The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

From Iraq to Boston:
A disabled veteran, single mother - and homeless

Sep 22, 2003

After Army Sergeant Vanessa Turner, a 41-year- old veteran of 10 years, collapsed in 130 degree heat in Iraq, she suffered heart failure.

She survived, received a medical discharge and was sent home. That was only the beginning of her problems.

When she returned to Boston with her daughter, she could not find a job. Her army disability check was not enough even to cover the rent on an apartment. Neither could she get treatment for a leg that had suffered nerve damage. The VA told her she would have to wait several months to see a doctor.

In fact, Turner was one of the few lucky returning vets, because her case was taken up by the local news media. Then, of course, politicians rushed to secure her a job and an apartment. As for the VA, it suddenly found an immediate appointment for her.

But the same cannot be said about many other veterans, especially combat veterans. Said Ron Conley, national commander of the American Legion, "Current veterans that we're making today are facing the same problem that previous veterans are facing."

The fact is that a big proportion of veterans suffer from many of society's most desperate ills. Almost three-quarters of them, for example, suffer from alcohol, drug, or mental problems. Veterans also make up one-quarter of the estimated 3.5 million homeless people in this country. Many veterans wind up in prison. According to a special report released by the Bureau of Justice in January 2000, over 225,000 veterans were held in the country's prisons or jails, imprisoned at a rate far higher than the rest of society.

Despite all the talk from every single politician and businessman about the need to "honor" soldiers for their "sacrifices" in the capitalists' wars and foreign adventures, almost nothing is provided to help them return to civilian life. In fact, wounded soldiers now being treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington even discovered the government was charging them $8 a day for their meals!

Today's soldiers returning from Iraq may be treated to speeches, parades and medal ceremonies, but they soon find themselves thrown away on the trash heap when the news photographers shut down their cameras.