After nearly a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 2 million Americans have served, a trillion dollars have been spent and yet only 3 percent of Americans have war on their radar this election.
And where's Congress? Spinning on the campaign trail, scrambling for last-minute endorsements and as Tom Brokaw rightly noted in The New York Times this week, still doing nothing to wake up the country about the surge of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2009, Congress came out swinging for vets. They pushed several major legislative victories to the President's desk. They passed Advanced Appropriations, mandatory mental health screenings for every returning servicemember, and landmark legislation for caregivers and female veterans.
Then everything went downhill in 2010.
This year, veterans' calls for VA disability reform, new GI Bill upgrades, and veteran employment initiatives all fell on deaf ears. After months of making promises, Congress suddenly stopped paying attention, skipped out on votes and dropped out.
On November 2nd, Americans will head to the polls and every voter should ask themselves: did my members of Congress show they have the backs of new veterans?
With the launch of IAVA Action Fund's 2010 Congressional Report Card, it's easy for voters to find out in just a few clicks.
The nonpartisan Report Card grades every Senator and Representative on his or her voting record and leadership on key issues for new veterans. Across political parties, exceptional leaders on veterans' issues were few and far between. This year, only 20 legislators out of 535 earned an A+ on veterans' issues--an 87 percent decline from 2008 when 150 Members made the top grade. More alarmingly, nearly a third of our elected officials on Capitol Hill failed to take any real action for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, earning Ds or Fs.
If Americans really want to have the backs of our nation's veterans, they should do their homework on the Report Card and Tweet their Representatives about their voting records.
Unlike Congress, our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan don't have the luxury of quitting before their mission is complete. They can't cut out early when lives are on the line. For a country in the midst of two wars, Washington's recent commitment to ensuring these men and women have the tools to successfully transition home has been half-hearted.
Back in their districts, Members of Congress might spend the next week spinning tales of a "banner year" on veterans' legislation. But Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families deserve real leadership and action on Capitol Hill, not empty promises and cheap rhetoric. Each day that passes without a break in the gridlock in Washington, veteran unemployment will continue to outpace the national average, the VA disability backlog will continue to climb and suicide rates will continue to skyrocket.
If Congress considers this an acceptable future for our nation's veterans, they definitely don't make the grade.
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