Truly honoring military service
Congress and the Veterans Affairs Department are taking a new, closer look at the treatment and ailments of America's veterans. Do not overlook the service and sacrifice of active duty personnel and their families.
NOTHING is too good for our men and women in uniform. So give it to them. Nothing! Too often that is how the news out of Washington, D.C., reads.
One maddening story reinforces the suspicion, yet two others offer a measure of hope that service and sacrifice glibly celebrated will be honored with serious commitments.
The Pentagon abruptly pulled the plug on a popular program that gave military spouses financial aid for college tuition and professional licenses and certification. Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts provided an extraordinary boost for families that relocate often and have normal education and job paths interrupted.
The aid bolstered economic opportunities and offered a potent, practical morale boost for the entire family. Reinstate the program. Whatever the cost, it is a bargain.
The Pentagon can afford it, with military spending ballooning 140 percent since 2000. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inflated the defense budget to a projected $722.1 billion in 2010.
The military-industrial complex thrives, but budget writers get all parsimonious when the troops return home. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki struck a different note last week, when he announced he would reopen review of disability claims filed by Gulf War veterans.
The Associated Press reports the decision by the former Army chief of staff may affect how the 700,000 veterans who served in the war receive benefits. No new benefit is created, but closed cases for complaints of a war-related illness will get another look.
Four months ago, Shinseki announced Vietnam veterans — an estimated 200,000 — will be reconsidered for compensation related to exposure to Agent Orange herbicide. Long overdue attention.
The VA is moving quicker on preliminary data showing dramatic increases in veterans suicides. Washington Sen. Patty Murray has been working to improve mental-health services and outreach. A year ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported suicides among active duty personnel and reservists were also up.
Last week, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held hearings on the relationship between VA-prescribed medication and veteran suicide. The committee is trying to reconcile the availability of treatment and the help provided.
These are works in progress, but vital topics are getting a closer, respectful review.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.