Saturday, September 13, 2008

John McCain - War and Divorce

I vote on issues and not personalities (even if that disappoints Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager - “This election is not about issues,” Davis said. “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.”)

Divorce is not a consideration in my evaluation of a candidate.
Yet, when divorce happens, it can be a learning tool that voters can use to see how the candidate responded to the situation. Does the candidate see the causes of the divorce and see the need to prevent the situation from repeating itself … in his own personal life or in others?

While some cite John McCain’s divorce from his first wife, Carol, in 1980 as a “personal deficiency”, it should be noted that McCain has been married to his current wife, Cindy, since 1980 (one month after his divorce was finalized). That’s a long marriage by all standards.

John McCain life has been well documented including his return home as a disabled POW.
Physically, the injuries were evident … but what about the emotional toll?
The toll was felt by the soldier but also by the soldier’s wife and children.

Carol McCain tells her story that includes an endorsement that McCain “is the best man for president.” She holds no bitterness stating yet I have to wonder how the war affected his family relationships.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) report that “Twenty percent of married troops in Iraq say they are planning a divorce. Multiple tours and inadequate time between deployments increase rates of combat stress by 50 percent. These psychological injuries exact a severe toll on military families.”
IAVA supports the creation of new VA programs to provide family and marital counseling for veterans receiving VA mental health treatment.

These emotional problems are not going away. Just this week, Department of Veterans Affairs reported that veterans are killing themselves in record numbers.

While those of in Minnesota’s First District are well aware of Congressman Tim Walz dedication for Veterans and their families, the battles still go on and the next President and his administration will have to address these problems.

What can we expect from a President McCain and Vice President Palin ?

Previously, I wrote “How long have Republicans opposed PTSD ?” , documenting McCain’s lack of support for funding these types of funding. Additionally, McCain was not supportive of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 which was only passed since it was included in the Supplemental Appropriations for war funding. Patrick Campbell, chief legislative counsel for IAVA said "Here you had John McCain opposing a proposal that was endorsed by every veterans' service organization, endorsed by a majority of the Senate and two-thirds of the House, with huge bipartisan support on either side of the aisle, and John McCain said it's too generous."

And what about Alaska’s governor ?
Commenting on Veterans care, Palin said on September 22, 2006 “It's a shame that they have to fight for that. That it's not just a given, that promises made will be promises kept by the state and federal government. It will be my job that, rest assured, the promises in health care and for benefits due them are provided. It's unfair though, and it's disrespectful to make a promise that we can't keep. That being, that we'll provide all health care facilities and services here in the state of Alaska. Unreasonable, disrespectful to make that kind of promise.”
Palin should be concerned. Alaska ranks at the top of military veterans (17.1% according to a 2002 report) and at the top of suicides per 100,000 veterans with 23.6 (according to a 2004 report). Compared to the past, a larger percentage of returning troops are physically or emotionally wounded, says Jerry Jenkins, executive director of Anchorage Community Mental Health Services. "We're seeing a greater increase of kids in need already, because the families have split up," Angie Aiken of the North Star Behavioral Health System says. "Then when the parents return, it's quite difficult for them, because often the parents who are returning are traumatized in some way."
I can find no reporting on this issue of any action being taken by Governor Palin.

But some Governors are taking action on their own. Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) pressed leaders of the Montana National Guard to explore its treatment of combat veterans and implement necessary changes. The Guard responded by forming a PTSD task force. After more than a year of study and exploration, the Guard announced it had implemented more than a dozen changes to its system in an effort to address PTSD and traumatic brain injury in returning soldiers. Barack Obama wants the Montana Program to be implemented in every state.

Voters should be less concerned the candidate’s family status and more concerned about the policies they will advance to address the stress that military families experience.

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