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A Brief History of American Veterans Affairs

By: D.J. Schaefer

Plato once put it, “only the dead have seen the end of war” and veterans will follow where war is. After every war the fighting and killing switch is suddenly shut off for the soldiers accustomed to battle. The war is over, they either won or lost, and “home” is the only place left to march. They often return home to what is a changed country with changed people, who will either love them or hate them. They then try to adjust to a life of “peace”, always at a distance from civilians. Their experiences have changed them and it is difficult to pick up where they left off. War turns these green recruits into different men after their experiences. Many soldiers come home with many serious physical and psychological problems. America has had over two centuries of dealing with our former soldiers, starting with the early sparks of the Revolutionary War. Since then, America has been in approximately 66 wars and conflicts. The attitudes towards our veterans have shifted throughout these times; from the extremes of the parades for WWII vets to the putrid disrespect of Vietnam veterans. As long as the United States of America is a country, it will need to continue to pay back veterans who gave so much in the name of their nation.

From the dawn of war there would be veterans. That though did not mean they would get the respect and care that they deserved. The Greek armies of ancient times simply considered the few soldiers that made it to veterans simply citizens, with no difference amongst anyone. After a Roman soldier was done with his 30 years of compulsory service he would simply be sent out to farmlands at the empire’s borders and expected to bring stability to the area. This though was at least something. As time progressed and as wars became ever so more frequent veterans were completely ignored. Throughout these times, especially in the medieval and dark ages, soldiers were simply dismissed after a war had ceased. Thus men returned to their countries in masses, which greatly destabilized the country which the influx unemployed soldiers. During the Britain’s Civil Wars in the 1600s was clear sign of the problem of a country dealing with former soldiers. When the war ended, parliament had no need for the army and no longer wished to pay the great sums necessary to keep the army together. This caused enormous resentment among the soldiers who demanded better treatment from the government and was instrumental in provoking the army's intervention in politics. Governments have invariably been suspicious of veterans as men trained for war who seem to have no place in a more settled society once the firing stops. It’s an idea that has bred revolution from in France in 1789 to the Afghanistan’s mujahedeen (soldiers of God) in 1989. There had been no major reception for veterans until the United States came into being.

The United States from its beginnings at Plymouth Colony in 1636. They were at war with the Native American tribe, the Pequots. The Pilgrims after the war passed a law which stated that disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony. Then later on the true United States developed a pension plan in 1776 for incentive to join the Continental Army. Though the care of the veterans would be led by local and state efforts with no funding from the government. That all changed though in 1811, when the first government funded medical facility was created in Philadelphia, PA. There would be a few more government funded veterans. This though would be nothing considering the boom of veterans’ organizations after the Civil War. The benefits though were very poor and only offered to those who had been wounded in the War. The finally in 1890 the soldiers were finally decompensated and were given their just benefits. The unlucky former Confederates though were out to fend for themselves in the post-war South. The next reform of the veteran’s benefit system...
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