November spotlights Veteran’s issues

World War I (horribly mislabeled “the war to end all wars”) concluded on November 11, 1918. The date evolved into Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada. Both bring a short burst of attention to the topic of war and the needs of veterans.

Here in Canada we’ve seen recent demonstrations on Parliament Hill and across Canada. Inevitably, in times of budget shortfalls, the question arises if Veteran’s benefits must be cut too?

There has also been criticism of the Royal Canadian Legion, which may be causing that organization to up its game, in terms of speaking out over veteran’s issues.

Meanwhile, a rival organization has emerged, Canadian Veterans Advocacy, headed by Michael Blais.

Blais charges the Legion is too complacent and does not effectively include or speak for veterans from more recent conflicts. This (already-cited)  Ottawa Citizen article identifies one source of friction:

Much of the disillusionment stems from Legion’s qualified support for the New Veterans Charter, implemented in 2006 by the Liberal government led by Paul Martin.

The charter is deeply unpopular with many modern veterans, who rail against its shift to lump-sum payments for injuries instead of the tax-free disability pensions older veterans receive.

(A detailed comparison of lump-sum pay out verses a life pension can be read in this Globe and Mail article.)

Different wars do seem to create specific needs, or arguments. Were service men and women in Vietnam adversely affected by exposure to Agent Orange? If that question was eventually answered in the affirmative, what about exposure to depleted uranium in the Balkans?

Improvised Explosive Device injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan cause undeniable harm when limbs are lost. But what invisible damage is also inflicted? And what is society’s responsibility to those hurt in service to their country?

If you missed it earlier, Fresh Air’s Terry Gross did a long interview with long-time combat reporter David Wood (October 13). The good news is a marked improvement in war-theater survival rates. The down side is the incredible long-term impact (and largely un-budgeted costs) facing survivors, care providers, veteran’s hospitals and taxpayers. Detailed, insightful, painful and, yes, inspiring, it was must-hear radio for me.

Chronology alone creates a wide gap between vets who served in the 1940’s-50’s and those returning from conflicts in recent years. If that’s a problem, is it anyone’s fault? Seriously, how many clubs manage to be equally attractive to the over-70 crowd and 20-somethings?

Does being a veteran create bonds that bridge wars and generations? Or are the experiences – decades and continents apart – too dissimilar to lump together?

As 11/11/11 draws near, Canadians and Americans alike direct a few days of extra attention to these issues. Veteran or civilian, what are your thoughts?

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1 Comment on “November spotlights Veteran’s issues”

  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I read this morning about an observance being organized to recognize the affects of Agent Orange on Viet Nam vets by releasing orange balloons. Please don’t release them. Fly them if you wish, securely tied to a stationary object, but deflated balloons are a danger to wildlife.

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