This year, veterans day should be a day for all of us — all 99 percent of us — to stand with the 1 percent. Not, as Jim Hightower writes, the “corporate CEOs and hedge fund billionaires,” but the “extra-special 1 percent of our society” who are also part of the 99 percent — the veterans of our most recent, most misguided wars, as well as those before. As Hightower said, let it not be a day to merely salute our veterans, but to stand with them and rally with them, as they have already done for us.
Across the country, veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are standing with the joining the 99 percent. Scott Olsen, the 24-year-old former Marine who served two tours or duty in Iraq, and Sgt. Shamar Thomas, another Marine who served in Iraq, are probably the most well known. Olsen, who was critically injured by a police projectile during the attack on Occupy Oakland, became the newest face of the movement, inspiring nationwide rallies. Thomas, in a video viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube, confronted police members of the NYPD over violence used against peaceful and unarmed protesters. Yet they represent countless veterans who served their country, often paying a great physical and psychological price, only to find themselves abandoned by their country in the midst of a recession and an unemployment crisis, and who are moved by what they have seen and experienced to join the movement of the 99 percent.
Our vets come home to the country they volunteered to serve, to find an economy that has no place for them and no regard for their service:
- Veterans have been among those hit hardest by the unemployment crisis. In June 2010, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II era veterans — anyone who served in the military since September 2001 — was 11.5%. As of June 2011, the unemployment rate for recent veterans has risen to 13.3%. This year, unemployment among veterans reached its highest point in five years.
- Many veterans come home from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to find themselves fighting eviction and foreclosure.
- The Veterans Administration estimates that about 107,000 vets are homeless on any given night. And a new study has revealed that homeless veterans stay homeless longer than others.
Our veterans come home to face an economic crisis while also bearing the physical and mental scars of war.
- More than half of veterans treated by the VA are struggling with mental health problems. Yet, mental health services for veterans remain sorely inadequate.
- Over 400,000 vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer traumatic brain injuries.
- According to a new study, a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes.
Since 2010, conservatives have have sought to cut legal services for veterans, eliminate 10,000 housing vouchers for homeless veterans, and slash disability benefits for veterans. Today, the Senate approved a small sliver of President Obama’s jobs proposal, which would give tax credits to businesses who hire disabled vets who have been unemployed for at least six months, and improve job training and counseling for veterans. President Obama has issued three executive orders aimed at helping veterans get case-management and counseling services, and establishing a website to help veterans find civilian jobs that match their military occupations.
Our veterans deserve better. This veterans day, let’s stand up with and for veterans — our worthy 1 percent — and demand better.