Tina Richards, the mother of a Marine facing his third deployment to Iraq is continuing her efforts to pressure Democrats to end the war. After her chance encounter with Rep. David Obey in a Capitol Hill hallway she returned this week to meet with him and met with his staff to get clarification of the Iraq supplemental. Tomorrow Richards will be attending a meeting of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (10 AM, March 15, 2007) as her son exemplifies many of the dysfunctional qualities of the Veterans Administration.
In the Capitol Hill meeting with Obey’s appropriations staff, she was joined by Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, Linda Schade of Voters for Peace and myself. The meeting was videotaped by WHYNotNews and is available on the web providing an insiders view of Capitol Hill.
In response to hearing the details of the supplemental Ms. Richards said: “Their supplemental is not good for our troops, for our country or for Iraq. U.S. troops need to come home now. Continuing to fund the war will not protect our sons and daughters, it will put them at risk. Iraqi Parliamentarians say they are able to take care of their own country and create their own destiny. The U.S. has an obligation to provide the funds to allow them to rebuild their country since we destroyed it. The Democrats have the power to end the war. It is their war now – 198 service members have been killed since the Democrats had the power to end the war.”
The Democrats Iraq War supplemental is likely to lead to a larger war. It is a very convoluted bill, but the key point is that by August 31, 2008 troops are supposed to be out of Iraq. However, the August 2008 exit date in the supplemental appropriation is more of a mirage because it includes four loopholes. Two loopholes allow troops to stay to “capture or kill” members of Al Qaeda and terrorists, as well as to train Iraqi troops. These two loopholes alone are big enough to drive a war through!
Further, the Democrats are not doing anything to stop Bush from using these funds to attack Iran. As a result, they are providing a clear path to a wider war. Thus, the Democratic leaderships exit strategy may actually lead to a regional Middle East war.
Tina Richards is also pressuring Congress to treat Iraq War veterans better. The case of her son, Corporal Cloy Richards, is a classic that highlights the problems in the VA. For the last two years Ms. Richards has been fighting with the VA to get treatment for her son who is suffering from an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury, PTSD as well as physical injuries to his knee and back. The VA has attempted to avoid treating Cloy saying, ten minutes into their first meeting that he had “childhood issues” rather than Iraq War related health problems. And, she has received numerous letters from the VA to not contact them because they were overwhelmed with incoming claims and could not assist Cloy. Now, Cloy is facing his third deployment without records from the VA describing his various illnesses that making him inappropriate for deployment.
Cloy is not alone. While the Walter Reed problems have received lots of press attention, that is just a small part of the problem. Recent news reports have described the battle vets and their family members have to engage in to receive medical benefits. And other reports have described how the military is redeploying troops to Iraq despite them having serious health problems.
As of November 2006, the VA reported that 205,000 Iraq War veterans have sought VA health care since the war began (even though DoD continues to report approximately 25,000 Iraq War casualties). Indeed, one-third of the 631,000 troops who have gone to Iraq are seeking health care from that experience. Thirty-five percent of Iraq war veterans had received mental health services in the year after returning home, and 12 percent each year were diagnosed with a mental problem. Col. Charles Hoge, MD, of the Walter Reed Military Research Institute postulated that although Iraq War veterans are using mental health services at a high rate many do not seek help due to fear of stigma and other barriers. The VA also reports that they have a backlog of roughly 600,000 claims and expect another 638,000 new claims in the next five years from the Iraq War.
Tina Richards concludes: “We need to bring our sons and daughters home safely and take care of them when they get here. The Democrats were voted into office to end the war. It is time they fulfill that mandate.”
Please help Tina Richards stay in Washington, DC and end the war. Visit her organization’s website, http://grassrootsamerica4us.org/ and make a donation to do. Your help is needed to keep this effective advocate in Washington, DC at this critical time.