by our allies."
-- John F. Kennedy, October 13, 1960
Today, the daddy is thinking of veterans, the need to take care of them by providing them the armaments and protection they need when they go to war, and the need to think of the sobering cost to them and their families before sending them to war in the first place.
The daddy is thinking of the more than 58,000 Vietnam veterans who were killed and still missing, or who, after more than 30 years, continue to suffer physical and psychological injuries, some of them hiding in shadows under dirty, damp bridges or sleeping on cold sidewalks in clear view for all to see
The daddy is thinking about the fact that the Bush administration has provided inadequate funding veterans and, sadly, has done little to erase the red tape to clear the path for them to get help immediately.
He is thinking of a letter written to President-Elect Barack Obama by Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and founder of IAVA (Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans of America), insights and recommendations that speak eloquently of the need to make it a priority to take care of the people who risk their lives to keep us safe:
Dear President-elect Obama,
Congratulations on your victory. Both you and Senator McCain are true patriots, and you each ran a remarkable campaign. While I'm sure you're relieved that the election is over, now is the time to bring all Americans together, get to work, and focus on the next four years of governing.
As the nation's leading new veterans organization, it is crucial to IAVA that you keep Iraq and Afghanistan veterans high on your list of priorities. With aggressive action, you can send a strong message to America that as Commander-in-Chief, you are committed to truly honoring our nation's newest generation of heroes. Here's how we think you can best accomplish that:
1. Convene an urgent Presidential Summit of Leading Veterans
As you consider nominations for appointed positions within the VA, you should convene a leadership summit of leading veterans' groups from across the country, including IAVA. Candidates for appointed jobs within the VA should have a proven track record of innovation and reform, and should be ready to address the urgent needs of new veterans.
2. Advance-fund VA Healthcare
Year after year, the VA budget is passed late, forcing hundreds of veterans' hospitals and clinics to ration care. IAVA believes that veterans' health care should be funded one year in advance and we ask you to present to Congress an advance-funded VA budget that continues to match the Independent Budget recommendations made by leading Veterans Service Organizations.
3. Implement GI Bill Transferability
While the new GI Bill was passed several months ago, the Department of Defense has yet to release guidelines for the transferability of GI Bill benefits from servicemembers to their spouses or children. You should direct the Secretary of Defense to issue the appropriate guidelines, so that GI Bill transferability can be implemented by August 2009.
4. Issue a National Call for Mental Health Professionals
The military and the VA need innovative strategies to recruit and retain more mental health professionals to combat the high rates of PTSD and major depression among returning troops. You should issue a national call, urging mental health professionals nationwide to serve our troops and veterans. Those who answer the call should receive incentives and benefits for serving this patriotic cause.
With more troops returning home from the wars everyday, you'll need to hit the ground running. IAVA is committed to serving as a resource for you and your administration going forward.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Prez, Sen. John McCain, a veteran himself, waxed poetic about supporting veterans. Truthfully, he did little for them. You say you will do better. Helping the people who have kept us safe-- and continue to do so--is change all Americans can believe in.
Keep your promise to look out for the people who keep us safe.