needs. In a survey of VA medical staff across the country last month, the agency affirmed veterans’ complaints about long wait times to see professionals for urgent issues such as depression and drug dependency, the New York Times reported.
The survey is a start, and Veterans Affairs says it is working toward increasing office hours and filling staff vacancies so that veterans don’t have to wait for evaluation and counseling.
Jim Hopkins knows how critical such efforts are. Each month, his VFW post hosts patients from the Salisbury VA hospital for dinner and entertainment. Those patients suffer from various afflictions, both physical and mental. “We see first-hand what it does to them,” he says. “We’re always thinking of them.”
On this Veterans Day – and all the other days – we should do the same and more.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Tomorrow's editorial tonight: