Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Left to Fend for Themselves


The Iraq War officially ended for the U.S. in December of 2011, when President Obama sent the last batch of American troops home. However, despite the president’s campaign promises to send the troops home, they are still very much at war in Afghanistan, and each time the issue comes up it seems their trip home get pushed farther and farther back. Unfortunately, once home the problems were all but over. Veterans are having various issues with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), they fight overseas just to come home and fight for decent health care. What is more disturbing is that American soldiers are not the only veterans of the conflict. Thousands of Iraqi citizens volunteered to help the U.S. soldiers rid the country of the Taliban militia. These people fought and died next to U.S. soldiers, in many cases saving soldiers lives, all for the promise of a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). Now, veterans of both Iraq and Afghanistan, from the U.S. and the countries of conflict, are being left to fend for themselves.

Interpreters have arguably the most important job on the front lines. They help American soldiers communicate with potentially hostile forces. They risk their lives on and off the battlefield to help make sure American soldiers are as safe as possible. In order to save the lives of American soldiers, they must put themselves in mortal danger. If even close friends of a citizen find out that they have taken a job as an interpreter, they are liable to tell Taliban militia members. The Taliban treats any interpreters as traitors to the Iraqi people. In many cases, they have found known interpreters, asked for their keys and badges to U.S. army bases, so they can sneak in and attack from within, though it should be noted that to date there is no proof that any interpreter for the American troops ever betrayed American trust. The reward for their loyalty to the United States is that they have become targets of Taliban violence. In many cases the Taliban has turned to killing members of their family just to punish the infidels.

Interpreters for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are just as much veterans as U.S. soldiers, and they are left behind to fend off the strengthening Taliban by themselves. Interpreters are not paid very much for their services. In fact, they are lucky if they receive even a thousand dollars a month. However, they are promised SIVs for their services, which is why so many Iraqi and Afghan citizens volunteered. In that vein, interpreters have to pass a stringent background check before being accepted. After serving at least a year as an interpreter, those who have multiple letters of recommendation, and have been threatened by the Taliban are allowed to apply for one of a few thousand SIVs. Many have complained that they thought they would be processed in a matter of months, yet it often takes years because the military is hiring an exponentially greater number of interpreters compared to the number of available visas. The Department of Defense (DoD) is worried that some may become interpreters just to do more damage once they are citizens, but not one SIV recipient has ever been found guilty of anything of the sort. The result is that the wait is getting longer and more and more interpreters are dying while waiting for their visa.

Regular U.S. military veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan have had to experience similar waits. Countless soldiers are coming back to the U.S. to find out that all the injuries and other ailments they are coming home with are not being tended to in a prompt manner. The VA has been accused of making veterans wait months just to be seen by a doctor, and many more to be given treatment. There have been many cases where veterans die waiting for treatment. Countless whistleblowers have come out against the terrible conditions in veterans hospitals, but they are often ostracized if even allowed to keep their jobs. Nurse Valerie Riviello is one of the nurses who spoke out. She complained that there was a “savage” use of restraints that was against protocol, the stealing of medication by nurses, filthy work environments, and insufficient food and medication.

The few Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that are getting treatment are complaining about the excessive issuance of prescription medication. In one out of three cases, veterans are taking over ten pills each. The veterans are complaining that many times the drugs prescribed are not what they are designed for.For example, one mentioned that she was prescribed anti-psychotics to sleep. This is causing many veterans coming from Iraq and Afghanistan to quit taking the pills prescribed for off label ailments, preferring to instead fend for themselves.

By Eddie Meija

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