To the editor:
Bush supporters say, "Support our troops." I certainly agree, but the soldier can be supported without supporting the war. And lack of benefits for every veteran certainly does not embody "Support our troops."
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 28 million veterans are currently using VA benefits, while another 70 million are potential candidates. As soldiers return from Iraq, these numbers rise. Estimates of the fiscal 2005 budget shortfalls vary, but Veterans of Foreign Wars commander-in-chief Edward S. Banas Sr. says it's $2.6 billion dollars short to fully meet needs. In Missouri alone, $92.5 million more than proposed is necessary to meet current health-care needs. Lack of funding will prevent many soldiers from receiving their disability pensions. Currently, 500,000 cases are pending, and just as many still remain unprocessed.
Homelessness is also of great concern. The VA estimates 299,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and 500,000 experience it once within a given year. The VA also estimates that one in three persons seen sleeping in doorways and alleys is a veteran. I'll think about that the next time I see someone under the I-55 underpass.
One might try to counter this argument by suggesting that the recent increase in the 2006 budget will satisfy these urgencies, but even the VA says this will serve only the neediest within the system. Every soldier who puts his life on the line deserves these basic benefits from the Bush administration.
JENNIFER BALSMAN, Perryville, Mo.