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OCTOBER 29, 2003
1:58 PM
CONTACT:  Vietnam Veterans of America
Mokie Porter 240-485-1600 or 301-585-4000, ext. 146
VVA Denounces Inadequate Care for Returning Troops
WASHINGTON - October 29 - "We are incensed," said Thomas H. Corey, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), "by the information we continue to receive about the harsh conditions and substandard treatment accorded sick and injured U.S. soldiers at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and elsewhere.

"In 1968, Vietnam veterans had to compete with rats and other vermin for living space in VA hospitals around the country as they sought care for their injuries," Corey said. "After the 1968 Tet Offensive, the system was ill-prepared for the heavy casualties, the overcrowding, shortage of nurses and physical therapists. This resulted in unavailable treatment.

"That situation was intolerable then and the current situation is unconscionable now, " Corey said. "At a time when our political leaders hail the bravery of our young men and women in uniform, at a time when Americans stand on street corners and wave flags proclaiming their support for the troops, these same troops are housed in substandard facilities and don't receive proper care."

Corey dispatched a representative to investigate and report on conditions at Fort Stewart and other bases. VVA has observed that Reservists and active-duty personnel being treated for wounds and diseases have been housed in facilities that lack adequate indoor plumbing and air-conditioning.

"How is it that Congress can write a check for $87 billion to continue funding the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but when those who fight that war need medical care, they are treated as second-class citizens?" Corey asked. "How can this administration argue that an additional $1.3 billion for veterans health care is not related to the war effort? Our warnings that the VA and the military medical centers were unprepared for the casualties they are receiving -- warnings that we have been sounding for more than a year -- have been brushed aside. The disastrous conditions at Fort Stewart and elsewhere are the result of a lack of proper funding and planning for such contingencies.

"We demand immediate answers from the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the Surgeon General of the Army, and officials at Fort Stewart. We want to know: What has been done to remediate a critical situation? What will be done to avoid similar situations in the future?"


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