I was at a dinner party last night when a friend of mine asked me what was coming up in this weeks Gambit. I explained how I had written a story on veterans health care. I told him about Tiffany Lilliman, a young soldier from Marrero who was severely injured from a rocket attack in Afghanistan, and how difficult it was for her to get the medical coverage she deserved after she was discharged from the U.S. Army. I said there were now thousands of vets like Lilliman coming back to the U.S. and having a hard time making their way through bureaucratic maze of the Veterans Administration system. I added that its an old story disabled veterans have always had it tough.
I noticed his eyes begin to roll.
Its even worse here because theres no central hospital. The main hospital was knocked out after the storm, I blurted out.
You mean theres no hospital for vets in New Orleans? he asked.
No. Theres no VA hospital for vets in a 23-parish area.
He started looking around the room. I knew I had lost him and I wanted to scream. These are men and women who are coming back from a war agree or disagree, but they thought they were fighting for this country and they are damaged goods: missing limbs and other body parts, and permanently scarred, physically and psychologically. And they have to keep on fighting when they get home in order to get adequate medical care.
Yeah, its an old story, and, damn it, its worth repeating.