The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

May/June 2005
Photo:Michael Keating
The Journey Has Just Begun

The last whispers of winter are gone and spring is here. It is a time for renewal, recommitment, and rejuvenation.

More than 600 chapters across the country and beyond have held their elections, have chosen new leaders, have established new or reinforced existing policies and programs, and are now preparing to meet in Reno in August to elect new national leaders, rededicate our commitment to existing projects, and create new programs and policies for the next two years.

None of this happens without teamwork.

In the military we were trained to look out for each other, to work together, move together, and almost live inside of each others’ minds if we intended to survive and be effective. Now, more than ever, we must rely upon one another to move toward the same objective–justice for veterans.

Our membership, through its elected delegates, will make its wishes known by adopting, amending, or retiring Resolutions, and by choosing leaders to guide us at this very critical time with the veterans’ health care budget very much in danger. We must not waver from the directives issued by the highest constitutional authority in VVA: the delegates assembled in Convention.

The leadership has a constitutional obligation to carry out, enforce, and otherwise assure the swift, effective, and cost-efficient achievement of those orders.

Leaders are expected to develop positions and opinions on the best ways to succeed at our mission. That debate and exchange is healthy and is the sign of a vibrant, forceful organization. But at the end of the day, when the governing body–whether board, committee, or task force–makes its decision at the chapter, state council, or national level, the elected leaders are bound to support the decision of the governing body and, to the largest extent possible, to further that mission.

Organizing and developing a chapter and taking on community projects that benefit veterans, their families, and the community takes the efforts of everyone working together. There is an old saying in the military: “A convoy only moves as fast as the slowest truck.”

In the world of veterans’ affairs, that pace is a sure road to disaster. Without all members of the team pulling together, time is wasted spinning wheels.

We need to lead, follow, or get out of the way. VVA chooses to lead, but we must lead with one voice, one consistent and persistent message, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by petty personal politics or ideological differences. We are all veterans.

Unfortunately, some powerful leaders in Congress, elected with the votes of many veterans, are actively working to divide and pit veterans against each other. They want us not to focus on the common enemy–institutional apathy toward veterans that has corroded every fiber of the government and those responsible for our care and treatment.

We are not fools, and we should not permit those in power to assume they can ignore us any longer. We are veterans. We earned our benefits. We will tolerate nothing less than a full commitment that VA programs will be funded at levels consistent with quality and compassionate care, and that legislation be enacted and signed into law binding the people of the United States, through our government, to provide those funds without delay.

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators, a total of 535 people from many walks of life. VVA Membership Committee Chair Bill Meeks just reported that we have exceeded 50,000 members in VVA. You do the math.

How many of you will go to your congressional representatives’ district offices, or phone their Veterans Coordinators, or send them e-mails or letters, demanding that they properly fund VA health care now? How many does it take?

Read the “Letters to The Editor” section of your local newspaper and read the letters from veterans, voicing complaints about new fees and co-pays, and having to wait months for an appointment and years for claims to be adjudicated. Veterans may not even be allowed to use the system in the future if some in Congress have their way. It’s not just “whining Vietnam vets” who are angry about cuts to the VA health care budget and eligibility. It’s all veterans.

Thirty years after our war, our children and grandchildren should not have to fight the same battles we did to secure and maintain the benefits that are on the chopping block right now.

Today’s military is tomorrow’s veteran. We want a health care system that cares for those who served honorably–nothing more, nothing less. We will accomplish this by working together as a VVA team, with all other VSOs that share that goal.

God bless our troops and their families. Peace.


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Vietnam Veterans of America ® 
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Silver Spring, Maryland  20910-3710
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