The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jose Vasquez, Iraq Veterans Against the War Executive Director, 646-723-0989,

Veterans Call President Out of Touch

Must listen to veteran’s voices to help heal nation


President Obama's State of the Union Address last
night praised the service of men and women in uniform, and promised
veterans the treatment they need. But the speech showed the president is
out of touch with the rough reality facing veterans, and failed to
produce a plan to address their needs. Iraq Veterans
Against the War (IVAW) represents the voices of Iraq and Afghanistan
veterans with bold solutions to cut the human and financial costs of war
by meeting veterans' needs that the president ignored.

President Obama grossly understated the heavy toll
that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are baring on troops and the economy.
The Afghanistan War is now the longest war in U.S. history. Military
healthcare costs are rising at twice the rate of the national average
and occupy a major chunk of the Pentagon budget (USA Today 4/25/10).
2009 was the first year since recordkeeping began that mental health
disorders were the major cause of hospitalization (USA Today 5/16/10), a
grim symbol of compounding trauma. Obama declared in his speech that
veterans are returning home "with heads held high," a fable not
reflected in the record suicide rates.

"President Obama, do you really think we are
holding our heads high as we are watching our brothers and sisters
suffer and commit suicide because they aren't getting the care they
deserve? Troops need more than a long pause for applause, they need to
be treated like humans," said Maggie Martin of IVAW, two-time Iraq

Veterans of IVAW are currently leading a campaign, Operation Recovery,
launched in October to end the military's widespread practice of
deploying traumatized troops back into battle. By heeding their call the
President would back his promise of cutting healthcare costs. He would
lower unemployment for veterans and help begin a process of national

"Soldiers are being forced to redeploy into combat
without receiving treatment for wounds suffered during previous combat
tours. Military Sexual Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and
Traumatic Brain Injury are spiraling out of control as a result, with
unacceptable human and financial costs," said Jose Vasquez, who served
14 years in the United States Army and is now the Executive Director of
Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Unemployment is another high cost of multiple
redeployments and inadequate care. A January report released by the
Bureau of Labor statistics shows recent veterans have an almost 12%
unemployment rate -- 2.3% higher than the national average. Mental and
physical wounds suffered during combat make it more difficult for
veterans to find jobs or start their own businesses.

"The president said withdrawal from Afghanistan will start in July, but
when will it end? Let's bring all the troops home immediately and invest
in the care they have earned," said Zach Choate, Afghanistan War
veteran and IVAW member.

Matt Howard, Communications Director