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The close relationship between top officials in various branches of the military and Veterans Administration has been disturbing for some time now.  If two unrelated events today are any indication, they're about to reach the breaking point.

First off, the Army's public affairs unit is broadcasting pathetic Obama smears from milbloggers, contravening direct orders from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to stay out of partisan politics:

The Army's public affairs office publishes a daily roundup of Army-related news called "Stand To" -- named for the set of procedures combat units do just prior to dawn, when they go to full alert for a possible enemy attack. The daily wrapup contains links to mainstream media articles, Army press releases, foreign media stories and blogs. It's similar to the Defense Department's Early Bird -- but much briefer, and obviously more focused on the Army.

Tuesday's edition contained an entry under "WHAT'S BEING SAID IN BLOGS" that struck me as unusual -- both for its headline and its patent political bias:

Obama: World peace thru surrender (KDIHH)

This is coming from a military address, and they're broadcasting partisan political statements.  It's the digital equivalent of showing up to a partisan event in full uniform, as far as I'm concerned.

This appears like yet another example of the unusually cozy relationship which has developed over the last generation or so between the military and the right wing of American politics -- an unhealthy development, to say the least.

Last time I checked, soldiers and civilian officials didn't swear an oath to either political party or to their current president. Rather, they swear their fidelity to the Constitution, and the ideals it embodies, including the subordination of the military to civil authority. Adm. Mullen is right: As we enter a contentious election year, where issues of national security are likely to dominate the debate, the military needs to stay on the sidelines.

But they are not staying on the sidelines, and the next example shows that their partisanship is having real-life consequences, more concerned with making a political point than saving a veteran's life.

The VA rejected an Afghanistan veteran's disability claim for PTSD last month, citing his membership in VoteVets.org as a reason for the denial.

Staff Sergeant Will King retired from the Army in late 2003, after serving in both the first Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan.  As one of the first troops into the Afghan theater after 9/11, Will had been awarded a Bronze Star after participating in fierce fighting in the Shah-e-Kot Valley  in March 2002 [...]

As the months turned to years after his retirement, however, Will started having problems as the Iraq War dragged on.  Depressed and unable to sleep, he thought it might be PTSD.  Because, as those who study PTSD know, this is perfectly normal: The symptoms of PTSD frequently have a delayed onset that can take months or years to fully materialize.  That's why, in April 2007, Will filed a claim with the VA for combat-related PTSD.  The VA eventually agreed with Will and diagnosed him with mild PTSD.  But Will felt like his condition was worse than that.  And to boot, he thought it was getting worse.  So Will appealed, and filed another disability claim with the VA in November 2007: He felt his symptoms were serious enough to warrant an increase in his disability rating from "mild" to "moderate."*

Unfortunately for Will, the VA denied his claim six months later, in May 2008.  And while I won't challenge the VA's ultimate decision (I'm not a doctor), I find it repulsive that they cited Will's membership in VoteVets.org as a reason to deny his claim [...]

Faced with the fact that Will was unemployed, occasionally suicidal, and failing out of school, the VA had to come up with a reason to deny Will's claim that his PTSD was worthy of a higher disability rating.  To do that, they minimized (his) "troubles."  Then, they brought up his membership in VoteVets.org:  

"you are currently involved with VoteVets.org"

"you are currently involved with a veteran's advocacy group and have traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with and lobby members of Congress on behalf of this organization"

The VA then used his membership with VoteVets.org to tell Will:

"you are actively involved and able to control and manage your symptoms sufficiently to engage in activities required by your involvement."

This soldier is not even a high-profile member of VoteVets, just someone who spent 2 days with them in Washington several months ago.  I don't know what's more troubling - that the VA KNOWS who shows up to political rallies (must be that new panopticon they've been testing), or that they're willing to use participation in an organization as the reason for denying care to the sick.  We send these soldiers off to war to supposedly defend Constitutional freedoms, and then when the soldier upon returning home tries to exercise one, namely the freedom of speech, he is denied treatment.

The mission creep of multiple branches of the military from a nonpartisan force which carries out orders to a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee endangers democracy.  It has no place in the culture or organization of the military, and it must be denounced whenever it rouses itself.  This is completely outrageous.

Originally posted to dday on Thu Jun 12, 2008 at 06:28 PM PDT.

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