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Governmental Union Chief Says "Veterans Are Going To Kill Themselves Over Shutdown"


Dear President Cox:

One of the most insulting and misleading stereotypes about Veterans today is that of the “Veteran as victim.”

While VA is dedicated to helping all Veterans, particularly those who are truly at risk, the notion that most Veterans are so fragile from their service that the slightest hint of hardship can push them to the brink of mental breakdown or even self-harm is preposterous, which is why Veterans and Veteran advocates are continuously fighting1 this shopworn canard.

As leader of the largest union representing VA employees, many of whom are Veterans, you should know how harmful this stereotype is to Veterans, especially those attempting to enter the civilian workforce following their service. That is why I was surprised and disappointed to see one of the American Federation of Government Employees’ (AFGE) presidents pushing the “Veteran as victim” myth, and going so far as to exploit the real tragedy of Veteran suicide to make political arguments about the partial government shutdown.

“If this shutdown does not stop, we are going to have fatalities. We’re going to have suicides,” AFGE Local President Edward M. Canales said earlier this week, according to ABC News.2

While it is apparent some AFGE leaders consider Veterans as victims, allow me to inform you of the true character traits of those who have worn the uniform:

Veterans are models of civic engagement, holding stronger ties to their communities and volunteering and voting at higher rates than their non-Veteran counterparts.
The Veterans’ unemployment rate is lower than the national average, in part because companies5 often look to hire Veterans for complex and demanding jobs, citing their leadership and work ethic.
In short, America’s Veterans are model citizens and leaders, and almost every American recognizes that. AFGE Local President Canales’ attempt to use Veterans as pawns in a political debate while exploiting the serious issue of Veteran suicide is nothing short of disgraceful.

I ask you to apologize publicly for your AFGE colleague’s reckless comments and to outline the steps you plan to take to ensure AFGE leaders demonstrate proper respect for our nation’s heroes.

I look forward to your response.

I dont normally include entire letters in situations like this but I think it’s fair here. While I agree with the VA Secretary’s sentiment, the idea that troops and veterans aren’t used as political pawns is insane. It’s constant. There’s a reason why there are so many tweets about “supports our veterans and active duty!” It works. People see veterans as one whole person rather than millions of individuals. They group everyone in as a Sad Sack Sally moping through life like a giant Eeyore Headass. In reality, most veterans are ready to tackle whatever comes their way.

Now, do people need help paying bills and shit when the government is shut down? Absolutely. But there’s no doubt that the union leader said this shit for shock value and it’s trassshhhh. It’s bullshit because not only is it making the veteran community look fragile little flowers, but it’s also suggesting that financial troubles are bigger for veterans than the rest of the world. Everyone is stressed when you start talking about losing paychecks. It’s not any worse for veterans than it is for non-veterans. No one wants to be lined up on bases or stores in a food line. Nobody.

Losing money is fucking rough. It’s rough for any adult out there. Being a veteran doesn’t make that any worse or better for folks. We often talk about PTSD and the negatives that come with it. There’s also growth that can happen with the right treatment and support. PLENTY of people experience combat or military life and return to civilian life just fine.

Last week on Zero Blog Thirty, Johnny Joey Jones talked about his journey through that growth process after losing his legs. We talk about that, the government shutdown, the Coast Guard and a bunch of other bullshit too. You can listen here.