William Pilgrim: The Price of War on Working Men and Women

Social activists and American Roots duo William Pilgrim & The All Grows Up caused a stir with the release of their new music video "Farewell” – (You Tube), This video confronts the passive myth of supporting our troops and highlights the price of war on working men and women. The song documents a soldier's suicide letter back to his loved one back home.  "The idea of a just war is a myth" says PM Romero of William Pilgrim, "wars are waged for profit and soldiers pay the cost." William Pilgrim & The All Grows Up say enough's enough.

2012 will set the record for the highest number of military suicides since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  With nearly half of these deaths occurring with privately owned guns, the Pentagon and Congress are moving to establish new policies which would attempt to separates at-risk veterans from their personal firearms.

As this delicate dance between government and gun rights advocate groups takes media's center stage over 800,000 veterans sit in limbo waiting for rulings on disability claims.

Veterans in sparsely populated states often encounter quick resolution of their compensation claims for problems ranging from back injuries to post-traumatic stress disorder while those in metropolitan areas languish.  The geographic inequity of VA wait times is fully detailed for the first time in an analysis by The Bay Citizen and its parent organization, the Center for Investigative Reporting.  In California, veterans who file claims with any of the VA’s three regional offices – in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego – wait more than nine months on average. “It’s a slap in the face,” said Adam Fields, a former Marine from Modesto, who has been waiting since November 2010 for a ruling on his claim for benefits for traumatic brain injury. (By AARON GLANTZ, SHANE SHIFFLETT on August 29, 2012).

So far, change has headed in the wrong direction, despite increased media and political scrutiny. Nationwide, the VA took an average of more than eight months to process a claim in June – about 50 percent longer than the year before. Veterans in New York and North Texas waited the longest, at more than a year on average. Those who appeal a denied claim wait 3½ years for an answer.

“We’re seeing people break and snap like we’ve never seen before,” said Shad Meshad, a Vietnam veteran and former combat medic who heads up the Los Angeles-based National Veterans Foundation.  “When soldiers come home from two, three or four tours with post traumatic stress disorder and hit these kinds of walls, they can get frustrated and just give up,” Meshad said.  Last May, a federal appeals court in San Francisco found 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

Delays have increased despite a new $300 million computer system and 3,300 claims processors hired since 2010 – 765 of them for additional positions. The department has pledged to eliminate the claims backlog by 2015, but VA data shows the number of veterans waiting for a decision is growing – to more than

907,000 as of July 30, with 832,000 of them waiting for disability or survivor benefits, while thousands more seek a pension or GI Bill education benefits. To date, the computer system has been launched at just four of the VA’s regional offices, none of them in California. The vast majority of claims still are in paper file folders, which must be physically passed from one claims representative to another. By 2015, Allison Hickey, the agency’s undersecretary for benefits said, all 58 offices will be computerized. In the meantime, new claims are arriving more quickly than the backlog is being cleared, so without dramatic improvement, disabled veterans will face even longer wait times in the future.

In 2011, 1.3 million veterans filed claims for benefits, according to VA data, a combination of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and aging Vietnam veterans, many with new claims based on illnesses the government now acknowledges stem from Agent Orange exposure. Since 2010, the agency has seen the number of new claims filed annually increase by 48 percent, while the number of claims representatives has increased by 5 percent.

"With the billions in profits made from these wars by defense contractors and energy companies, for us to even be debating minimal disability coverage for soldiers is beyond ludicrous" says Pilgrim.  "It is time for people to put action behind their hollow words of support."

William Pilgrim's new video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqRW1VxZTbA

 

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Moonlight Graham Records is an extension of the iconic Americana-inspired clothing and retail store, Moonlight Graham, located in Orange County CA’s historic Orange Circle, and focuses on a variety of established and up-and-coming artists, bands and musicians inspired by punk rock and a DIY indie spirit and creative work ethic. With an artist roster featuring releases by John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X, Jack Grisham (TSOL) and the Manic Low, and many more soon to be announced, Moonlight Graham Recordslooks to become a unique bastion for inspired rock and roll and roots music. More information on Moonlight Graham Records is available at: www.moonlightgrahamrecords.com

 

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