Memorial Day has been historically used as a time set aside to remember the soldiers who have died while fighting for our nation. Originally meant primarily to remember those who fought in the Civil War, we now use Memorial Day to honor all of our fallen soldiers from all of our military conflicts of the past 150 years. I do strongly support this purpose of the holiday, even though I do not always support the conflicts in which our country engages–most notably Iraq.
But Memorial Day is not a day for political squabbling. This is not to say that politics should be thrown out the window–indeed, now is when we need to examine what is politically important to us. However, we need to look at our politics, not because of party affiliation or because of who is “red” or “blue”, but because we all have the obligation to do what is right. Today is the perfect day to think a little more about certain things upon which we can all agree are right, good, and necessary. In this post, I want to talk a bit about how our troops–especially those who have been injured physically or who have undergone psychologically traumatic experiences–are treated when they get home.
Although these folks are survivors, it is important to remember them too. They are not buried in the local cemetery, to be honored with visitors and flags. They have been buried in another way–in a bureaucratic system that cares more about profit than about people, and in which those who speak up are considered to be unpatriotic, even though these troops have sustained injuries based upon orders from the highest places in our government.
Now, in no way do I wish to disparage those troops who have died, nor do I wish to claim that becoming a person with a disability is a tragedy to be mourned in the same way that we mourn those who pass away. (Indeed, the most important thing I have learned while reading up on ableism is that, while those with disabilities face many obstacles and much physical and psychological hardship, their lives are just as full as those who do not have disabilities.) However, the real tragedy is when troops who return to the U.S. as persons with disabilities do not get the assistance from the government that they have been promised.
For example, there have been numerous documented cases of troops whose “disability ratings” are deliberately underestimated. A “disability rating” is a percentage that determines the amount of financial support a soldier receives. The higher the rating, the more assistance someone receives. And, a person must reach a 30% rating or higher in order to qualify for “disability retirement,” which will grant them continued financial assistance and sustained health insurance. (Although I am not a big fan of quantifying people’s disabilities like that, that’s a subject for another post.) The army has been consistently lowballing the ratings of injured soldiers, which might allow them a one-time lump sum as compensation, but is not nearly enough to make up for their health costs or other financial repercussions (hiring a home assistant, making homes wheelchair accessible, or having difficulties finding employment). And what’s more, since soldiers are trained to, above all things, follow orders, many soldiers are not fighting their disability ratings. According to this report from US News and World Report, as many as 93% injured or traumatized soldiers are receiving lower disability ratings than the regulations stipulate
So, as you enjoy your day off, sitting at your picnic tables, think about family, friends, or strangers who have been killed in the line of duty, think about what some of the war survivors have gone through, and what they are still going through.
Filed under: ablism, politics | 1 Comment »