Press-Republican

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March 31, 2013

Returning vets deserve our help

(Continued)

The manner in which we wage war may have changed, but individual experiences have not.

With America pulling out of Afghanistan, thousands of military personnel will be returning home. I guarantee you that neither the government nor the Veterans Administration are prepared with the funds and personnel to provide the breadth and depth of services these veterans are going to need, and deserve.

With the exception of World War II, they never have and I doubt they ever again will.

According to the National Veterans Foundation, veterans will face issues such as:

— Unemployment. Veteran unemployment is nearly twice the national average.

— Post-traumatic stress. One out of every three Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans suffers from PTSD.

— Traumatic brain Injury (TBI) or a combination of TBI and PTSD due to combat trauma.

— The backlog of more than 700,000 claims at the Veterans Administration. The average wait for the VA to process a claim is close to 300 days.

— Homelessness. A third of all homeless citizens in America are veterans.

Fortunately, in the North Country, there are people like Assemblywoman Janet Duprey who understand the issue better than most. Two weeks ago, she convened a meeting to introduce retired Gen. Mark Graham to a group of community leaders who work for agencies that provide many of the services veterans will need.

Gen. Graham founded Homeward Bound, a national organization whose purpose is to “Guide Veterans All The Way Home.” The local chapter, Homeward Bound Adirondacks (www.homewardboundadirondacks.org), will provide “veterans and families opportunities to realize their full potential through innovative programming with community support.”

Homeward Bound Adirondacks is a perfect complement to The North Country Veterans Association (www.ncva.org) who have been serving and advocating on behalf of veterans for years.

I applaud Assemblywoman Duprey for quietly getting in front of this important issue. The organizations she brought together will be at the forefront of helping veterans successfully reintegrate into civilian life.

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