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Veterans need better transition program

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Anne-Marie Giuca
June 19, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is among commentaries written by students in the Washington Seminar program at Janesville Parker High School.

There is a lack of understanding between veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is working to inform veterans of available services but believes veterans are not receptive, and veterans are not aware of many available services.


Veterans are told about benefits at the end of their tours of duty, but as Chad Moos from Disabled Veterans of America said, at this time “their minds are somewhere else, and usually it’s back at home.”


The VA should be more active in reaching out to veterans rather than waiting for veterans to come to them, and the VA must continue providing vets with information when it is more useful to them, rather than immediately before they return to their families.


The transition from the Defense Department to the VA, both of which have separate medical record systems, is not very smooth but is improving. Tom Tarantino from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said he stole and photocopied his Defense Department medical records to guarantee that the VA would receive them and he would receive disability compensation. However, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s recent announcement to have a joint health record system for the Defense Department and VA will make this transition more seamless.


Because “a hundred percent of people who go to war are affected,” as Col. Drew Doolin from the Brookings Institute stated, it is important to reduce the stigma that veterans associate with seeking counseling. Thus, high-ranking military officers must admit that they need help, too. More psychologists should deploy and reside with the battalions so soldiers will respond to them more easily.


Capt. Ralf Schmitt-Raiser at the German Embassy said tours of duty in Germany last up to six months, after which soldiers cannot redeploy for two years. The United States should implement a similar system because long and frequently repeated tours have a profound effect on the soldiers’ psychological health.


Despite the challenges in veterans policy, as Maj. Michael Brooks at the VA said, “Right now is probably the best time ever that American veterans are being taken care of.” The passing of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a clear sign of progress, as is increased communication with veterans service organizations.


Tarantino said that after the service organizations expressed disapproval of the White House’s plan to bill veterans’ private insurance for service-related medical expenses, President Obama met with the organizations and within three days dropped the idea.


“The president has never sat at a table with these guys before,” Tarantino said. “That’s how the process is supposed to work.”



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