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The NFL the other day announced a 2 game suspension for Ray Rice.  Many of you may know that Ray Rice has agreed to “anger management’ treatment and “sensitivity treatment” as part of a plea deal in his case when he punched his then fiancé, now his wife, and dragged her out of an elevator in Las Vegas while she was unconscious.  The part of him dragging her out of the elevator was caught on video and shown to the world.

Hardy, another NFL player in Charlotte, was found guilty by a judge for hitting and throwing his former fiancé and then covering up the crime.  The judge ruled that there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed these crimes.  Yet, he did not hand out any jail time.  Just probation.  Hardy is appealing.  That will result in a “jury” trial, but not before the NFL season is over.  The Charlotte team said they would “defer” punishment to the NFL.

After the NFL announced its punishment of Rice, there was a huge outcry about it being too lenient.  Yesterday, the league said the punishment shows “the league will not tolerate this kind of behavior”.  During one of the arguments about the punishment, Steven A. Smith at ESPN, although acknowledging that domestic abuse cannot be tolerated, went on to say that something needs to be done to determine “provocation” in such cases.  That is right, he believes that domestic cases are “provoked” by the victim.

Let me put it this way, Mr. Smith, approximately 1 in 3 women in this country has been or will be a victim of domestic abuse.  Do you really think that a full one-third of women are provoking their domestic partner to abuse them?  That is an absurd stand!  In my career, I dealt with many women who were abused by their spouses.  Yes, I even dealt with some men who were also abused.  If Mr. Smith wants to know what provokes these attacks it is simple.

The wife burns his supper.  She has a different view on something.  She didn’t dress exactly the way she was expected to.  She wouldn’t have sex with him because he was drunk.  She happened to be home when the drunken husband came in and took out his rage on her.  Often times, it is simply that she is handy.  The vast majority of domestic abuse victims usually fall into one of these “provocations” before being beaten.

It would be easy to speak about this only in terms of the NFL.  But this goes way beyond the NFL.  It goes deep into daily lives of people.  It is tragic.  It is indefensible.  It is pure criminal.  However, too many people look at domestic abuse as Mr. Smith does.  They automatically blame the victim for “provoking” the abuse.  So, instead of these vicious attackers being locked up in jail, they are given suspended sentences or probation like in the two cases above.

I mentioned the two recent NFL cases because they show the unbelievable tolerance society shows to the abuser and the demonization of the victim.  In the case of Mr. Hardy, if the NFL does not act before the appeal, which they usually do not, then he will be able to play the full season.  Oh, by the way, he will make $13 million this season.

More than that, the NFL’s handling of these cases do not show a “no tolerance” policy towards domestic abuse.  It really shows that it will be punished only if you consider a slap on the wrist a punishment.

It is easy to come up with the usual argument about coddling athletes.  We see it in high school, college, and the professional levels.  If someone can play a sport exceedingly well, we tend to look the other way when they commit crimes.  The NFL was quick to point out that Mr. Rice was going to lose two paychecks and that would mean about $230,000.  When you consider his multi-million dollar contract, that is a drop in the bucket.  Can anyone really call that a deterrence?

Sports is not the only place where domestic violence takes place.  It happens all of the time in everyday life.  But, sports is where we can send clear signals that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.  I am not sure that either Mr. Rice or Mr. Hardy lose their right to play football.  But, in order to really deter this kind of violence, a year’s suspension seems a more reasonable punishment.  If players lose a full year of income, that will be a deterrence.  It may also send a clear message to lower players in high school and college that they cannot behave like cavemen and expect to be rewarded on the field.

I have never been one who believes in excessive punishment, except in domestic and/or child abuse cases.  Maybe we should have a punishment where the guilty party is tied to a post and every woman in the community is allowed to give two lashes with a whip.  Men who abuse women are really domestic terrorists who conduct torture.  That is what domestic abuse really is.  These men are animals.  Maybe we should start treating them as such.

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As we move deeper into the sixth year of President Obama’s administration, stalemate is still the issue.  Many people claim that this stalemate is due to the right wing’s obsession with just hating the President.  They are partly right.  However, the biggest reason we have been mired in this stalemate is a lack of leadership.

Both in and out of the military, I was an instructor.  I even taught Leadership and Management courses.  One of the tools I used to help show the different types of leadership skills was the movie “12 O’clock High”.  If I were still teaching this course, I would put together a clip of John Boehner’s flip-flopping as a prime example of what happens when there is no leadership.

Speaker Boehner has allowed a minority of his own party to kill every single piece of meaningful legislation he has dared to offer.  He has allowed “outsiders” to run roughshod over his caucus which has basically “scared the living shit” out of normally reasonable thinking men and women.  His lack of courage to stand up to these misfits has led to the stalemate we have had to endure.

For example, John Boehner and Eric Cantor were prepared to introduce a continuing resolution to fund the government through December. It included a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, but was structured in a way that would have allowed Senate Democrats to strip that provision, pass the rest of the bill, and send it to the White House. Ted Cruz and his emissaries warned the House conservatives of the ploy, support collapsed, and the bill was pulled.  After that, Boehner was forced to go along with conservatives’ plan to hold a firm defund-Obamacare line, and a government shutdown ensued.

Earlier this year the House Republican leadership introduced its “principles” as an opening volley in the chamber’s comprehensive immigration reform debate. Boehner introduced the principles at a retreat in late January, and initially, the plan had some support among House Republicans.  But then, Cruz stepped in, again.

House Republicans who supported the “principles” of immigration reform floated by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, late last month grumbled Tuesday that the plan was dead on arrival because Cruz blasted it as “amnesty,” spurring a blizzard of negative phone calls to House Republicans.

“After that it was ‘We’ll get back to you on immigration reform,’ ” said one Republican congressman who declined to be identified. [...]

Finally, A House working group led by Rep. Kay Granger unveiled its legislation to address the border crisis, with only a week-and-a-half left to get something done before Congress adjourns for the August recess. The bill only allots $1.5 billion in spending to address the issue — well below President Obama’s asking price and Senate Democrats’ $2.7 billion proposal — not great, but at least it is a starting point.

But the great Canadian Senator wasn’t pleased with this.  He actually held a confab with House conservative members a full hour before this legislation was even unveiled.  He was “urging House Republicans to reject legislation addressing the border crisis, arguing that passing a bill through the lower chamber would play into the hands of Senate Democrats.”   Since that intellectual thinker Rep. Steve King agrees with the Canadian Senator, this bill will likely die before it comes to a vote as well.

Why is this happening so often?  For one, Mr. Boehner doesn’t have the courage to tell the Canadian Senator to stay the hell out of House business.  If he is opposed to something the House is passing, he will have his opportunity to kill it in the Senate.  Mr. Boehner seems happy to allow Cruz to act as the de facto Speaker of the House.

One of the things that makes a leader is the ability to make a decision!  Mr. Boehner has shown time-and-again that he lacks that ability.  This is because Mr. Boehner wants to be “liked” by his caucus.  A leader is not going to be “liked” by everyone.  A leader needs the courage to step on some toes once in a while.  That is part of the job of being a leader.  That courage is something that Mr. Boehner is sorely lacking.

Until the Speaker is willing to step up and be a real leader in the House, we will continue to have this stalemate.  By refusing to do “what is right” regardless of political outcry, Mr. Boehner is no more than a shell in a suit.  That has allowed Cruz to become the de facto Speaker of the House.  Something he was NOT elected to be.

The Republican Party has a lot of problems as we know.  They can’t get out of their own way when it comes to diversity.  They can’t help but think the only way to win an election is to repress the vote.  They apparently hate women, blacks, Latinos, LGBT, and anyone who is not a White Evangelical Christian.  But, the real problem in the Republican Party is that its so-called “mainstream Republicans” lack leadership and courage.  As long as that persists, we will not see an end to the stalemate anytime soon.  And, We the People, will continue to suffer.

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We are a few month out from the scandal that rocked the VA.  The legislation that would have pumped an additional $30 Billion into the VA to help alleviate the waiting times by veterans seeking treatment from private doctors is stalled in Congress.  So what else is new.  The administration has also asked for an additional $18 Billion so the VA can hire more doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and lease new facilities to reduce overcrowding.

Of course there are a lot of reasons that this legislation has bogged down.  One big reason is that it is an election year, and no one wants to be blamed for its failure.  But, on the other side of the coin, no Republican wants the administration to be able to take credit for helping to fix a real problem either.  That means, the Republicans in the Senate have tried to introduce “amendments” to the bill that would certainly doom it.  For example, they want an amendment to put more sanctions on Iran.  Apparently, they don’t believe that Iran is negotiating faithfully.  Even if that is true, how does that help our veterans getting the help they need.

Obviously, this is simply a ploy by the Republicans in the Senate to kill a needed bill that will help the millions of veterans who need the help.  They just don’t want to come out in an election year and say as much.  Once veterans are no longer useful on the battlefield, they become expendable.  That has been the case since the country was founded.

The one part of the fight I find completely detestable is the argument that “it needs to be paid for”.  Really?  We sent millions of our finest young men and women into war, without paying for it, and now we say that those same people who desperately need our help can’t get it unless it is “paid for”.  Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the leading critics of this “paid for” mantra.

Okay, how about this for your thought Mr. Graham.  The veterans have already paid for the aid they need.  They paid for it with their lives, blood, and sanity!  They are the real patriots who stood by this country in time of trouble.  They are the ones who put everything on the line for their country.  How dare any politician who has sat safely in the capital even dream of using the words it must be “paid for” when it comes to veteran benefits?

Using comments like that is nothing more than a slap in the face to every man and women who has served this country!  Anyone using those words should resign their seat in the Congress.  It is more than shameful.

So, here is a way to “pay for” the aid our brothers and sisters need.  Let’s tax all of the money corporations have hidden overseas for the purpose of not paying taxes.  With the estimated trillions of dollars these corporations have hidden overseas, we could easily pay for these necessary benefits with a simple 10% tax on all of that money!

But, no, the Republicans won’t bite the hands that feed them.  They would rather treat the veterans like second-class citizens who, in their thinking are no better than the so-called 47 per centers.  In their minds, veterans who need the help the VA can provide them are merely seeking handouts from “uncle sugar”.

It is time for Congress to stop mistreating our veterans.  It is time for them to do their job!  I call on every veteran to make it to the polls this November and vote out anyone who is even trying to stop this bill.  Our veterans deserve better from our representatives.

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You just can’t stop the images from flooding into your mind.  The death and destruction.  The faces of fallen friends.  The faces of the women and children killed.  You see danger behind every tree or wall or fence.  The fear grows with every step you take.  Your eyes are glancing from side to side looking for the danger.  You are on edge.

That isn’t taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan or even Vietnam.  It is happening as you take a walk down your street in your hometown.  Something triggered all of the memories of those conflicts.  Sometimes it isn’t even war that brings these memories.  It is natural disasters or plane crashes or even boating accidents you worked.  Something that you have witnessed while serving is suddenly flooding back into your conscious memory.

Even after you realize you are home, the dread lingers.  The guilt of having survived while others were not so lucky.  The thought of your friends killed while you lived haunt you.  Survivor’s guilt is what they call it.  It is real.  It is affecting everything you do.  It affects your ability to sleep or work or even laugh.  It affects every fiber of your existence.

You begin to feel like “damaged goods”.  You begin to feel like you aren’t worthy of living anymore.  You begin to feel like your family don’t want you around in “polite” company anymore.  You begin to shrink from society and shelter yourself away from others, including those who love you.  You never fully realize what is going on.  You think that somehow you are the cause of the problem.

Far too many times, you settle these internal conflicts with what you believe to be the only answer that is best for all.  You commit suicide.

That is just a very brief and incomplete example of what is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD affects millions of our veterans everyday.  It is something that haunts memories and lives.  There are many ways veterans cope with PTSD and most of them are self-destructive.  Many will seek help from the VA.  Others too often turn to alcohol or drugs.  Anything that will “make me feel better” at least for a while.  But, they don’t help, they make things worse.

According to statistics, 22 veterans commit suicide every day!  That is 154 veteran suicides every week or 8000 per year.  Why, you ask, don’t these troubled souls get the help they need?  That is a fair question.  Many don’t get the help they need because they don’t fully understand what is happening to them.  Many don’t seek help because they think it is admitting a flaw in their personality.  Real vets don’t feel this way, they think.

Most try to cope with PTSD by themselves.  As a result, they don’t seek the help they need, and eventually push their families aside.  Especially when their family tries to convince them to seek help.  Psychological problems are difficult for anyone to accept.  People with psychological problems have been shunned by society for hundreds of years.  Besides, they don’t need help because they are “heroes”!  Heroes don’t need to be helped.  They are above all of these problems.

How do they know they are heroes?  Because every single day, someone is calling them a hero.  Every single day they hear the term used like “we want to thank all of our heroes for their service”.  In their own minds they start to become mythical.  They buy into the hype and never get the help they need.

That is how a simple word “hero” can affect people.  I know that everyone who uses the word thinks they are paying a compliment to those who have served.  They have risked everything in defense of our country.  They deserve the compliment.  But, sometimes, the simple word “hero” actually de-humanizes veterans.  It puts them on a pedestal that they are afraid of falling off.  They start to believe that if they seek help, they will no longer be a “hero”.  Heroes don’t have flaws.  They suck it up and move on.

We need to see our veterans for what they really are.  They are humans who served our country in some of the most god-awfull circumstances.  They have seen things that most people will never see.  They have lost some of their friends.  They have seen carnage we don’t want anyone to see.  It will affect them!  It will change them!  It will haunt them!

When people start using words like “hero” to describe our veterans, they don’t think about what that may mean.  They don’t understand that it can taken an excuse to “thank you” and then forget you.  No one means to be like that.  No one means to forget veterans.  But, all too often it happens.

I know very few veterans who need hero-worship.  We need respect.  We need jobs.  We need to take care of our families when we finally hang up the uniform.  We simply need to be a “normal” part of society.   What we do not need is to be called a “hero” and then forgotten.

 

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As we look around the world, we see very troubled times.  We see wars and dissatisfaction.  There is civil war in Iraq.  There is civil war in Syria.  There is civil war in Ukraine.  There is civil war in many countries in Africa.  The Israelis and Hamas are warring again.  This is nothing new.  There have been wars among people since we first learned how to use a club as a weapon to kill someone else.

At first, wars were fought over hunting grounds.  Then they turned to agriculture and water areas.  As man evolved, war became more personal.  Power was the name of the game.  Empires needed to be built and war was the best way to achieve that.  As we evolved more, gods became the rallying cry.  In every civilization, the gods of one people were considered superior to the gods of another.  That led to the justification that we can kill in the name of our gods.

That justification has remained right up to today.  “God is on our side” is the rallying cry to justify waging war against another culture with different religious beliefs.  Now, all wars are not based purely on religion.  They are mostly based on power.  Yet, we justify our desire for that power through religion.

It is this justification that makes it so dangerous for us right now.  The Conservative Christian Cult is sounding the war cry again.  We need to send troops into Syria.  We need to send troops into Iraq.  We need to send troops into Iran.  We need to send troops to help the Israelis in their war against Hamas.  We need to send troops to the Ukraine.

The Cult and their talking heads at FOX News are the ones calling for war again.  They use phony excuses like the President hasn’t been tough enough.  But, what they are hiding is their true reason for these wars.  They actually want to start another world war.  They will even be thrilled to have a global nuclear war break out.  That is because in their fantasy world, they won’t be around to see the consequences of such a war.

The Cult and their talking heads want to start a holocaust.  They want to see Armageddon take place in our life time.  They have been working for years to make it happen.  Now, they figure they have the right opportunity at the right time.  They just need to get their people in power so it can begin in earnest.

Since religion became such a large part in people’s lives, Armageddon has been seen as the “cleansing” of the world from sin.  Those Cult members who truly believe in Armageddon believe it is their duty to bring it about.  That is why they are so eager to get involved in foreign conflicts.  Especially foreign conflicts that involve those “other religions”.  Have you ever wondered why the Cult is so aggressive toward the Palestinians and so forgiving of the Israelis for building settlements in Palestinian Territory?  It is because they know that more Jews living in Palestinian Territory will heighten tension and start the blood flowing.

They aren’t worried about the end of the world.  They want it to happen.  They don’t worry about it because they have fallen into the fallacy that they won’t be around for it.  In the 1800’s a young Baptist farmer named William Miller (1782-1849) predicted the end of the world.  He even went so far as to say it would happen on October 22, 1844.  But, not to frighten his followers, he came up with the “rapture” to protect them.  According to Miller, just before the world ended, the true followers would be whisked into heaven and not face the tribulation the rest of the world would face.

Of course the world did not end on October 22, 1844.  We are still here.  Since many of his followers sold off everything they had this prediction is still called “The Great Disappointment”.  But, the Cult has latched on to this fantasy of the “rapture” and keep telling their followers they needn’t worry about the end of the world since they won’t be around.  When you think about it, it is really scary stuff.  They will tell you that it is god’s will.  Which is a nice excuse so no one has to take the blame.  This is why they are so keen on getting the conflict started.  Their warped belief that their god is stronger than your god has led them to believe they are immune.

One year, a co-worker came to me with a list of candidates he liked.  He suggested that I vote for all of the candidates on his list.  When I asked him why they were so great, he commented that they “were all good god fearing Christians.”  I thanked him for the list.  After the election, he asked if I used his list.  I assured him that I did.  I voted for every single opponent of everyone who was on his list.  I never got another list after that.

Unfortunately, that is the mindset of the Cult.  They want us to elect their followers to office so they can get things started.  They are so wrapped up in their own little make-believe world, that they have no compassion for anyone else.  That is why their fight to gain control of the government is so frightening, and why we need to make sure they don’t get the power they so crave.

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I have often scoffed at Bill O’Reilly.  Actually, that is not hard to do.  It seems every time he opens his mouth, something stupid comes out of it.  But, I must confess, I am beginning to have pity on the self-anointed prophet.  I am not a doctor, so I cannot say for sure what is going on in his poor little brain.  But, whatever it is, he definitely needs help.

He had a conversation with Carl Rove on his show Wednesday night.  As I watched the clip, I was stunned that even Carl Rove seemed somewhat bemused by what O’Reilly was saying.  O’Reilly was actually calling for the U.S. to build a “Berlin Wall” on the southern border.  He didn’t actually call it a Berlin Wall, he called it an East German Fence.  He apparently knew that using the words Berlin Wall may have caused pace makers in his viewers to stop working.

He went on to say “I was there and I was there for it coming down — the wall coming down in Berlin — and I was actually there on the scene,” “Nobody could get through that fence, all right? Nobody. It was a formidable obstacle.”  He further justified his claim by saying that the Israelis have built a similar fence to “keep out terrorists”.  Then he said  “We haven’t done that … That’s mistake number one.”  He then suggested that we need to put the National Guard at the border to “stop the madness” there.

Okay, let’s look at the East German Fence that O’Reilly seems to love so much.  First, the Berlin Wall was built not to keep people out, but to keep its citizens in.  It wasn’t so formidable that people weren’t able to escape East Berlin.  Actually, thousands of people managed to get past the Wall in order to gain freedom in West Germany.

Secondly, it was a formidable fence especially when you consider that there were “watch towers” positioned all along it with armed guards stationed there with orders to “shoot to kill” anyone trying to get over the wall.  Even so, there were still people who tried to get over or under the wall with that threat hanging over them.

Maybe in O’Reilly’s warped brain this is where the National Guard comes in.  I wonder if he is suggesting that we build our own version of the wall, place watch towers on it with armed National Guard members in them with orders to shoot to kill anyone trying to come over the fence into the U.S.  Here is an arm-chair patriot who has railed against Communism right up to today, advocating that we emulate the East Germans and build a “formidable” fence on our border.

As I said, I am not a doctor.  But, it seems to me that poor Bill has lost his mind!  Maybe Bill is suffering from dementia.  Maybe he has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Maybe he has just lost it altogether.   I think it is time for Bill to seek medical help for whatever is ailing him.

As a veteran, it is absolutely appalling to me that anyone in the country would suggest we emulate the ruthless East German government and build a new Berlin Wall.  Even I didn’t think Bill was that stupid.  There must be a medical reason.

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We have known for a long time that the far right-wing of the Republican Party is nuts!  We have also known for a long time that the “establishment” wing of the Republican Party is more than happy to subjugate themselves to these nuts in order to get votes.  But, what is happening at the border between Mexico and the U.S. is a disgrace.

Right-wing nuts are lining up to “stop immigration” by keeping buses with illegal immigrants from getting to the shelters and holding areas where they will be processed according to the law.  We have grown adults holding signs that read things like “return to sender”.  At the same time, they are railing against the administration for not enforcing the law.  Well, actually, the administration is enforcing the law.  The law that was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President named George W. Bush.

The unfortunate part of all of this is that it has gotten completely out of control.  Yesterday in Arizona, a State Representative, Adam Kwasman, who is also running for the U.S. Congress whipped up hatred by decrying that the yellow school bus carrying illegal immigrants was coming.  The shouting started.  He went on to say that “this is not compassion”.  “This is the abrogation of the rule of law.”  He even said to a reporter that “he saw the fear on those children’s faces.”

How nice, a man running for a seat in the U.S. Congress is congratulating himself for terrifying children.  But, there was one slight problem with this situation.  The school bus wasn’t carrying undocumented immigrants.  It was carrying a bunch of kids from a YMCA camp.   When he was informed about the YMCA kids not being undocumented immigrants, all he could muster was “they were sad too.”  No kidding, a group of adults scaring the holy shit out of children just might make them look sad, too.

These scenes are being played out in Arizona and California.  But, rather than fighting for the law to be enforced, these people actually want the administration to break the law and simply send them back without a hearing the law says they must get.  I cannot fathom how adults can be so afraid of children.  But, there you have it.  They are absolutely terrified of them.

Not to be outdone, Louie Gohmert showed his brilliance again.  Okay, so he showed just how stupid a former judge can be.  He claims that what is going on at the southern border is actually the “real war on women”.  According to Mr. Gohmert, “criminal aliens” were responsible for 2,993 homicides in the past six years — as well as 7,695 sexual assaults.   Okay, but what about the other tens of thousands of murder and sexual assaults that take place in this country every year by what can only be described as “criminal citizens”?

As a result of these numbers, Mr. Gohmert claims that the “real war on women” is being waged by criminal alien hordes.  Furthermore  he said:

“Our continued existence is at risk with what’s going on at the southern border.” He blasted the White House for “actually assist[ing] the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals” by neglecting to adequately enforce America’s laws against illegal immigration.

In my opinion, though he left out the words “white women”, that was what he meant.

I want to remind everyone that immigration was handled differently in the past.  It was even “civil”.  Up through most of the 20th Century, immigrants were not given a green card.  My grandfather was an immigrant.  When he came to the U.S. he was not given a green card.  He went through Ellis Island like all the rest of the immigrants.

According to the law at the time, each year, he was required to “register as an alien” by January 31.  Since my grandfather never obtained citizenship, he had to register right up to his death.  I remember going to the post office every January to get his registration card.  I would fill it out for him, have him sign it, and mail it back.  I don’t know when green cards became the norm, but I do remember sending in his registration card through 1970 when he passed away.

Even still, we have adult people terrifying young children with their signs, yelling, and pure hate.  Why is this happening?  Why is this necessary?  It is only necessary to those un-American people on the far right who claim to be for liberty and freedom but don’t really want either.  It is only necessary for those who want to gain political points by snuggling up to these lunatics.  Let’s face some facts here, we are talking mostly about children.

Instead of reporting on the actions of these nuts, it is time to stop putting them on camera.  It is time to stop talking to stupid people and start talking about how to best handle the situation.  But that takes real adults.  People like Louie Gohmert and Adam Kwasman should not be confused with real adults.  Hate is on display at the southern border, and it is a disgrace to our country.

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As I had feared, the mess at the Veteran’s Administration has fallen to the back burner.  Obviously, it doesn’t stand up to the “sexy” tag that the news media needs to cover a story.  The political stunt of Boehner suing the President and the border crisis have top billing.  In the meantime, millions of veterans are still left in the dark alleys and not getting the help they need.

Then, all of the bills that are being proposed to “fix” the VA won’t actually fix it.  They are going to throw money at the VA, and they are going to pass laws that make it easier to fire people.  One allows those more than 40 miles away from a clinic or hospital to seek treatment at a private doctor or hospital.  But none of that is going to “fix” the VA.  It is time for an overhaul of the Veterans Administration.  I am not talking about taking the agency away, nor about privatizing it.  I don’t even think it needs to have everyone fired and restart over.  But an overhaul is necessary.

There are a lot of problems that the VA faces.  One is money.  But, that isn’t the only problem.  For example, in 2000 lawmakers passed the Veterans Claims Assistance Act.  A well-intentioned bill to help veterans with claims.

The law required that the VA tell a veteran what to do to prove a claim, help the veteran obtain necessary records, and inform the veteran when the VA could not obtain the information it needed. The law required the VA to retrieve the veteran’s service medical records and provide exams when the VA did not have sufficient evidence to substantiate a claim.

But the law was ambiguous and left much open to interpretation, which had to be fought out in the courts. It wound up adding several additional layers of bureaucracy to an already clunky VA claims process without appropriating additional funds or human resources to manage the increased workload.

As a result, things didn’t get better, it only made it more complicated.  There is a very good reason for the backlog.  There are more veterans needing help than there are people to help them.  Very few rural areas of the country have VA clinics or offices.  That means vets have to make, oftentimes, arduous journeys just to get the help they need.  Yes, they can often use the internet, but that doesn’t always help the situation and a face-to-face exam is necessary.

The quality of service at VA Hospitals and Clinics is excellent.  Most veterans will tell you that.  The problem is that there aren’t enough Hospitals and Clinics to properly treat all of the veterans who need treatment.  Additionally, there are thousands upon thousands of job openings at the VA and its hospitals and clinics.  They can’t fill all of the open positions they have.  One reason is money.  Though professional medical providers are paid well, they are not paid what they can get in the private sector.

The two wars that G.W. Bush laid on us also contributed to the backlog.  Especially when you consider that early on, the department was publicly counting only about a third of the casualties stemming from the War on Terror. That was because the Department was only counting servicemen and women immediately targeted in the department’s wounded-in-action statistics. That accounting method left out those who were not targeted but were wounded nonetheless, such as troops injured when they were riding two trucks back from one that was hit by a roadside bomb, or those hurt in training or transportation.

The problems at the VA go back decades.  At least to the Kennedy years.  The VA has always been the ugly step-child of the country.  We are keen to send our young men and women into harms way to “protect” our freedom.  But, once they have protected that freedom, they are forgotten, even shied away from.  If you want proof, look no further than the Wounded Warriors Project.  This is a very good organization that is trying to help our vets.  I commend them for their work.  But, I ask, why are such organizations even necessary?  Why isn’t the country taking on this responsibility?  Because no one wants to fix the VA, they just want to use tragedies like we have recently seen as political points.

Since the so-called “War On Terrorism” started, everyone seems to be happy to “thank a vet” for their service.  You see it everywhere.  At sporting events.  At concerts.  Everywhere people are gathered there is the phrase to “thank a vet” or “in honor of our men and women in uniform”.  Those are nice sentiments, but they are not what veterans need or even want.  They need and want proper medical treatment and help!

If you want to truly thank a vet, demand from your Representative that veterans stop being treated like they don’t exist by the very government they served.  Demand from your Representative that real, meaningful changes and fixes are made to the Veterans Administration so all veterans get the help they need.

We should not be headlines for political gain.  We should not be invisible.  We want to be respected for our service and treated so we can properly “heal” from the physical and mental wounds we have received.  Make that happen, and you will really be thanking vets for their service.

If not, “thank you for your service” are just meaningless words.  Sorry, but that’s the truth.

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Well, Congress is back at work, or at least they are in town.  What is the number one priority of Mr. Boehner?  Not making sure the humanitarian crisis at the border is funded properly.  Not passing immigration reform.  Not passing  a real jobs bill like the Transportation and Infrastructure Bill.  No, the number one priority for Mr. Boehner is suing the President over his use of Executive Orders.

Last week, Mr. Boehner said he was planning to sue over a wide range of issues.  Everyone waited with bated breath to find out what those wide-ranging issues were.  Well, he came out and said what they were.  He was going to sue the President because he delayed the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.  That is right, the President is being sued because he delayed the enforcement of one part of the ACA.  A part that the Republicans are against, by the way.

I am not sure why Mr. Boehner picked this one piece to sue the President over.  Maybe he thinks that will get his base fired up for the mid-term elections.  Maybe he can’t really justify the law suit in the first place.  The Republicans are screaming at the top of their lunges about an “imperial presidency” under President Obama.  They argue that his use of Executive Orders in undermining their powers granted by the Constitution.

Well, President Obama has used the “pen” as he likes to say, less than the Presidents before him.  At this time in his Presidency, George W. Bush used the “pen” over 60 more times than President Obama.  Republican anointed St. Reagan used the “pen” nearly 300 times in his presidency.  President Obama would have to issue the same number of Executive Orders in the remaining part of his Presidency as he has over the previous 6 years just to get close to St. Reagan’s number.

Looking back at history, the whole idea of suing a President over the use of Executive Orders is absurd.  Every President has used Executive Orders in the past.  Some more than others.  Most, not all, Constitutional Scholars and Lawyers say that Congress has no standing to even file a suit like this.  There have been one or two attempts in the past, and the courts ruled they have no standing since they can show no “harm” to them.

As a result, this can only be seen for what it really is.  A political stunt by the Republicans who need to gin up their base for the mid-terms.  Let’s face facts.  The Republican Party is under attack from all aspects of the political spectrum.  They are against the majority of Americans when it comes to important issues.  The latest polls indicate that 55% of all Americans favor same-sex marriage rights, including 30% who call themselves Republican.  Over 70% of Americans favor universal background checks when purchasing a weapon.  Over 70% of Americans favor immigration reform.

On top of all of that, the fringe wing of the Party is still coming out with stupid sayings.  Mr. “Legitimate Rape” Todd Akin is back at it with his book slamming the “establishment” wing of the Party for forcing him to apologize for his comments in 2012.  Then there is  Kentucky State Senator Brandon Smith who cited Mars as the reason that earthlings do not have to worry about the planet’s man-made climate catastrophe.  He said:  “I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”  Nobody will dispute that?  Maybe, just maybe, if he had stayed awake during science class, he would know that Mars is at a minimum 100 degrees colder than the earth.

Finally, the Texas GOP goes on trial today, including Gov. Perry in his official capacity, for the redistricting that caused the gutting of the Voting Rights Act section 5.  There appears to be some emails between the two most prominent people who redrew that map that indicate it was done in order to keep the GOP in power.  According to the reports, it seems they plotted to make sure that some districts looked like an Hispanic majority, but was redrawn based on voter turn-out in the district.  Meaning low turn-out of Democrats and high turn-out of Republicans.  If true, that is discriminatory and therefore illegal.

So, in order to deflect coverage of these inconveniences, Mr. Boehner has decided it is time to sue the President because he had the audacity to temporarily delay a mandate Mr. Boehner doesn’t like in the first place, for one year.  What a wonderful use of public funds.  Mr. Boehner keeps crying about the President using his power of Executive Orders.  Yet, Mr. Boehner keeps blocking legislation from coming up for a vote.  He keeps saying the House has passed over “40 jobs bills”.  Yet, he never mentions what any of them are, except those infamous repeal ACA bills.

No, Mr. Boehner is fundamentally a coward bowing to the whims of his radical right.  He is too afraid to stand up to the lunatics and actually govern.  So, in order to attempt to save his bacon and phony job, he is resorting to the gimmick of “suing the President”.  One only needs to look at this stunt to realize how depressingly pathetic the Republican Party has become.  The political vacuum they have created in Washington makes it impossible to get any meaningful thing done.  But, to them that is okay.  Only the average American People are being hurt over all of this.

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Rep. Darryl Issa has taken a short break from his Benghazi and IRS tantrums.  His target this time is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.  The program is running short of money, not the first time, and is need of an injection.  Rep. Issa’s plan is to use his “divide and conquer” theory to pit older Americans against those who are on SSDI.

So, he is holding another hearing trying to show that the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who hear disability cases as being a “rubber stamp” for those who don’t want to work, but rather go on the public dole.  He says that if we don’t cut the SSDI program with “fundamental changes” the entire Social Security system will collapse.  Here is using the “fear” that he likes to generate to pit one group of deserving Americans against another group of deserving Americans.

The AFL/CIO has recently put out some information about the SSDI program.  It is called the 13 Things You Need to Know About SSDI.  Here is a reprint of those 13 things.

1. SSDI provides protection for 90% of America’s workers and their families if a life-changing disability or illness stops them from being able to work and bring in enough money.

2. SSDI pays modest benefits, averaging just $1,140 per month, less than most workers make before they qualify for the program.

3. For 80% of beneficiaries, SSDI is the primary or only source of income, and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise live in poverty.

4. The eligibility criteria for SSDI are among the strictest in the world and fewer than 40% of applicants are approved.

5. Nearly 20% of beneficiaries die within five years of first obtaining benefits.

6. Nearly 9 million workers with disabilities receive SSDI benefits, including more than 1 million veterans. More than 150,000 spouses and nearly 2 million children also receive benefits.

7. Beneficiaries pay into SSDI as a portion of their Social Security payroll tax. The current tax rate is 6.2% on the first $117,000 of earnings a worker makes.  5.3% goes to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), the rest goes to the SSDI Trust Fund.

8. Only one-third of private-sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and most of those plans often provide less than SSDI. Only 7% of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance. Most private long-term disability insurance plans are too costly for most workers.

9. Most beneficiaries are in their 50s and 60s, with the average age being 53.

10. Fewer than 4% of beneficiaries earned more than $10,000 during the year.

11. The United States ranks 30 out of 34 OECD member countries in terms of replacement benefit payouts for workers with disabilities.

12. A temporary reallocation of how the 6.2% payroll tax is divided between SSDI and OASI would ensure that both trust funds would be able to remain fully solvent until 2033 and would alleviate the shortage in SSDI funds caused by demographic trends.

13. Beneficiaries face a wide range of significant disabilities, with many having multiple impairments, which include:

  • 31.8% have a “primary diagnosis” of a mental impairment, including 4.2% with intellectual disabilities and 27.6% with other types of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.

  • 29.8% have a musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorder.

  • 8.7% have a cardiovascular condition such as chronic heart failure.

  • 9.3% have a disorder of the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, or a sensory impairment such as deafness or blindness.

  • 20.4% include workers living with cancers; infectious diseases; injuries; genitourinary impairments such as end stage renal disease; congenital disorders; metabolic and endocrine diseases such as diabetes; diseases of the respiratory system; and diseases of other body systems

Why another attack on Social Security?  The Republicans have a total hatred for any social safety net.  They don’t care if the elderly or the disabled have enough money to live.  They seem to cherish the idea of being cruel to them.   And why not? Being cruel to people who are disabled and cannot work seems to be quite popular among Tea Party members, many of whom are disabled themselves (but, of course, they deserve their benefits while others do not.) Recall this nauseating display of cruelty during the health care debate:

At one point, a man with a sign saying he has Parkinson’s disease and needs help sat down in front of the reform opponents. Several protesters mocked the man, calling him a “communist,” with one derisively “throwing money at him.” “If you’re looking for a handout you’re in the wrong end of town,” another man said.

Of course these people hide behind their religiosity and alleged fealty to the teachings of the Bible.  Maybe they should go back to their Sunday School Classes and relearn:

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven — Matthew 18:10

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Proverbs 31:8-9

Although I doubt that either of these phrases were actually taught in their “cherry-picked” bible school classes in the first place.  If they were, maybe cruelty to the less fortunate wouldn’t be a so rampant on the right.

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