How We’re Failing Our War Heroes: 15 Ways America Neglects Veterans Who Deserve Better

Veterans of the United States armed forces have faced significant challenges, encountering instances where promises made to them were not kept. Here are 15 poignant examples where U.S. veterans were failed by the nation they served.

1. The Bonus Army March

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In 1932, during the Great Depression, thousands of World War I veterans marched on Washington, D.C., to demand early payment of a promised bonus. The government responded by forcibly dispersing the protesters, using the U.S. Army, which led to violent clashes and several deaths.

2. Agent Orange Exposure

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During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used Agent Orange to clear foliage, unknowingly exposing American soldiers to harmful dioxins. The long-term health effects, including cancer and birth defects in their children, were initially denied by the government, delaying healthcare and compensation for affected veterans.

3. Gulf War Syndrome

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Veterans of the 1991 Gulf War reported various unexplained illnesses, which were initially dismissed by the U.S. government as psychological. It took years of advocacy by veterans for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recognize and begin to address these health issues appropriately.

4. Lack of Armor in Iraq and Afghanistan

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In the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, many American service members lacked adequately armored vehicles to protect them from IEDs and other threats. This oversight led to unnecessary casualties among troops serving in these conflict zones.

5. Neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center

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In 2007, investigative reports revealed substandard living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a premier military hospital tasked with treating wounded U.S. servicemen and women from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

6. VA Wait Time Scandal

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In 2014, it was discovered that numerous VA hospitals were falsifying wait times, resulting in some veterans dying while waiting for care. This scandal highlighted systemic issues within the VA, leading to public outcry and demands for reform.

7. Atomic Veterans

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During the 1940s and 1950s, troops who participated in nuclear tests were exposed to high levels of radiation. For decades, these ‘Atomic Veterans’ were denied information and compensation for their exposure due to government secrecy.

8. Mustard Gas Experimentation

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During World War II, the U.S. military secretly exposed thousands of its troops to mustard gas, to research the effects of chemical warfare. Many of these veterans suffered severe health issues, and the government only acknowledged the experiments decades later.

9. Depleted Uranium Exposure in the Gulf War

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U.S. military personnel exposed to depleted uranium used in munitions during the Gulf War experienced health problems, but the government was slow to recognize and address these concerns, leading to accusations of neglect.

10. The Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

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From the 1950s through 1987, U.S. Marines and their families at Camp Lejeune drank and bathed in water contaminated with harmful chemicals. Despite knowing about the contamination, the response was delayed, affecting the health of thousands.

11. Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans

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Navy veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange but were long denied VA benefits because they were not “boots on the ground.” It took decades and significant legal battles for these veterans to receive recognition and compensation.

12. The Edgewood Arsenal Chemical Experiments

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From the 1950s to the 1970s, the U.S. Army conducted chemical testing on soldiers at Edgewood Arsenal without their informed consent, exposing them to nerve agents and psychochemicals. The health impacts were significant, and many veterans struggled to obtain care.

13. Operation Crossroads Nuclear Tests

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Participants in the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in 1946 were exposed to radiation, but the effects were not fully communicated, and veterans faced health issues that were often not acknowledged or treated by the VA.

14. Denial of PTSD Claims

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For years, veterans with PTSD faced skepticism and significant hurdles in receiving treatment and compensation from the VA. It was not until the 1980s that PTSD was formally recognized, leaving many veterans of earlier conflicts without support.

15. Discharge Status and Benefits Denial

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Many veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, often due to behaviors stemming from untreated mental health issues or misconduct related to PTSD, have been denied VA benefits, despite their service and the circumstances surrounding their discharge.

Honoring the Sacrifice

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These instances represent a failure to fulfill the covenant between a nation and its military service members. Acknowledging these shortcomings is the first step towards ensuring that veterans receive the respect, care, and support they deserve.

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For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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