Monday, November 14, 2011

Government, banks and defense industry screwing veterans

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Veterans take part in Occupy Wall Street
  • Veterans take part in Occupy Wall Street

On Friday, the country celebrated Veterans Day, honoring the men and women who are serving, or have served, in the U.S. armed forces. Veterans Day, you may remember, is the one day out of the year when politicians and TV talking heads actually mention veterans’ “issues,” wrapping their by-rote praise in nice little red-white-and-blue packages. Who could ask for more, huh? That is, who other than the tens of thousands of American military veterans who have no place to live, or whose Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is going untreated, or are being screwed by their banks. They can probably think of a few things they’d like more than a big sloppy media kiss.

This year, Veterans Day took place the same week that the 100,000 Homes Campaign (1HC) released a new, authoritative study of homeless veterans. The 1HC study reveals that military veterans make up a disproportionate percentage of the nation’s homeless population; are 50 percent more likely than other Americans to be homeless; and also stay homeless for longer periods of time. The study, as summed up by ThinkProgress, reports that “on average, veterans were homeless for 5.7 years while others reported that they were homeless for 3.9 years.” Figures from the Veterans Administration show that 75,000 veterans are homeless in America on any given night, according to the same ThinkProgress story. About 20,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were homeless in the past five years, again according to the VA.

Veterans are taking the brunt of other social ills, too. Veterans who served in the military since 9/11 face a 12.1 percent unemployment rate (the national rate is hovering around 9 percent), while one in three male veterans are jobless. Current job placement programs are insufficient and are letting too many vets fall between the cracks.

A recent whistleblower lawsuit that has deservedly gained national attention charges that some big banks, including Charlotte Overlords Bank of America and Wells Fargo, have defrauded military veterans (and taxpayers) “out of hundreds of millions of dollars by disguising illegal fees in veterans’ home refinancing loans.”

Shady for-profit universities, many of them owned by the pirates currently running Wall Street investment banks, swoop down on veterans with bogus educational programs, often leaving them with useless “degrees” and massive student loan debts.

The U.S. may spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined, but that doesn’t mean veterans are being taken care of. Most of that money is spent on overpriced weapons we don’t even use because either A) they’re defective, or B) they were designed to fight the Soviet Union, which has now been a “former country” for, oh, 20 years or so. Why? Because defense contractors and their lobbyists are very powerful players in D.C., and have very cozy relationships with members of Congress; the latter, of course, often use the D.C. "revolving door" system to become defense industry lobbyists after they leave what they have the nerve to call “public service.” Lately, defense contractors and their dependent Congress members have been freaking out because they're faced with possible big cuts in military spending if the congressional “super-committee” can’t come up with a budget. The answer to that problem? Cut veterans’ benefits, instead of risking corporate profits and congressional bribes by eliminating some of America’s ruinously expensive, useless weapons programs.

And one last thing, a telling quote from political reporter Lee Fang: “While military families struggle to get by all over the country, defense contractor CEOs earn as much as $19 million a year.” Defense industry profiteering in the U.S. at the expense of the nation's veterans is a disgrace that’s been happening for a long time, although the mainstream press has rarely reported on it adequately enough to get the point across to most Americans. Maybe that's something we could work on when we have time.

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