Each and every day we drive down the street and pull up behind cars with flag and ribbon decals. We go to social events and see flags on lapels and collars. These folks will tell you that they support our troops. I ask, "How?"
Augusta is a great area for active-duty service men and women. It is also a great location for veterans and their families. We have outstanding schools, great quality of life with unmatched access to superior medical care, a diversity of religious services and a wide range of recreational activities.
During the past several weeks, veteran services in Georgia have taken a turn for the worse with no public outcry. A natural disaster occurs halfway around the world and we criticize our national leaders. We owe our "quality of life" to these men and women who put on a uniform and sacrificed for us. America promised these men and women, our veterans, benefits in return for their sacrifice.
In the 1930s, through the efforts of the American Legion, the Veterans Administration was established. The American Legion worked to assure that no veteran disabled in the line of duty would suffer any reduction in benefits; that federal hospitalization would be afforded to veterans honorably discharged who required such care and were unable to afford treatment; and that benefits would be provided for dependents. And let's not forget the GI Bill that provides educational benefits.
Recently it was announced that thousands of Georgia veterans will become ineligible to receive care at state veterans' nursing homes on Oct. 1 if the currently proposed Fiscal Year 2006 Veterans Administration budget is accepted by Congress. Worse yet, if the federal government implements its budget as submitted, some 427 veterans (mostly World War II and Korean War veterans) currently residing in Augusta and Milledgeville state veterans nursing homes will be subject to discharge. Approval of the budget would drop the current number of patients in the Georgia state veterans homes from 612 to 185.
On the heels of this, it was announced that the emergency room at the Downtown VA Hospital will reduce its services to Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with no services on weekends. Veterans now have to plan their emergencies, or find other services.
I ask, "Where is the public outcry? Where is the public support for the veteran who made the sacrifice so we can enjoy our quality of life?" Make that flag in your lapel and collar mean something. When you see the American flag waving, feel proud that you did your share to keep it waving!
Dennis M. McClendon
(Dennis McClendon is adjutant of the American Legion's 11th District in Georgia.)
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