Helping Veterans on the Fourth; Private-Public Partnerships Can Fill the Gaps
Byline: James Schenck, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A mid the Fourth of July celebrations, let us not forget the millions of veterans who returned home with serious injuries as a result of their service to protect our nation. Injured veterans face a host of physical, psychological and financial problems that can seriously affect their quality of life if not properly addressed. The tragic reality is that even though the U.S. government has substantially increased the budgets of both the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs and devoted ever-increasing resources to our wounded military, the long-term nature of the challenges facing our wounded veterans necessitates public-private partnerships. We as a nation need to come together to give our wounded the world-class care they deserve and ensure their needs are met.
Every day, 1.4 million active-duty members of our military give up a part of their lives to serve their country, and some of them will become injured. It is sometimes easy to forget that we are fighting two of our nation's longest wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war in Iraq already has lasted longer than World War II and the Korean War combined, while the conflict in Afghanistan is approaching the length of the Vietnam War. More than 30,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in those efforts, which are taking place in rugged terrain halfway around the world. Although we have begun to draw down troops in Iraq, some kind of presence likely will be necessary for years, while our current plans to leave Afghanistan depend upon the situation there improving dramatically.
Meanwhile, the nature of war has changed since earlier conflicts, including World War II and Vietnam. Thanks to advances in medical technology, faster emergency evacuations, better medic training and state-of-the-art treatment, more soldiers than ever are surviving the battlefield. That's great news, but we should not overlook the fact that it also means we have many more seriously injured veterans returning home. We have veterans from World War II, Vietnam, Korea and the first Gulf War who still need medical care. These veterans cannot be forgotten.
America's involvement with the military also has changed. Today's all-volunteer military is well-trained and deeply committed to service, but it does not draw from as wide a pool of society as did conflicts such as World War II. …