Do we support our Troops?

A common phrase which I hear a lot these days is “I support our troops”.  Good.  Regardless of personal political opinions we should recognize the sacrifice of the individual in the military who defends our freedoms here at home.  I expect “Troops” conjures up images in our mind such as the one below and others which can be found on the Department of Defense Web site of our Troops working towards goals and objectives to keep us safe.  Who wouldn’t support these fine young people sacrificing for our benefit.  Thank you for your service.

While it is important that we support our troops while on active duty our responsibility to support them doesn’t end there, it continues after they return home.  Unfortunately my experience as a father and family rights activist, Army Brat and Veteran, and member of the Critical Incident Management Team with a NYS law enforcement agency tell me that what we say is far different than what we do when we talk of supporting our veterans, more specifically our MALE Veterans.

A big part of the problem as I see it is men are treated at best as disposable members of society and at worst as  perpetrators of violence and abuse who we need to protect society from.  This bias against men works to foster the public perception that men don’t need any assistance with issues related to their service or due to their being males and in addition it is working to hinder men seeking the assistance they need by not providing male specific outreach and services.  We see this in the lack of programs and services directed towards the specific issues that men face, ignoring their problems.

First the stats:  Since the first Gulf War 97% of combat deaths and casualties have been men and they compose over 90% of US Veterans.  90% of homeless people are men and a large portion of that are veterans.  80% of suicides are men, and a large portion of them are also veterans. In 2016 males accounted for 86% of active duty enlisted personnel and 84.7% of officers.  If we look at longevity as a measure of overall health we find men have a life expectancy (76.2 years) 4.9 years younger than females (81.2 years).  White females life expectancy (81.4 years) eclipses black females (78.4 years), white males (76.7 years), and white females life expectancy is a whopping 14.1 years over black men (72.3 years).   It’s clear that there are many issues related to men which result in negative outcomes evidenced by life expectancy.

I go to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs website under “Health” and “Conditions and Treatment” I find a link to “WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUES”  which brings me to the “Office of Women’s Health Services” which links to a study to determine female veterans barriers to receiving care.  Even though men account for 85% of veterans there is no male (men) specific link to resources designed towards the needs of men.  A search of “America’s Male Veterans” returns hits to “Women’s health Issues”!   There is lacking any link to male specific health issues (showing the value the VA places on men), and there is no reference to male specific health issues available (showing the health field’s lack of attention to men)!  The links to “women’s healthcare” include “comprehensive primary care”, “reproductive health”, “child care”, “domestic violence”, “culture change”, and “Special Groups” which is “homeless female veterans”.  Which leads me to ask, DON’T MEN HAVE MALE SPECIFIC ISSUES IN THESE SAME CATEGORIES?

The VA classifies sexual assault and sexual harassment under the heading “Military Sexual Trauma” (MST) and when I look at the issue as portrayed by the VA I see “1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men REPORT a history to the VA during screenings”.  For those of us who deal with male victims of domestic abuse, harassment, and sexual assault we understand the number one problem with male victims is their reluctance to report!  It is only when I dig through the materials do I find that almost HALF the victims in the program for MST are MALE!  One can only wonder, given the lack of male specific referrals and information, how many men are suffering in silence?

Usually when I author one of these truthful perspectives about the lack of male specific services I receive a ton of responses about being “anti-female”, to the point that I now include the (obvious) disclaimer that I am NOT promoting a reduction in services for females and/or female Veterans.  Indeed, to treat female Veterans like we now treat male Veterans woulds still be mistreating A VETERAN.  The VA (and US) should treat all Veterans equally based upon their individual needs understanding that their sex, race, religion, and national origin may require different outreaches and programs to achieve an equal outcome.  Veterans are not widgets, all the same, they are real people who have sacrificed for all of us and they deserve individual attention to their needs.

Men account for the vast majority of the homeless and the bulk of those men are MALE VETERAN’S.  Men account for the bulk of suicides and many of those are MALE VETERAN’S.  You can’t treat men as disposable members of society who don’t have male specific issues which require services and programs and then say “I support our Veteran’s” as the bulk of Veteran’s are MEN.  Disregarding the health issues of men is to disregard the health issues of Veteran’s.

If you would like to advocate for Veterans (feel free to cut and paste or send the link to this article) you can reach the VA here https://www.va.gov/landing2_contact.htm, and the White House is here https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact, The US Secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs can be found here https://www.defense.gov/Resources/Contact-DoD/

They stood up for us, we should stand up for them.

When we memorialize those who gave all, in perspective http://prospect.org/article/american-war-dead-numbers the vast majority are men, and it is an issue for our younger generation that men still have to register for the draft (under penalty) and women don’t https://nymensactionnetwork.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/welcome-to-adulthood-gen-z-advice-for-boys-aging-into-men/.

Equal rights, equal responsibilities, equal access to services.

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