Native American veterans claim racial discrimination by VA in South Dakota
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2010 Native Sun News
March 29 2010
There is a credo lamented daily in the waiting rooms of the Veterans Administration Hospitals scattered across America. It goes, "First you apply, then they deny and hope you will die." This has a special meaning to Native American veterans.
For too many Indian veterans it strikes close to the bone. They are so entangled in bureaucratic red tape they are all but suffocating. Many have been reduced to living lives well below the poverty level set by the very government they fought for and nearly died defending.
Several months ago I wrote about one such veteran named Andres Torres, an Oglala Lakota, living in Rapid City. What has happened to this veteran since then?
"I was told to open a new claim called Unemployability which means I have not been able to work since the second operation they performed on me at Fort Meade VA Hospital in 1989. I filed the claim in February and I have not heard from the VA since. As far as I know it is still sitting on somebody's desk in Sioux Falls or Washington, D. C.," Torres said.
Torres said that since I wrote about his plight in 2009 he got a call from Governor Mike Rounds (R-SD) and was told that his office was interested in helping him and other veterans in similar situations.
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Native American veterans claim racial discrimination by VA
Monday, March 29, 2010
It gets to me every time I hear it. They are proud they served but when you think about what happens to too many of them when they survive it because of claims denied or delayed, it's hard to understand why they feel that way. Think of how you'd feel after risking your life for this country and then left with nothing after because your body or your mind paid the price. These veterans have bills to pay. They have families to support. They have all the same needs and demands on them the rest of us face but unlike the rest of us, they put their bodies and their minds and their dedication on the line for the sake of the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us loving this nation enough to lay down their lives for it, cost them their future. We need to get this right once and for all of them.