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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 12 - 18, 2003


No more Jason Stifflers

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. Everyone from the president to small-town mayors praised American vets for their honor, courage and sacrifice.

Today, the treatment of America’s returning sick and wounded veterans is fast becoming a national disgrace.

In August, The Wall Street Journal profiled Army Private First Class Jason Stiffler who had been injured when a watchtower he manned collapsed in Afghanistan.

Stiffler was returned to the U.S. for medical treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he recovered limited use of his legs. Then he was dropped through cracks in the bureaucracy.

He returned home to find that the Veteran’s Administration had no record of him. So, he received no treatment and no benefits. Government officials told him to seek help from churches and seek public assistance to support himself, his pregnant wife and son.

Only when his story hit the news—after Stiffler’s car was repossessed, the bills had piled up and an eviction notice had arrived—did his problems receive attention. Stiffler is not alone.

Last month, United Press International reported from Fort Stewart that about 600 "sick or injured members of the Army Reserves and National Guard were warehoused in rows of spare, steaming and dark cement barracks in a sandy field waiting for doctors to treat their wounds or illnesses."

The Toronto Star reported that they were housed 60 to a barracks, forced to hobble across sand to use the bathroom, and had to pay for their own toilet paper.

UPI reported similar conditions at Fort Knox where the sick and injured waited weeks and months for medical attention while housed in "... Spartan, dilapidated World War II-era barracks with leaking roofs, animal infestations, and no air conditioning in the Kentucky heat."

Only after the press coverage, did the Bush Administration address the appalling conditions.

It’s not only sick and wounded vets having problems. In the last year, about 1,300 National Guardsmen and reservists filed discrimination complaints with the Labor Department, up from 900 the year before. Half said they missed out on jobs, promotions or weren’t reinstated in their jobs. Such discrimination is illegal.

The mistreatment of America’s veterans and active military personnel is shameful.

In a recent television documentary, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi said the V.A. can do better. He blamed problems like Stiffler’s on the agency’s computers, which cannot communicate with computers at the Department of Defense.

Computers, typewriters, quill pens—it shouldn’t matter. The president, Congress, the V.A. and the Defense Department must do better. Abandonment of the soldiers who protect this nation should never be an option. The government’s new motto must be: No more Jason Stifflers.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.