When it comes to honoring our veterans, the U.S. is big on talk and parades, and less enthusiastic about ponying up to provide jobs, housing and physical and mental health care.
An estimated 20 percent of veterans from recent conflicts (i.e., Iraq and after) suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and/or major depression, and their suicide rate is 50 percent higher than that of the general population. Their jobless rate is higher than that of the general population, contributing to stress and depression, and as of 2014, almost 50,000 veterans were identified as homeless.
Yet as Republicans in Congress gloat over their plans to gut HUD funds and requirements that insurance cover mental health care, GOP representatives such as Rodney Frelinghuysen are taking care to make sure even the most disturbed retain one perk: access to guns.
Frelinghuysen was one of a GOP majority that recently voted to overturn a requirement that the Department of Veterans Affairs enter into the national gun database the names of veterans who have been deemed incapable of managing their own affairs and require a representative to handle their funds.
In the eyes of Republicans such as Frelinghuysen, just because a person can’t handle mundane aspects of their everyday life doesn’t mean they can’t handle a gun; under the new rules, mentally ill veterans would need to be individually deemed dangerous by a judge in order to be denied a gun permit.
Instead of providing returning veterans with healthcare, however (not to mention not putting them in harm’s way in futile military ventures in the first place), Frelinghuysen and his cronies’ priority is to ensure secure their “Constitutional right” to guns.
One of only two Republican hold-outs was New Jersey’s Leonard Lance (R-7). Lance’s Westfield office has been targeted by demonstrators every week, and unlike Frelinghuysen he faced his constituents in person with his constituents at a Town Hall meeting: evidence that persistence in being heard can result in a change of heart, or at least votes.