On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln addressed a nation in the final days of America’s divisive Civil War.
With the war nearly won, the president turned his speech to confront the difficult process of recovering from such a bitter feud.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” Lincoln told the crowd, “let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
In 1959, the Civil War-era affirmation of the government’s role in caring for veterans and the loved ones they leave behind was made into the motto of the Veterans Administration, now called the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Plaques with Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan” were promptly installed on the department’s buildings, where they remain to this day.
After surviving decades, the motto could soon be gutted under a bill passed by the Democrat-led House of Representatives.
H.R. 3010, the Honoring All Veterans Act, was passed Sept. 22. Under the act, introduced by Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York, the VA’s mission statement would be: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”
It’s unclear what impact, if any, this legislation would have on the problems America’s veterans currently face.
As it stands, veteran suicides are uncomfortably high. Exacerbated by a bureaucratic VA and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the deaths of former servicemembers shows no sign of slowing.
According to The Connecticut Mirror, the suicide rate for veterans is 24.8 per 100,000, nearly twice the national rate.
While the bill would make the VA’s motto more inclusive, it fails to confront dire leadership and spending problems faced by the department.
A slew of other veteran-related bills passed by the House on the same day as the Honoring All Veterans Act seem to offer only minor changes to the department, such as pilot programs for information handouts and medical billing.
One act, H.R. 6092, appears to be on the right track.
This bill, the Veteran’s Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Act, would cut through much of the red tape involved in getting prostate cancer treatment from the VA. The legislation would open a clinical pathway for sufferers of the disease, which according to the bill is the “number one cancer diagnosed in the Veterans Health Administration.”
The cancer, it was discovered, can be caused by exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange.
While this bill is welcome news for those suffering from prostate cancer, those with other diseases will apparently have to wait for legislation that will help them in getting fast and effective treatment from the VA.
With a growing generation of veterans suffering from physical and psychological wounds at the hands of a brutal and unconventional war on terror, a solution to the VA’s larger shortcomings will be needed sooner rather than later.
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