HELPING VETERANS. Last week I wrote about eligibility problems with National Guard and Reserve benefits, but the reality is that, even if they are eligible, veterans often have trouble navigating the complex rules and application procedures. Yesterday NPR reported that some county-level organizations are helping veterans with the complex paperwork necessary to claim benefits. It sounds like claiming benefits is akin to doing your own taxes -- you do it on your own at risk.
Jeremy Wilson entered the Minnesota National Guard less than a year before September 11, 2001. He wanted to find a way to serve as his grandfather had in World War II while still getting a college education. During the first few years of his service, he served a tour in Italy. Now, he's serving an extended tour in Iraq. Between training for deployment and the time spent overseas, he's spent more than half his time in the Guard on active duty -- which means he barely had time to finish college.
He had hoped to enter law school this fall. Then came the announcement of the surge, and Wilson was one of the thousands of troops who received notice that they would be serving longer or more tours of duty in Iraq. Law school would have to be delayed yet again.
WHERE'S MY 20 CENTS?Sen. Clinton recently re-introduced paycheck equality legislation timed to women's history month, presumably to curry favor with women voters. It's well documented that women still earn roughly 80 percent of what men earn, and the legislation is designed to close loopholes worked into the 1963 Equal Pay Act.
THE RIGHTS STUFF.Via Women's E-News, a group called MADRE, which focuses on international women's rights, is releasing a report that shows rapes in Iraq, once considered a taboo, are on the rise, as are "honor killings," the tradition of killing a woman who has been accused of bringing shame to her family. The group says that by declaring Islam as the national religion in Iraq, as well as cutting corners on women's rights to more quickly push democracy, women have been exposed to new levels of violence.
REMEMBER THE REED. The interesting thing about this ongoing Walter Reed story is that veterans services are finally taking the center stage after years of low-profile status. A spot on the Veterans Affairs Committee is something to be sought, especially if you're from a moderate district. This is one instance of investigative journalism actually bringing an issue to the forefront.