Supporting the troops

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

Surrounded by military personnel, President Bush, in an effort to rally flagging support for the war in Iraq, last week stood before the nation and told us how imperative it was that we support the troops. He suggested finding a military family that lives nearby to help or sending letters thanking soldiers for what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These are appropriate gestures and while it’s likely soldiers and their families would appreciate them, what they need is real support from their government which ordered them halfway around the world to fight and die to bring democracy to others.

In yet another of many miscalculations surrounding the war in Iraq, the president failed to include adequate budget funding for veterans returning from these conflicts who require medical care. Last week the Veterans Affairs Administration confirmed that medical costs to treat these soldiers were underestimated by $2.6 billion in 2005 and 2006. Congress had to scramble to come up with the money.

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The VA had figured on needing to treat a little under 25,000 vets. The number is more than 100,000.

Not only did the administration fail to properly account for the number of wounded and the money needed to treat them, but it, along with its Republican allies in Congress, actively thwarted efforts by some in congress who warned of the shortage and wanted to budget for more money.

Such maneuvering is inexcusable. It’s time the administration put up or shut up where our troops are concerned. Not only are they short skimping on armor for their Humvees and flak jackets, but now on medical care perhaps necessitated by the lack of proper armor.

Throughout the war, the administration has played various budget &uot;games&uot; to conceal the real cost of this action of from the American people, just as it did with the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit in 2003. But the health and well-being of our veterans is too important for such games.

Yes, it’s incumbent upon us all to support our men and women in harm’s way and most of us do. It’s not the American people who aren’t properly supporting our troops, it’s their leaders. If the president wants to turn around his sinking poll numbers, properly supporting our troops would be a good place to start.