Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Old, new vets clash over IAVA chief comment

May. 15, 2009 - 05:50PM   |   Last Updated: May. 15, 2009 - 05:50PM  |  
  • Filed Under

With five words, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America opened a rift among veterans groups that could derail efforts to improve mental health care and other benefits.

  • Please enable JavaScript for your browser in order to use armytimes.com.com.
Want to read more?
Current Subscribers
Access to Army Times Prime is free for current Army Times subscribers.
Log in
Haven't registered online?
Activate Account
New Subscribers
Start your subscription to Army Times Prime for as little as 59¢ a week!
Subscribe

With five words, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America opened a rift among veterans groups that could derail efforts to improve mental health care and other benefits.

The dispute — with older veterans complaining that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are getting too much attention and too much money while they wait in long lines for medical appointments — was sparked by a statement issued May 11 by Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief of IAVA, about the fatal shooting of five service members at a counseling center in Iraq, allegedly by another U.S. service member.

Trying to put the reported case of friendly fire in perspective, Rieckhoff said: "Unlike during the Vietnam War, today's military is an professional, all-volunteer force."

He went on: "There have been only five cases of intentional fratricide by U.S. service members in Iraq. But these incidents, however rare, draw public attention to an important issue: the enormous stress on our armed forces. Much more must be done to address troops' psychological injuries before they reach a crisis point."

The phrase "Unlike during the Vietnam War" is being taken as a jab at the professionalism of Vietnam veterans. Joe Morgan, a Vietnam veteran and president of Veterans of Modern Warfare, said Rieckhoff's statement has "stirred a fierce and justifiable outrage by all veterans, not just the Vietnam veterans he maligned."

The head of the nation's largest organization for combat veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, also criticized the statement, saying Rieckhoff "doesn't need to be reminded that every entitlement, every service and every program Iraq and Afghanistan warriors enjoy — many of whom are VFW members — is because previous generations of, as he regrettably put it, ‘nonprofessionals' demanded and fought to be properly recognized and respected for their service to our country," said Glen Gardner Jr., VFW commander. "He owes a sincere apology to our brethren."

Reickhoff did issue an apology. "We have tremendous respect for all generations of vets — especially Vietnam vets — and would never want to diss any other veteran, generation of veterans or veterans group," he said in a subsequent statement. "It was not our intent to offend anyone or disparage anyone. If we did, we sincerely apologize."

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, said the squabble among veterans of different generations shows two things: "New veterans don't know much about older veterans, and don't feel any ties to them, and everyone is worried that someone is going to get more than they or something better than them."

Filner has faced criticism as he has pushed to improve benefits for World War II veterans who served in the Philippine Scouts and the Merchant Marine, two groups who were promised veterans benefits that were never delivered.

Some of the opposition to his initiative has been based on the view that spending money on older veterans when there are pressing needs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is wrong. But Filner said he thinks everyone needs to be treated fairly.

"A broken promise for one veteran is broken promise for all veterans," he said.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Army Times

This Week's Army Times

The Army at 420K
One retired colonel is campaigning for more cuts -- and Congress is listening

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook