By: Evin Stovall

The Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic recently held an outreach at Freedom House in Richmond, Virginia.  There, Clinic students paired with partners and associates from McGuire Woods, helped homeless veterans.  Clinic students issued a brief presentation to the veterans that covered the basics of VA disability compensation and pension benefits.  After the presentation, Clinic students paired with McGuire Woods’ attorneys to meet individually with veterans to discuss the veterans’ service history and to provide the veterans with information about how to file claims with the VA.

 

The clinic’s outreach is timely given the approaching Thanksgiving Day holiday.  Our modern holiday is rife with overindulgence—eating, spectator sports, and most of all, the infamous ‘Black Friday’ sales in which Americans shop to the point of stampedes for discount rates on disposable consumer goods.

 

It is important to remember what our first President and Commander in Chief said on October 3, 1789.  President Washington stated:

 

Both Houses of Congress…requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

 

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being…That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks…and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness.[1]

 

His words were words of thanks and gratefulness for the end of the Revolution and for the fact that the country he loved and helped found was a union of “tranquility” and “plenty.”  We too should remember to give thanks to the men and women who have given it their all and to those whose lives are irrevocably changed as a result of their military service.  Our nation owes our current “degree of tranquility, union, and plenty” to those veterans, and as such, we should remember to honestly give thanks for the Country in which we live and those who defend it.

 

Furthermore, as evidenced by the Clinic’s recent outreach and by previous posts on this blog detailing the issues and concerns surrounding Veterans’ issues, we should remember that thanks must be must more then a mere platitude—it must include action to ensure veterans receive adequate health care and compensation for injuries, both visible and hidden, incurred as a result of their service.  As such, please remember the real meaning of Thanksgiving this year and remember the veterans who have helped defend the blessings we enjoy by remaining cognizant of their sacrifice.



[1] George Washington, “Thanksgiving Proclamation,” October 3, 1789 accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/gw004.html.

By:  Joe Sherman

As the November election approaches, televisions in battleground states continue to blast divisive political commercials and propaganda to sway any undecided voters.  The debates are fiery and combative, the two candidates agree on few occasions.  But both candidates have shown support for veterans and their issues, with each unveiling an agenda for strengthening veteran privileges and benefits.  However there is a striking difference as to how each candidate would approach the problems and solutions because Obama offers more money while Romney recommends revamping the Veteran Affairs bureaucracy.

 

Obama has affected multiple policies touching on veteran issues since taking office in 2008.  First and foremost, he has delivered on promises to withdraw troops from war zones.  Over 140,000 troops have returned from Iraq, and the President maintains that all troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.  Obama has proposed aggressive policies to increase veteran participation in the private workforce, improving the health care available to veterans, and offering more educational benefits.  Tax credits are offered companies that hire veterans to pull private interest, while the Department of Labor pushes online services and one-stop shop career service centers for veterans to utilize.  Obama signed an executive order to improve mental-health in the military by hiring more professionals and launching a national anti-suicide campaign and accompanying study.

 

Romney approaches the issue from another angle, identifying the inefficiencies at the VA level and resolving to fix systemic problems.  The candidate articulates that the waiting period for claim resolution and medical attention are unacceptable and proposes to accelerate technological integration for medical records and consultations.  His efforts to revamp the stressed bureaucracy promises to hold leaders accountable for mismanagement, a point that is not mere rhetoric in wake of the recent reports that lavish conference spending has cost the VA budget $10-15 million in the past year alone.  Another notable difference is that Romney supports access to mental health care through the military’s TRICARE network of providers at the VA expense.

 

The differences between each candidate’s plan for veteran policy are overshadowed by the similarities.  Both realize the community interests at stake in veteran welfare issues, and both want to improve the job prospects, mental health, and education of our nation’s warriors.  The fundamental divide between Obama and Romney is how they approach the problem.  Obama is offering more carrots to voters by means of incentives and services, while Romney prefers the stick by promising to crack down on inefficiencies that plague the system.

 

For more information, compare the plans:

 

https://s3.amazonaws.com/obama.3cdn.net/a537e9298bcd4dc53a_plm6bxzg6.pdf

 

http://www.mittromney.com/issues/keeping-faith-americas-veterans

 

By: Bryan Charles Moore

You’d be hard pressed to drive through an American neighborhood and not see the iconic blue and red signs that pop up every four years. You’d be equally hard pressed to attend a social event without hearing discussion of a political manner. Yes, my friends, it is Presidential election season and, whether you are annoyed, enthralled, or somewhere in-between, American society is consumed by the electoral process on a national scale.

 

Following the major economic collapse, widespread political decision-making on many issues, and the continuance of large-scale war efforts in two countries for much of the last decade, it should come as no surprise that there are strong emotions on both sides of the aisle. Governor Romney and President Obama both have energetic, determined supporters and offer two distinct visions for America’s future. After millions of dollars in fundraising, multiple debates, and many unsolicited phone calls and emails, the only day that truly matters is Tuesday, November 6, 2012. On that day, millions of Americans will flock to the voting booth and decide which candidate will become the next Commander in Chief of the United States.

 

Considering the large impact the President has on foreign affairs and national security, one would likely assume that huge numbers of the armed forces would be excitedly ready to help determine the future of the nation they bravely defend. However, recent statistics paint a far different picture. Statistics from the Military Voting Project show absentee ballot requests have dropped dramatically since the 2008 Presidential election. As of September 22, 2012, Virginia citizens serving in the military abroad had only requested 12,292 absentee ballots – less than 43% of the number of ballots requested four years earlier.[1] The Military Voting Project released statistics shortly after showing that this is not uncommon. In many states, the absentee ballot requests through early October were down by over 50% in comparison to the 2008 election.[2]

 

The statistics clearly show an unfortunate outlook on military voter participation for this Presidential election. This could be due to many variables. It is abundantly clear though that it will be hard to get voter participation to levels comparable to the 2008 election.  However, with some states such as Virginia allowing uniformed service members to register and request ballots through October 30, it is possible that more service members will make the choice to have their voices heard and help decide the future of the nation they proudly and bravely sacrifice for daily.

 



[1] http://www.humanevents.com/2012/10/11/hodge-military-absentee-ballot-requests-remain-drastically-low

 

[2] http://www.dvidshub.net/news/96256/election-with-big-military-implications-voter-turnout-among-troops-appears-bleak#.UITFoWl27R1