By Taylor Dardan
As the debate on Capitol Hill amid recent air strikes in Libya carries on, some parts of the Obama administration are under heavy criticism from US veterans back home. President Obama, The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and Congress are currently under fire from veterans support groups over missed deadlines and implementation of the proposed support program for military veterans. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act was signed through by President Obama on May 5, 2010 with an expected deadline of January 31, 2011. Just two months ago that deadline date passed by with the program still not off the ground. Both Congress and the VA have been particularly apologetic in reference to the problems getting the program started. The blame for the delay has been related back to the inability and inexperience working with stipends as a form of monetary support. Even if this bill were to be implemented fully, it doesn’t provide any type of support for veterans who have served prior to 2001.
As it stands now, if this act were to be pushed through, it would provide veterans who have served post 2001 and their care givers with counseling, supportive services, respite, and training. Family members who are care giving would also be eligible for a full training and certification course. Certainly this expanded level of support would be an excellent move towards properly caring for our veterans, however further expansion to include older veterans should be explored as well.
Caregivers are certainly a necessity for many older veterans today. This is in correlation with the fact that a number of them are still feeling the effects and health problems directly related to their time spent in the military. These types of health problems have spanned from small to large and include Parkinson’s disease, Hodgkin’s disease, a number of different forms of cancer, mesothelioma, as well as lymphoma, among other health issues.
A number of Vietnam War veterans have felt the brunt of their time spent overseas during the war. The destructive cocktail of pesticides known as Agent Orange was a major health risk to many of the Vietnam veterans. This pesticide exposure in Vietnam has led to diseases such as lung cancer, lymphoma, liver cancer and sarcoma.
Asbestos use in a number of different military shipyards, factories, and buildings has shown a direct correlation with some dangerous diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Even though asbestos are not in use anywhere today, older veterans may be in a life threatening situation, as mesothelioma life expectancy is extremely severe.
For over 30 years water contamination has been a major issue at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The water around the base was extremely high in VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) including TCE (Trichloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and BTEX (Benzene). Due to exposure to many of these toxins, a number of the people around the base that consumed this water were put at risk of health problems such as Parkinson’s disease, as well as some other forms of cancer.
Certainly there are a number of different health problems that veterans of the military can be facing every day. It’s quite ridiculous that last month more soldiers were sent over to Libya in air strikes, while some of our older soldiers are still not given the full support they deserve. Hopefully by the year end in 2011, the VA, Congress and The President can get this caregiver act off the ground and look to expand on its parameters.