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Op-Ed: Are Veterans Their Own Worst Enemy?

February 06, 2017

All opinion articles are the opinion of the author and not necessarily of American Military News. If you are interested in submitting an op-ed please email [email protected]

Brooks Outland

Brooks Outland

Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran.He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.
Brooks Outland

Back in the day, we had one Veterans’ Service Organization (VSO). Disgruntled members who did not agree with the decisions and the agendas of their leadership decided to form a new VSO. The disgruntling continued and there are now more than 200 VSOs trying to do their best to provide aid and comfort for their fellow Veterans.

Granted, most VSOs do a lot towards taking care of the Veterans. It is quite true that Veterans would have a lot less than they have without the VSOs assistance.

Of prime importance in any VSO agenda (in my humble opinion) is the appropriate distribution of charitable donations received and strong representation in the Federal Congress and in the State Legislatures.

There is an old saying, “A house divided cannot stand!” By dividing our support into so many different groups, Veterans have lost more than they have gained. Many of the largest VSOs have dozens of issues that they wish to bring before Congress. Most of these issues have remained “rubber-stamped resolutions” for years without any positive action. Very few of these issues ever become prospective pieces of legislation, let alone actually become a proposed Bill for Congress to deliberate.

The only thing Veterans have shown Congress is that we are unable to organize ourselves into one viable, very strong body. Congress, in an attempt to appease the VSOs, decided to allow them a chair at the table when conferences are formed to discuss proposed legislation affecting Veterans. Several VSOs testify at these committee meetings, but they simply give separate versions of why the same bill should be passed.

As difficult as it may be to accomplish, forming a single Veterans Organization would represent possibly the largest lobbying group in existence. Solidarity among the Veterans would be apparent to the Congress for the first time. Our lobbyists could lobby each and every one of the 535 members of Congress. They would be forced to listen more closely to what the Veterans need Congress to consider.

It is doubtful that current VSOs would even think of considering a reorganization such as described above; but, they should most definitely consider the idea. We are gaining precious little ground with the present organizational setup.

As to how the charitable donations are spent by the VSOs, the total of the payrolls of the largest VSOs is outrageously high. Earlier credible reports have shown that somewhere between 5 and 6 million dollars is being paid to certain VSO employees in leadership positions each year. The VSOs seem to agree that these outrageous salaries are acceptable.

However, Veterans who consistently donate money to the VSOs are beginning to question the need for so many high paid employees (six-digit salaries).

Much of the monies paid out in salaries could perhaps be better spent on a very strong lobbying group providing stronger pressure applied on our legislators.

We should be talking with all members of Congress regarding the Department Of Veterans’ Affairs’ (VA) inability to provide timely and adequate healthcare for our disabled Veterans and the need for a viable “outsourcing program” to support VA’s healthcare capability.

Also, without adequate lobbying efforts, the obvious “cover-up” of the mismanagement of the VA’s Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement Program at the Matsunaga Medical Center (Clinic) in Honolulu, Hawaii has been buried since it was discovered more than eight years ago. Eligible VA patients were bilked out of earned travel reimbursements from 1978 until 2009.

Veterans could do so much better for themselves, if they would only see the value of creating a single, very strong Veterans Organization!

Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran.He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.

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