Guns, Veterans, Competency, and PTSD

By SUA Staff – What is happening to the care of our veterans? Either they have to wait for years for treatment and/or get resolution of claims, or they are being branded as incompetent because of PTSD issues and having the right to bare arms removed for ever. These are just a few of the complex issues facing our warriors and their families.

General Shinseki was appointed as the Secretary for Veterans Affairs four years ago to fix these problems.

Obama appointed Shinseki, the first four-star Asian-American General on Pearl Harbor Day in 2008 and he was applauded as the answer to the VA’s issues.:

“We owe it to all our veterans to honor them as we honored our Greatest Generation,” the President-elect said. “Not just with words, but with deeds.” General Shinseki’s appointment has garnered the support and praise of veterans’ organizations. 

Veterans for Common Sense released a statement in “strong” support of Shinseki.

Four Star General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The statement read: “In February 2003, General Shinseki honestly and correctly assessed our nation’s military needs before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. This same level of candor and honesty will serve President-elect Obama well so he can quickly and accurately identify VA’s many challenges and then implement responsible solutions that take into consideration our veterans’ needs and concerns.”

But, four years later, organizations, veterans, and now the Speaker of the House are expressing great concern:

Today, Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) released a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki requesting information and calling for action on the alarmingly high backlog of compensation claims in Ohio despite the VA’s announcement of a transformation plan at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) in the summer of 2012.

As noted in the letter, the Cleveland (VARO), responsible for handling claims from Boehner’s Eighth Congressional District and other areas, is currently processing claims in an average of 334 days – above the national average of 272 days, and well above the VA’s own stated goal of 125 days.  Since the transformation process officially began at the Cleveland VARO in July 2012, the average time to process a claim has increased by 20 percent, or about 56 days.

“I was hopeful the new system would provide a quicker and more efficient claim approval process, but unfortunately I have been disappointed and disheartened by the results,” said Congressman Boehner. “My office is currently handling nearly 100 unresolved claims cases that are awaiting answers from the Cleveland VARO.  From a veteran who has already been waiting more than a year to simply add her newborn daughter as a dependent, to a veteran who submitted his claim more than two years ago and has yet to receive an answer, the examples of systematic failures being reported by my constituents in the Eighth District and across Ohio are shameful. The more than 50,000 veterans currently living in my Congressional District, and all of our nation’s veterans, deserve better, and I will continue to raise concerns until the system works the way it should.” (Read the entire letter here and here.)

Compounding these issues is the high level of PTSD cases suffered by a great many veterans, a high suicide rate, and veterans turning to crime and drugs. It is an embarrassing situation, in fact so embarrassing, there was no public release of a report on the subject by Shinseki and the VA. Fortunately someone did find the report:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released a new report on post-traumatic stress disorder, showing that since 9/11, nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Veterans advocates say the new V.A. report is the most damning evidence yet of the profound impact multiple deployments have had on American service men and women since 9/11. Troops who’ve been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan are more than three times as likely as soldiers with no previous deployments to screen positive for PTSD and major depression, according to a 2010 study published by the American Journal for Public Health.

The report, which revealed that 247,243 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have been diagnosed with PTSD, was buried on the V.A.’s website without fanfare. “As far as we can tell, V.A. didn’t tell anyone these numbers were made public,” says veterans advocate Paul Sullivan at Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that focuses entirely on veteran disability issues. “No press release. Nothing. I actually found the report while searching for new data. I simply changed the V.A.’s web address from second quarter to third quarter by altering one digit, and the new numbers appeared. Magic, eh?” (Read more here.)

Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle was a United States Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in American military history.

Many sufferers of PTSD are simply being pushed out the door or declared incompetent and if it were not for the recent killing of former SEAL and war hero Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield by former Marine Eddie Ray Routh the subject may still lay hidden from view. Routh was released just two days prior to the shooting. Now the situation does beg the question, how many returning veterans are thrown under the bus with regard to their mental capacity when in fact, they are healthy and completely functional, or are they? Who is making these judgments and why? This very disturbing when it is coupled with what is now happening to our veterans.

Unfortunately, a label has now been attached to returning veterans along with many other citizens over the perceived likelihood that there is a homegrown terror threat in all of us. This has been widely publicized when written directives and training curricula were drafted by the Department of Homeland Security without so much as a whimper or strong reactions from most but the dedicated rational patriotic Americans across the land.

Now many veterans are just kicked out the door, but what is worse is that many are receiving notice that they can no longer own weapons. Just what is the Department of Veteran Affairs using to disarm veterans? Well, there is a well coordinated internal document recently uncovered that address all the steps that Veteran Administrations across the country use to affect veterans competency, and therefore owning firearms. See the lengthy form and instructions here.

In recent days, in has come to our attention that veterans are receiving letters that prohibit veterans from transporting, purchasing, possessing or receiving firearms. This comes without some formal investigation or rationale for these demands by the Department of Veteran Affairs. The actual letter can be read here in its entirety but here is a summary from a column written by Constitutional Attorney Michael Connelly, J.D.:

How would you feel if you received a letter from the U.S. Government informing you that because of a physical or mental condition that the government says you have it is proposing to rule that you are incompetent to handle your own financial affairs? Suppose that letter also stated that the government is going to appoint a stranger to handle your affairs for you at your expense? That would certainly be scary enough but it gets worse.

What if that letter also stated: “A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Pub.L.No. 103-159, as implemented at 18, United States Code 924(a)(2).”? (Read the rest here.)

In a vacuum, each of the above issues should raise the hair on the backs of every American’s neck, but when you also take into account the recent marquis topic of gun control, things get a bit scary.

Instead of focusing on or economic woes, our interactions in so many problematic lands, or getting America back to work, we have a President who wants to focus gun control, climate change, and women in combat as he spoke in the State of the Union Address and his Inauguration.

He was for the ‘sequester’ before he was against it, even though his administration dreamed it up, now the veterans may be adversely affected even more deeply.

It is time now for all retired military and active soldiers to have their voices heard, perhaps this can be a start of that dialogue. We grieve for those that no longer walk with us because they gave their all in a combat theater and certainly those at home who are victims of deranged gunmen. We must have an active debate on the effective treatment of PTSD and the obscure decisions by the Department of Defense via the Department of Veteran Affairs to disarm veterans.

Lawmakers have enabled agencies to create regulations and procedures but sadly these have become judge and jury on all citizens and they are drunk with the power of the pen and their ideological agendas. Gun related murder is not about the gun, its about the metal state of the shooter. Even those who do such great work for our wounded warriors cannot seem to leave their ideological agendas at the door as was recently revealed.

Now it seems, even the Wounded Warriors Project is getting political with an anti-gun policy. Even so, we still hope you will support them as they do so much good.

 

Taking credit – "despicable" – say, Seal Teams and Huffington

Editor’s Note – Once again, a campaign maneuver is blowing up in the face of the Obama 2012 Campaign. The “war on women”, the “war on student loans”, and now the “Gutsy-Call” Ad, to name but a few. Politicizing everything…a must when you have a negative record that eclipses all former Presidents.

When your sole, positive accomplishment in office is achieving what America had been working on, since long before you made the “gutsy call”, we can understand it becoming a campaign slogan.

Do we condone it? Hell NO! And neither do the people who actually performed the act so well, and dutifully.

Why do we not hear more about the man who made the real “Gutsy Call”, Adm. McRaven? Pay special attention in the article below about the amount of time elapsed from when intelligence was found on his location, and the actual event. (High-lighted below)

This message is popping up all over Facebook over this issue.

It is a small person with a giant ego, a narcissist, that does such things. Then to watch Hollywood elites paraded into the situation room, along with television media on the first anniversary of the most famous assassination is unconscionable.

Then there was yesterday’s speech with the Japan’s Prime Minister where Obama answered questions about the campaign usage of the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.

Completely off topic, and in our opinion, a poor way to treat the visit of a fellow national leader, Obama said:

“I hardly think that you’ve seen any excessive celebration taking place here,” Obama said at a joint White House press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, pushing back at the idea he’s overplayed the marking of the event. “I think that the American people, rightly, remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody who killed over 3,000 citizens.”

Obama continued with a Romney jab: “I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That’s been at least my practice,” he said. “I said that I would go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did. if there are others who said one thing and now suggest they would do something else, I’d go ahead and let them explain.” (Read the rest here.)

Then there is Joe Biden, read what the LA Times Dan Turner wrote:

Obama’s Bin Laden ad a low blow

The presidential campaigns are abuzz over a new campaign strategy by President Obama, who is playing up his decisiveness in the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden — and suggesting that his Republican opponent Mitt Romney wouldn’t have done the same. That’s the theme rolled out recently by campaign pit bull (and Vice President) Joe Biden, and it’s the topic of a new Obama ad that blogpreneur Arianna Huffington thinks is “despicable.” (Read the rest here.)

SEALs slam Obama for using them as ‘ammunition’ in bid to take credit for bin Laden killing during election campaign

By TOBY HARNDEN – Daily Mail UK

Beyonce and Jay-Z in the White House Situation Room.
Serving and former US Navy SEALs have slammed President Barack Obama for taking the credit for killing Osama bin Laden and accused him of using Special Forces operators as ‘ammunition’ for his re-election campaign.

The SEALs spoke out to MailOnline after the Obama campaign released an ad entitled ‘One Chance’.

In it President Bill Clinton is featured saying that Mr Obama took ‘the harder and the more honourable path’ in ordering that bin Laden be killed. The words ‘Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?’ are then displayed.

Besides the ad, the White House is marking the first anniversary of the SEAL Team Six raid that killed bin Laden inside his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan with a series of briefings and an NBC interview in the Situation Room designed to highlight the ‘gutsy call’ made by the President.

Mr Obama used a news conference today to trumpet his personal role and imply that his Republican opponent Mr Romney, who in 2008 expressed reservations about the wisdom of sending troops into Pakistan, would have let bin Laden live.

‘I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did,’ Mr Obama said. ‘If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they’d do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.’

Brian Williams of NBC gets exclusive interview in Situation Room - Surprised?

Ryan Zinke, a former Commander in the US Navy who spent 23 years as a SEAL and led a SEAL Team 6 assault unit, said: ‘The decision was a no brainer. I applaud him for making it but I would not overly pat myself on the back for making the right call.

‘I think every president would have done the same. He is justified in saying it was his decision but the preparation, the sacrifice – it was a broader team effort.’

Mr Zinke, who is now a Republican state senator in Montana, added that MR Obama was exploiting bin Laden’s death for his re-election bid. ‘The President and his administration are positioning him as a war president using the SEALs as ammunition. It was predictable.’

Mr Obama has faced criticism even from allies about his decision to make a campaign ad about the bin Laden raid. Arianna Huffington, an outspoken liberal who runs the left-leaning Huffington Post website, roundly condemned it.

She told CBS: ‘We should celebrate the fact that they did such a great job. It’s one thing to have an NBC special from the Situation Room… all that to me is perfectly legitimate, but to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.’

Rival: Mr Obama has questioned whether Mitt Romney would have done the same.

Campaigning in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Mr Romney responded to a shouted question by a reporter by saying: ‘Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.’

A serving SEAL Team member said: ‘Obama wasn’t in the field, at risk, carrying a gun. As president, at every turn he should be thanking the guys who put their lives on the line to do this. He does so in his official speeches because he speechwriters are smart.

‘But the more he tries to take the credit for it, the more the ground operators are saying, “Come on, man!” It really didn’t matter who was president. At the end of the day, they were going to go.’

Chris Kyle, a former SEAL sniper with 160 confirmed and another 95 unconfirmed kills to his credit, said: ‘The operation itself was great and the nation felt immense pride. It was great that we did it. 

‘But bin Laden was just a figurehead. The war on terror continues. Taking him out didn’t really change anything as far as the war on terror is concerned and using it as a political attack is a cheap shot. 

‘In years to come there is going to be information that will come out that Obama was not the man who made the call. He can say he did and the people who really know what happened are inside the Pentagon, are in the military and the military isn’t allowed to speak out against the commander- in-chief so his secret is safe.’

Senior military figures have said that Admiral William McRaven, a former SEAL who was then head of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) made the decision to take bin Laden out. Tactical decisions were delegated even further down the chain of command. 

Mr Kyle added: ‘He’s trying to say that Romney wouldn’t have made the same call? Anyone who is patriotic to this country would have made that exact call, Democrat or Republican. Obama is taking more credit than he is due but it’s going to get him some pretty good mileage.’

A former intelligence official who was serving in the US government when bin Laden was killed said that the Obama administration knew about the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts in October 2010 but delayed taking action and risked letting him escape.

‘In the end, Obama was forced to make a decision and do it. He knew that if he didn’t do it the political risks in not taking action were huge. Mitt Romney would have made the call but he would have made it earlier – as would George W. Bush.’

Brandon Webb, a former SEAL who spent 13 years on active duty and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said: ‘Bush should get partial credit for putting the system in place.

White House press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

‘Obama inherited a very robust package with regards to special ops and the intelligence community. But Obama deserves credit because he got bin Laden – you can’t take that away from him. 

‘My friends that work in Special Operations Command (SOCOM) that have been on video teleconferences with Obama on these kill or capture situations say that Obama has no issue whatsoever with making decisions and typically it’s kill. He’s hitting the kill button every time. I have a lot of respect for him for that.’

But he said that many SEALs were dismayed about the amount of publicity the Obama administration had generated about SEAL Team Six, the very existence of which is highly classified.

‘The majority of the SEALs I know are really proud of the operation but it does become “OK, enough is enough – we’re ready to get back to work and step out of the limelight.” They don’t want to be continuously paraded around a global audience like a show dog.

‘Obama has a very good relationship with the Special Operations community at large, especially the SEALs, and it’s nice to see. We had the same relationship with George W. Bush when he was president.’

It was ‘stretching a little much’ for Mr Obama to suggest only he would have made the decision. ‘I personally I don’t think Romney would have any problem making tough decisions. He got a very accomplished record of making decision as a business professional. 

‘He may not have charisma but he clearly has leadership skills. I don’t think he’d have any problem taking that decision.’

Clint Bruce, who gave up the chance of an NFL career to serve as a SEAL officer before retiring as a lieutenant after nine years, said: ‘We were extremely surprised and discouraged by the publicity because it compromises the ability of those guys to operate.

‘It’s a waste of time to speculate about who would and wouldn’t have made that decision. It was a symphony of opportunity and intelligence that allowed this administration to give the green light. We want to acknowledge that they made that decision.

‘Politicians should let the public know where they stand on national security but not in the play-by-play, detailed way that has been done recently. The intricacies of national security should not become part of stump speeches.’

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