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On the Saturday morning before Veterans Day, Bush woke up, ate a big bowl of crispy cynicism for breakfast, then delivered a national radio address chastising Democrats in Congress for not passing a funding bill that “they know our veterans need.” This from a guy who has consistently shortchanged the budget for veterans programs, leading to such messes as the scandalous collapse of out-patient services at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Also, one reason the Democrats have not yet passed the funding bill is because the White House objects to the fact that it provides $3.7 billion more for veterans programs than Bush requested. For example, about half a million vets in need of medical treatment are presently caught in the VA’s backlog of cases, with delays for treatment now averaging six months – so Democrats have increased funding to ease these waiting times. Bush didn’t mention this in his pouty radio diatribe.
Nor did the cynic-in-chief mention that because of his budget stinginess on health insurance for veterans, there has been a drastic increase in the number who have no coverage. Indeed, 1.8 million vets – plus another 3.8 million of their spouses and children – are now without insurance, adding up to about 12 percent of the total number of Americans who are without health care protection – and many of these vets are in poor health.
In his radio message piously calling on Democrats to give their thanks to veterans, Bush avoided another shameful statistic from a new report on homelessness. The report revealed that, under Bush, the number of homeless veterans is up, now totaling a fourth of America’s homeless people.
What kind of thanks is that? As John Kennedy – himself a war hero – put it, “We must never forget that the highest appreciation [for veterans] is not to utter words, but to live by them.”