The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

July 13, 2014

Our View: Gridlock harming brain-damaged veterans

Why it matters: Veterans are being ousted from their therapeutic group homes because of political gridlock in Congress.

With mid-term elections looming, any possible Congressional action is frozen in time for fear any movement will be fodder for criticism and jeopardize either party’s chances to influence their political destinies. It’s a little political chess game that gets played every election cycle.

This intransigence could be viewed as mildly amusing especially for those who feel government can do no good. Some, including columnists at Forbes Magazine, are even claiming the deadlock is improving the economy.

However, there are at least 53 brain-damaged veterans who would beg to differ — if anybody would listen.

The Wall Street Journal exclusive Friday found that the Department of Veterans Affairs is moving dozens of brain-damaged veterans out of therapeutic group homes because Congress has failed to extend the program.

VA case workers already notified 53 such veterans they need to leave these homes by Sept. 15. The VA says it has no choice since this five-year pilot program is only alive because of Congressional authority and the five years is nearly up.

Veterans groups are understandably upset by the failure of Congress to extend this program and legislators on both sides of the aisle are falling over each other getting bills crafted. However, none of these bills have advanced, thanks to the lack of Congressional action.

The VA is trying to be creative to prevent the discharge of 50 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans using funding from a separate law but, according to the WSJ, even they are leery on how long such a reprieve can last.

One 53-year-old veteran wept when told he may face life outside the assisted living group home. “It’s only a matter of time before I end up in jail or dead,” he said.

The VA still needs to complete an assessment of the program but so far likes what it sees — if it can continue its work.

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