A time for remembering our veterans

Monday is Veteran’s Day, when Americans pause to honor those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.

Schoolchildren have performed tributes; government leaders have given speeches; retailers have offered discounts; banners and flags are flying.

It is right for us to make these public displays of respect for our veterans. After the sacrifices they and their families have made on our behalf, it is the least we can do.

But ceremonies and salutes are insufficient. To truly repay our soldiers, sailors and airmen, we must make an America where they can thrive after their service ends.

Many veterans don’t live in that America.

While it varies annually, 11 to 20% of those who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Every day, roughly 20 veterans commit suicide. We cannot tolerate this failure to treat the psychological wounds these soldiers suffered in defense of our freedom.

There has been progress in repairing the broken VA health system over the past few years, but more needs to be done. A September report by the Government Accountability Office found that the system of accepting applications and enrolling veterans “frequently missed the VA’s five-day timeliness standard,” and that it sometimes incorrectly rejected benefits. Some applications have lingered for more than three months.

If the government is going to spend trillions of dollars on war and ask Americans to place themselves in harm’s way, it should do whatever is necessary to care for vets when they come home.

And too many shady for-profit colleges and universities are bilking veterans of their hard-earned tuition benefits, luring them with slick marketing. They take veterans money and give them an education that is essentially worthless, according to veterans’ advocates and watchdogs.

The U.S. Department of Education, under Secretary Betsy DeVos, has been worryingly slow to crack down on these predatory institutions. But some members of Congress are pushing for tighter rules to prevent for-profit colleges from sustaining themselves entirely with veterans’ benefits, a clear warning sign of abuse.

We must act to stop these shams. It is an outrage to see this richly-deserved benefit squandered.

Fixing these problems requires more effort and willpower than waving flags and saluting. But it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure the America our veterans fought for is the America they deserve.

***

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” (President Harry Truman)