10,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan, many of them veterans, have demanded that US congressmen answer why they are “being left to the roughest fight of all” as they resume their search for ambulances and battlefield medical staff.
They sent a letter to Barack Obama’s secretary of defence, Ash Carter, the current defence secretary, Jim Mattis, the US congress and the White House:
In the 10 years since combat operations in Afghanistan began we have deployed more than 45,000 service members to the battlefield and cared for more than 8,500 wounded service members.
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Yet last year, Congress only appropriated around 12% of the service member medical bill, far less than many of our combat casualties deserve. This delay, along with insufficient medical care, is making it more difficult for service members to transition to civilian life.
Any fund-raising war chest counts on the ability to send a million-dollar message to elected officials. There is $1,100 in each of their political action committees.
Why, then, can’t lawmakers be responsible with an admittedly small investment of a single-digit sum? Wouldn’t it be a great ethical gift for them to listen to us and grant us the funding we need to safeguard our service members?
Why on earth would they deny us this much-needed support?
They would deny us this much-needed support?
The Afghan and US national security agenda requires service members to be there. But they’re not being directed toward a win-win outcome but toward a “not so bad” outcome.
“We made that choice because we knew that as trained and equipped as our men and women are, we still had the option of our families’ ultimate well-being,” the letter read.
There are individuals committed to finding a solution, but there are not enough. Senator John McCain made an important statement to help vets transition from the battlefield. His actions are insufficient and his political leverage is weak.
Our spending power is greater than the senators on Capitol Hill. And we want to be sure that the United States can protect itself from a terrorist group that calls itself Isis. The great majority of soldiers in Afghanistan are either fighting or planning to fight Isis.
As our nation experiences record levels of military readiness, we would support the calls to clear beds for wounded service members. We have shown our level of commitment to our members through the number of reservists who have volunteered to fight and have returned home in body bags. When will lawmakers stop holding these men and women’s legs behind their backs?
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Senator Jim Inhofe last year introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have appropriated over $40bn to account for the healthcare of service members wounded in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
The amendment passed with the support of 65 of 88 senators. But it didn’t make it to a vote on the Senate floor because it didn’t have the support of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. His failure to support this amendment is deeply troubling and means that some of the strongest backers of our veterans are ignoring their constituents’ demands.
Michael Gordon, the Sunday Times journalist who took courageous actions to inform the US public about the case of Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, is now part of a team at Harvard University that is working to fix the healthcare system for veterans.
His team is working to figure out the exact needs of veterans and has worked with the service member community to uncover exactly who we are dealing with. We want to understand exactly who is coming home with which needs.
Tragically, we are not far from answering this question: what are we doing to protect and care for those who served and died so courageously.
Leaders from the defence department and the director of the Veterans Health Administration must address the hundreds of millions of dollars that are available for taking care of our wounded service members but not being used to take care of the wounded.
Our access to healthcare is limited. Our ability to care for our wounded service members is a casualty.
To survive, to thrive, they must be protected. They deserve a strategy in place to clear the battlefield of Isis, not be left to the roughest fight of all.