“I try not to make it political,” says Gene Pierce, “but I’ve about had it with the way veterans are treated.” Pierce, Adjutant for Warrensburg American Legion Post 446, made his remarks this morning at a Veterans Day service attended by post members, first responders, local clergy and the public. The Post holds a service every Veterans Day to honor the men and women of the U.S. military. This year, rain caused the service to be moved from its traditional spot at Flynn Park on the Schroon River to the American Legion Hall at 215 River Street.
In the past, Pierce’s statements at these events focused on service men and women, their contributions and their sacrifices. This year, his frustration with politicians and the bureaucracy was evident. “The Navy has less ships. The Air Force has less planes. We have less soldiers, yet we’re fighting more wars than we ever fought in the history of this country,” says Pierce. He notes that today’s military is fighting undeclared wars. “What does that mean? The veteran that comes back, he has no rights. He has no benefits,” says Pierce.
“We have now gotten to the point where (we) put the veteran back in the glass and break in case of emergency.” — Eugene Pierce, American Legion Post 446, Warrensburg, N.Y.
“Politicians have gotten back to the lip service of all thanking veterans and everything,” says Pierce, “yet at the VA, the wait is still almost up to a year for people to get treatment.” The long wait at the Veterans Administration was a hot topic last year when a Veterans Affairs internal investigation revealed that several dozen veterans died while waiting for care in Phoenix, Arizona.
Some policy-makers, and presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, have proposed privatizing, at least in part, functions of the VA as a solution to the VA problems. However, a survey, published Nov. 6, found that 64 percent of veterans oppose this plan fearing the proposed voucher system would not cover all costs, and veterans and their families would have to fight with private insurers to receive health care. The veterans surveyed say they like the care at the VA and believe the problem of wait times could be remedied by hiring more doctors and nurses.
Pierce told those in attendance this morning that the American Legion is here to help veterans. In addition to helping vets navigate the VA, the American Legion will find programs to help with other needs such as housing and heating. “If you know a veteran that needs help, you contact a veteran here, and we will make sure that they do get the help. We will help them jump through the hoops that have been set up by the government.”