Friday, December 5, 2008

As a citizen and as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, I am outraged over Rep. Bob Filner‘s comments saying that veterans should have to prove to him that they are fit and undergo mandatory psychological testing (“No ‘de-booting camp,’” Editorial, Tuesday). Why should I or any other veteran or service member have to prove anything to him?

Ordinary citizens who suffer from debilitating mental disorders, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s, have more rights than you would accord to U.S. soldiers. Veterans of foreign wars are more than twice as likely as nonveterans to be and remain unemployed for as long as two years after separation.

I don’t believe Mr. Filner understands the amount of resentment veterans feel toward people like him who perpetuate a stereotype of soldiers returning from war as too drunk, too high, too stupid or too crazy to get or hold a job.

I don’t think he gets that veterans don’t want or need to be coerced or forced to undergo psychiatric screening, the results of which may have grave consequences bearing on their ability to get a job after their service is over.

Don’t even get me started about the Department of Veterans Affairs. Millions of health records of servicemen and women have been lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised. Recent headlines include a story that highlights concerns regarding the VA: VA doctors intent on getting subjects for their studies refused care to an eligible veteran who declined to take part in their study. The patient died without even being examined by a doctor.

Finally, who would responsibly run such a screening program? Who would make sure it was not used against some of the service members it is designed to help? Who would be able to gain access, legally, or otherwise, to that data? Would insurance companies be able to use public records to deny veterans health insurance?

If Mr. Filner’s intent is to help veterans guard their rights, respect their privacy and don’t increase their obligations. America owes a debt to its Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen.


Northern Virginia

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