COMMENTARY | President Barack Obama has been taking a lot of heat recently over unprecedented levels of government incompetence and inefficiency providing health care and support services to returning veterans. The Navy hero who killed Osama bin Laden reportedly lives in anonymous squalor, and while he exemplifies the situation poignantly, he is not alone. After a decade of perilous anti-terrorism operations, our veterans are coming home to historically poor treatment.
The backlog for disability claims is now 900,000 deep — the populations of Albuquerque and Cleveland combined . The Veterans Affairs Department promises this backlog will be caught up with by 2015 , yet it’s cut staffing in the last two years, and almost all of its procedures are still paper-based. The average United States veteran can now expect to wait two years before their claim is ever processed, leaving them and their families to endure immense financial and emotional burdens in the meantime, burdens that often cause irreversible damage and permanent feelings of disenfranchisement by the time the situation is resolved. The situation is disgusting, and every American should find it unacceptable.
That’s not to say every American should embrace the fashionable cop-out of blaming President Obama.
The obvious reason for the massive backlog is the sheer number of claims. This is to be expected; we’ve essentially been at war since the beginning of the millennium. As the years of warfare add up, so do the number of injured veterans. If you feel compelled to blame a president, it may be worth remembering that George W. Bush started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you feel compelled to blame a member of the current government, look at the Republican congress, which actively refuses to work with the Obama administration on any issue.
The assertion that Obama simply doesn’t care about veterans’ issues is false . During his first term, he unveiled a plan to save veterans’ homes from foreclosure. He and first lady Michelle Obama have also created a series of programs to help veterans (and active-duty military spouses) find jobs.
Arguing about whether or not Obama is to blame for the plight of American veterans takes focus away from the plight itself. At the end of the day, the choice is yours. You can take direct action to help veterans and military families, or you can prioritize Obama-bashing, standing on a soapbox built from the misery of disabled heroes.