Topic: "Curious, George?"
James Webb completed a tour in Iraq that lasted a year and a week. He suffered a back injury resulting from an explosion. He is no longer able to stand up straight, and he hobbles around on legs that no longer support him properly. He also suffers from sleep-busting dreams, popping painkillers during the day, and anxiety about how he will pay next month's mortgage payment. Webb received a medical discharge on February 4th, 2005, and he subsequently was shipped home and filed for disability benefits. He was told "We'll get back to you in eight months."
Frodo has learned that the number of cases BACKLOGGED for processing by the Veterans Administration has now grown to more than 340,000. Now, obviously, not all of these are wounded veterans of the Iraqi insurgency, but for Mr. Webb, it is an emergency. Webb goes to a local hospital for physical therapy, which is paid by his wife's medical insurance. The strain on their marriage rests in the fact that she provides all their income, mothers three children, and is fighting foreclosure on their home.
United States Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs said resources were adequate to take care of veterans' needs. Veterans groups lobbied Congress to add $2 Billion to the $80 Billion supplemental Military Appropriation specifically for veterans healthcare. The measure failed to pass.
Mr. Webb's mother sought assistance from a local veterans group seeking assistance for her son. The group attempted to intercede on Webb's behalf, but the Veterans Administration responded that Webb would have to wait his turn. The spokesman for the veterans group said "Army people are poor people. We are not high on any totem pole."
Emotion aside, Frodo has a question for you, dear reader. What do you think Governor Jeb Bush had to do to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to hire hundreds of temporary employees to process damage claims from hurricanes in Florida?
Frodo would never suggest that such assistance was unneeded, he simply wonders why it mattered so much in comparison to a backlog of benefits claims on behalf of wounded soldiers?
Florida voters live in nice houses and Florida voters contribute a lot of money to politicians. Frodo supposes that they are pretty high on the totem pole. James Webb still has trouble sleeping, worrying about how he'll deal with tomorrow. Before he was discharged, the Army took his weapon from him while he was being treated at a stress clinic.
What we know is that soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are surviving severe injuries at higher rates than in any previous war. Many of the most severely wounded are facing lifelong rehabilitation for amputations and trauma. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that 1 in 6 of every returning soldier will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.
What we hope is that none of them will need help for at least eight months after they get home. Frodo wonders if George W. Bush thinks about this problem "every single day?"
Frodo never thought that he would have to include James Webb under the umbrella of the "smallest and the weakest." Frodo is ashamed that such is the case.