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We all fly our flags proudly on certain days – Memorial Day, July 4, Veterans Day – but do we really know what it takes to defend our country?

It takes brave men and women who put their lives and limbs on the line to defend our freedom and keep us safe.

Some make the ultimate sacrifice.

But for those who return –scarred, emotionally and/or physically – we do an injustice.

It seems older generations of returning veterans were given far more than just a parade. They were given the respect – and the services – they so rightfully deserved.

Today’s returning vets are not as lucky.

It has been reported that over the next decade there will be more than one million new veterans returning home.

Though they currently go through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help them ease from active service to civilian life, most vets say it is a broken system.

And those who enter the VA system often get lost, according to experts.

Up until six months ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had been talking about closing the only VA hospital in Queens County – St. Albans.

Jennifer Sammartino, Public Affairs Officer for the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, said that health care at St. Albans includes Community Living Center services, primary and specialty care and residential psycho-social rehabilitation.

She said that there are 4,000 people served on an outpatient basis through clinics; 179 in domiciliary; and 174 in the Community Living Center.

Considering these numbers, we need to fight to not only keep the facility open, but to upgrade it.

And we need to expand services for returning men and women to include resume help, job placement and training, more medical and psychological assistance, credit and home mortgage counseling, tuition assistance and scholarships, tax relief and credits and extension of filing deadlines, re-employment protection, and even life insurance benefits.

The government has a few programs, including America Works, which helps homeless veterans, but experts say the contracts are so undersized they are only able to help a small percentage of the population.

Though the Obama administration has made the issue a priority, it is still not enough.

After all, would the United States be so united without our veterans?


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