I want to salute the Post-Gazette and reporter Tracie Mauriello for the April 16 article "Pittsburgh Area Veterans Hit Hard by Backlog of Claims." As a former Army major in the Judge Advocate General's Corps and now a civilian lawyer for 20 years, I am keenly aware of the struggles faced by our men and women in uniform.
Our nation's failure to provide for these brave service members as they transition back to civilian life is an American tragedy. I have represented soldiers who were desperate to access the benefits they earned while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Government bureaucracy is their faceless enemy.
Throughout the region, veterans find themselves in dire straits as they beg for benefits promised to them. Some are homeless; some battle prescription drug addiction, self-medicating for injuries; many need mental health support. Thousands of them end up in a place they never imagined: the criminal justice system.
In Washington County, Veterans Court was established to handle these kinds of cases; unfortunately none of our jurists is a veteran. The voters I meet on the campaign trail are shocked to hear that, and they are angry when they learn about the plight of our returning soldiers. My campaign has given a voice to those men and women. Thank you for amplifying the message. It is time to show our veterans that America really is a grateful nation.
The writer is running for a seat on the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.