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January / February 2009

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

New Year, Same Old Issues


BY JOHN ROWAN

The nation begins the New Year with a new President and many new members of Congress, but we face the same issues we faced in 2008. As you will note in the Government Affairs report, we have established our priorities for the new Congress. They still revolve around the old familiar concepts: fund the Veterans Health Administration and modernize and reform the Veterans Benefits Administration.

What is sad is that we are still fighting the same battles after all these years. Today’s new veterans face the same obstacles we did: an inadequate VA and the inability of DoD and VA to streamline the transition from military service to veteran status. Thankfully, in no small part due to our efforts, the American people have shown their strong support for today’s veterans. We must insure that this enthusiasm is maintained as the war in Iraq winds down.

Another issue that remains is the fact that recently discharged veterans, partially because of post-traumatic stress disorder, seem to find themselves in the judicial system. VVA takes pride in our early work with incarcerated veterans. Many Vietnam veterans found themselves in prison for violent behavior or drug-related offenses. Research showed that these offenses often were connected to PTSD. While we tried to mitigate the effects of these events, often the serious nature of the crimes led to long sentences. The articles in this issue about Angola Prison in Louisiana show some of the positive results of our work.

Unfortunately, today’s veterans find themselves in similar situations. However, because of the knowledge we have gained over the years, some of our VVA chapter members, such as those in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York, have developed diversion programs in the court systems to work with veterans early on in the process. By giving them alternative sentencing involving counseling, these Veterans Courts have saved many veterans from incarceration. While this has undoubtedly helped individuals, it is also a benefit to society by saving the cost of incarcerating these veterans, a situation that often leads to more serious criminal behavior. For more information on these programs, visit our Veterans Incarcerated Committee at www.vva.org

VVA can also take pride in the humanitarian efforts that our chapters have undertaken in Vietnam. While the war was a horrible event for most veterans, many have very fond memories of the people and the land. As a result, several chapters and individual VVA members have established assistance programs in educational development, rehabilitation, and medical services. Several of these programs are outlined in this issue.

It should be understood that these types of efforts have surely helped our Veterans Initiative Program obtain the support it needs to continue the effort to get information from the local Vietnamese about American POW/MIAs.

Clearly, we remain an active and engaged organization. As we begin the New Year, let us continue these and other wonderful efforts on behalf of all veterans and their families. There is much work to be done.

 

 

 

 

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