I served for most of the 1990's in the Army National Guard. Unlike most that currently serve, I was never called upon to serve in actual combat. That being said, I always knew that it could be a possibility and had to make various decisions just in case that call would ever come. Since the beginning of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq I have often considered how hard times must be for our veterans that are not only serving during two wars but all-too-often serving in both of them repeatedly.
For all that they sacrifice and all that they give we should not forget about fighting for them after they come back home. I read a report yesterday about a shocking study released from Harvard Medical School which estimates that 2,266 veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they did not have health insurance. That translates to six preventable deaths per day, which is more than twice the number killed in Afghanistan.
Although many veterans are eligible for care from the Veterans Administration, those that were not injured in combat and those whose incomes exceed a certain limit are often ineligible for coverage. Like too many other Americans, many veterans are working people that get caught right in the middle of the health care gaps in our current system. They make too little to afford the ever increasing costs of private health insurance but make too much to qualify for Medicaid and means-tested VA care. This is really a tragedy when you add this on top of the extra high levels of suicide and homelessness among vets.
Maybe the next time that we talk about "thanking a veteran" we can also make sure that they have proper health care when they come back home. That would be a real-life "thanks" that would last long after the flags have flown and the parades are over. That is a "thanks" that I wish we could deliver to them right now on this Veteran's Day.
ht: Think Progress