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Veterans widows living in poverty, amidst VA backlog and red tape

As warmongers continue to feed the military industrial complex, soldiers are repetitively sent to “theater” to deal with threats to homeland security, according to those at the top of the Defense Department food chain. When soldiers have served their time, it seems as though the honorable welcome they should receive, actually begins another fight; earned benefits from the Veterans Administration. This fight is fought by Veterans who live with crippling injuries from war, as well as widows whose spouses paid the highest price for our freedoms.

House committee on Veterans Affairs
House committee on Veterans Affairs
Photo by Rod Lamkey/Getty Images

One of the most underreported groups who fight twice as hard for benefits are widows of soldiers. The increasing number of backlog within the Veterans Administration is just one facet of the issues facing those who serve in branches of the military. The White House has recently passed laws that ensure military benefits become available to same-sex couples, but little attention is paid to widows who live in poverty.

Where does this leave the widows, who served alongside soldiers, but are turned away? It leaves them fighting for benefits their spouse rightfully earned and in many cases, living in poverty while the fight ensues (with little or no assistance). Reports reveal red tape, long delays, lost paperwork, inaccurate findings and other factors that question any effective action on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jack Cornelius, a decorated war Veteran from the Vietnam era, committed suicide in 2009. His widow, Sheryl Ann Cornelius, was denied benefits after her husband’s death. According to a Daily Beast article, Sheryl had to fight to prove that the Vietnam War caused the PTSD symptoms and disease that led to her husband’s demise. Sheryl was even denied funeral benefits and had to go into debt to pay for the expenses out-of-pocket. She lost her home, waiting on a VA decision and racked up thousands of dollars in bills, just trying to survive [without her husband’s income].

Bettye McNutt, widow of another Vietnam War Veteran, fought for 8,600 days to receive benefits her husband rightfully earned, as reported by the Army Times.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 27,690 families receiving benefits for deceased soldiers who served in the Gulf / Iraq / Afghanistan war. Casualties of these conflicts alone total almost 10,000 U.S. and coalition troops. Of these numbers, some surviving families do not receive benefits because the deaths of these soldiers are not considered to be service-connected.

All soldiers in combat were not killed as a direct result of insurgent violence. In the case of soldiers who have committed suicide at alarming rates, their families are left with more questions than answers. In the vast majority of those cases, the soldier had been diagnosed with or exhibited signs of Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If left untreated, misdiagnosed or improperly treated, a person is at the mercy of those who should be in place to monitor abhorrent, abnormal behavior. The story of
Repeated deployments and the horrors of war are two factors that contribute to this minimally understood disease. A USA Today report outlines disparaging statistics on those soldiers expected to fight foreign wars, continually. The human mind can withstand limited amounts of trauma, even with tough mental conditioning.

It stands to reason that the recent flood of Central American immigrants have been granted more rights than those who bravely fought to protect this country. The failing “Catch and Release” program implemented by the Obama Administration has afforded benefits to those of whom this country can’t realistically afford to care for. Unaccompanied children of Central American countries are being cared for, after crossing the border. Video footage obtained by Info Wars proves the clear and present danger of this growing problem.

Though the Obama Administration has said that more will be done to eliminate the back log and red tape that Veterans and families have been facing, only time will tell if the promises made will be kept.

Contributing Writer, Karen Kennedy, is the widow of SGT Joseph T. Kennedy, who served 21 years in the U.S. Army, and passed away on July 7, 2010. She is homeless, living in poverty and four years after her husband's death, waiting for VA benefits to be awarded.

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