GOP Cut Funds For Veterans And Mental Health And Now We Have A Veteran Suicide Epidemic

Republicans claim to love our military veterans, but their decisions not only contradict that claim, it’s killing the men and women they sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veteran suicide is on the rise as GOP lawmakers sit on their hands to make sure nothing is done about it.

In 2012, veteran suicides actually exceeded the number of troops kill in combat. According to The Guardian, “349 service members took their own lives in 2012, while a lesser number, 295, died in combat.”

Yet all Republicans focused on was making sure President Obama could not sign any bills that could accomplish something. And so it has remained that way even as President Obama enters his final year in office. And veterans are still committing suicide at a horrifying rate.

The National Veterans Foundation reports that 22 veterans take their own lives every day and that is 22 too many.

But Republican lawmakers have only made things worse for veterans over the years, creating a sense of hopelessness that makes it more likely that veteran suicides will continue even as those same Republicans use veterans as a political tool.

While Republicans take the stage to blabber about how much they love the military and how much they care about the men and women who return home from combat, their actions in Congress tell a completely different story.

Just this past October, Senate Republicans passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill which cut $857 million from programs that benefit veterans, but had no problem increasing funding for missile programs

In April 2015, President Obama actually had to threaten the GOP with a veto after House Republicans attempted to cut benefits for 70,000 veterans, which included money for education, prosthetic research, and veteran’s cemeteries. Overall, the cuts amounted to $1.4 billion. The Veteran’s Affairs Funding Bill of 2015 really should have been called the “Screw You, Veterans Bill of 2015.”

Other pieces of legislation offered by Democrats that would have provided much needed aid to veterans across the country have been killed by Republicans over the years, including the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act, which would have helped veterans and their spouses seek counseling and fertility treatments.

Another veterans bill that was killed by Republicans was offered up by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2014 that would have expanded healthcare and education funding for veterans. But the GOP blocked the bill by attaching sanctions on Iran to it. This is perhaps the most egregious block of any veterans bill since Reuters reported at the time that it would have created 27 new veterans hospitals to deal with the increased load of wounded veterans coming back from war. These hospitals could help prevent suicides because it would cut down on the wait times veterans are dealing with and give them hope that Congress actually cares about them.

Remember the Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012? Republicans don’t. Because they blocked the bill and never gave it a second thought even though it would have provided jobs to more than 20,000 veterans to help improve their own communities.

Republicans also killed a bill way back in 2010 that would have helped homeless veterans, including those with children.

And amazingly, that’s not all Republicans have done to make the lives of veterans and their families a living hell.

For years, Republicans have been viciously attacking the SNAP program, which provides food aid to millions of Americans. Republicans would have you believe that all of these food stamp recipients are freeloaders who don’t want to work. But that is hardly the case. Not only do most food stamp recipients have jobs, albeit low paying jobs, 1.7 million veterans and their families rely on the program. So not only are Republicans refusing to help veterans, they are slashing a program that veterans rely on because Republicans refuse to help them.

And Republicans have even slashed mental health funding by cutting grants that help states keep a mental health programs in place. Suicidal veterans NEED a strong mental health system most of all, yet the GOP has severely weakened the system for years.

With treatment like that from their own government, it’s no wonder that veterans are committing suicide. They have no support from Congress and what little support system they do have is being ruthlessly chipped away by Republicans who gleefully use veterans as pawns to improve their political image only to then stab them in the back when they have no further use for them.

Imagine if we actually passed all of these bills to help our veterans instead of passing funding for more war. With better education opportunities and much needed mental and physical healthcare and jobs, veterans would not only feel cared about, they would be cared for and not made to feel like a burden. We could reduce the number of veteran suicides in this country.

It’s an epidemic that must be brought to end and we can start by firing lawmakers who only pretend to love veterans. After all, veterans fought for us. It’s time for us to fight for them.

Featured image via Flickr