Topics: Veterans Affairs

Sen. John Walsh: US government is failing veterans

Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Veterans Affairs,Veterans

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., said the Veterans Affairs Department and congressional leaders are not doing enough to care for American veterans.

"I do not," Walsh replied when CNN's Candy Crowley asked if the government was keeping its "promise" to service members. "You know, I think that our veterans need -- we need better health care for our veterans. And, for example, in a state like Montana, we've built additional VA Clinics, because when you look at how rural Montana is, having to travel from Miles City, Montana to Helena, where the VA Is, is really unrealistic."

The recently-appointed senator and Iraq veteran has proposed legislation to help treat soldiers at risk of suicide. "You know, I think we do a pretty — a very good job of taking that citizen soldier and making a warrior out of him," Walsh said. "But we aren't doing a very good job of taking that warrior and reintegrating him back into society."

Walsh isn't the only one who thinks so. Former President George W. Bush discussed a "divide" between American civilians and soldiers when launching a study on how to reintegrate veterans into civil society.

"We've got a problem," Bush told ABC's Martha Raddatz in February. "Too many veterans are unemployed. And there's what we call a civilian-military divide. In other words, the returning vets think one thing, the civilian population thinks another and our aim is to get people to understand each other better for the good of the veteran community."

Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen put the onus on American civilians to improve relations with veterans. "Our culture is a culture of 'if you're here, we love you, and if you are not, please carry on [with] whatever it is,'" Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush, said in January while discussing military families who have lost a loved one to combat.

Jane Horton, a Gold Star widow whose husband died in Afghanistan, leveled that complaint at President Obama following the 2014 State of the Union speech.

"Why do we live in an America where we refuse to acknowledge the losses we have suffered, the men and women who have given their lives, and the blood and treasure that has been sacrificed to water the tree of liberty?" she wrote in the Washington Examiner. "I sat on eggshells during the president's speech, waiting, anticipating for Chris to have his moment. For the commander-in-chief of our nation's armed forces to acknowledge his sacrifice, his life. I waited in vain."

View article comments Leave a comment