Monday, July 30, 2007

Used up and thrown away: 1.8 million veterans get no health care

By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Jun 29, 2007 10:47 PM
Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish-born revolutionary and courageous opponent of imperialist war, wrote of soldiers returning to Germany after World War I that they had “sacrificed the most blood and goods” but that they “return to need and misery, while billions has been heaped in the hands of a few.”

She would say the same thing today about U.S. soldiers.

The young men and women who, often out of basic economic need, sign up for the military are betrayed. Recruiters patrol the poor and oppressed neighborhoods bearing promises of veterans’ benefits. Capitalist politicians brag about how much they “support the troops.”

But regardless of their rhetoric, regardless of recruiters’ empty promises, there are currently in the U.S. 1.8 million veterans who have no health insurance or any access to medical care, according to the Washington Post of June 21.

It seems that, even if young people donate their bodies to the rulers of this country, they still can’t get what is guaranteed to everyone in socialist countries and even in some capitalist ones: healthcare provided to the people free of charge.

It was already a scandal that 45 million people in the U.S. are without any health coverage. Now, at this time when every big shot professes to love the troops who are fighting the rich man’s war, it is doubly scandalous that even veterans can’t get health services.

The Post article added: “The ranks of uninsured veterans have increased by 290,000 since 2000, said Stephanie J. Woolhandler, the Harvard Medical School professor who presented her findings yesterday before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. About 12.7 percent of non-elderly veterans—or one in eight—lacked health coverage in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, she said, up from 9.9 percent in 2000.”

Some of these veterans are eligible for Veterans Administration care, but there are no VA hospitals or facilities near them. The government has closed many down recently—just as veterans with multiple problems have been returning home.

Another recent study, conducted by Dr. Drew A. Helmer for the Baylor College of Medicine, discovered that, in a group of 56 veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, the average was four physical health concerns for each one, and that 55 percent also had mental health issues. The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Perhaps this callous disregard for veterans should not be surprising. Under capitalism, workers are laid off when their work is no longer profitable; public housing is reduced as homelessness rises; cuts are made to food stamp services; schools are crumbling and classrooms are packed even as the incomes of the super-rich soar into the stratosphere.

In a system based on profit, when people are no longer useful tools for those who crowd the halls of power, they will be cast aside as useless, no matter how many promises must be broken. The only recourse for veterans is to organize and use their skills to fight back.

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