Fighting for Veterans and What Veterans Fought For


The election is over and the country is rent in two. It doesn't matter if your candidate for president, governor, congressperson or mayor won or lost. This nation has been through a great fracturing, a division that started many years ago and has risen to a pitch that I don't know anyone has seen in this country in our lifetime. The level of viciousness and dissatisfaction reminds me of what I read about before the US Civil War, and should we fail to stem the nastiness of our national discourse, we could find ourselves going down the same road again. No kidding. There is already talk.

It's no surprise that Veteran's Day passed almost without notice or comment. In this climate, to focus on Veteran's Day seemed a misguided effort at normalcy.

Though I work with veterans and veteran's groups, advising on the best ways to improve the mental health care that so many need after serving, I find that few in positions of authority are paying much attention. For years, veterans have been getting lip service from politicians about improving their lot, but no real action.

Trump has promised repeatedly to upgrade the VA and improve services for veterans. There is reasonably broad consensus about both the need to better support the VA and our veterans and what needs to be done to reform the VA so that our veterans have better access to services. Improving veterans' services is not a hotly contested issue. But sequestration has meant that the funding necessary to make the VA fully functional isn't being pledged. Properly reforming and funding the VA is caught up in obstructionism and partisan politics.

It is clear that the electorate is angry. Bernie Sanders, an independent, nearly took the Democratic Party's nomination. Donald Trump managed to complete the task in the Republican Party and won the national election. Everyone hears loud and clear that business as usual is not going to be acceptable going forward. Let's honor that outcry and demand that the GOP now respect its promises, as it controls both houses in the legislature and the White House. Change can happen with regard to veterans' services.

It is up to all of us to demand this change. We can choose healing. We can choose to close the divide that is tearing our nation apart. We can start by looking at our common ground. One area where there is little disagreement is that our nation's veterans deserve more attention and the funding for veterans' programs that goes along with it.

Our veterans have proudly served. They have fought for our way of life and made certain that we have the opportunity to live in a republic in which the free exchange of ideas and the cooperation to make positive progress together can be the order of the day. We disgrace our veterans when we refuse to put the needs of the country before our own ideas of what "should" be. Governance is very often about compromise and working with others who have a very different view of the world. Compromise and cooperation are not dirty words. They're actually what makes the fabric of our country strong.

Let's honor those who have served by agreeing to commit to our shared national interests, starting where there is little disagreement - that the VA needs to be reformed and better funded and our veterans first and foremost need timely access to high quality health care. We can do better by our veterans and each other.