Americans have always prioritized caring for the needs of our military Veterans.  The Continental Congress of 1776 was the promise pensions for any disabled veteran of the Revolutionary War.  Despite criticism of deficit spending over the last four years, there was universal support for increasing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) budget by 41% to $140 billion this year.  That is why it is so depressing that the backlog doubled to over 900,000 for claims pending applications for disability  and the number delayed over a year has skyrocketed by 2000%.  Despite this abysmal performance, senior VA executives are eligible to collect bonuses of 35% on top of their lavish pay and benefits.

The ability of the VA and their 300,000 employees to provide service-related benefits has virtually collapsed.  Congressional revelations confirm that over the last four years delays newly returning veterans face before receiving disability compensation and benefits are far longer than the 273 days the agency had acknowledged.  But inspection of their internal data reveals that for first-time claims, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, the wait is between 316 and 327 days.

This night’s patrol had been a wasted effort. Three hours of carefully scripted maneuver through enemy terrain had resulted in nothing but fatigue and sore muscles. The squad moved through the darkness on a invisible tether, each man marking the distance from his buddy as if a hidden hand moved them closer or farther away depending on the cover available. Now they were working across a wide ridgeline stepping over or around boulders and scrub pines that impeded progress.

The soldiers were particularly alert now because they knew the enemy’s habit of ambushing returning patrols just out of machine gun range from their patrol base. Perhaps the enemy knew the night was too quiet, the patrol schedule too routine, the temperament of the men too focused on hot food and the security of walls and wire and the fortified outpost that awaited them just a mile or two away.

The following is an excerpt from an article published in October 2010, written by ALFI Board Chair, Major General (Ret) Robert H. Scales.

Americans seek to solve battlefield problems with technology. Technology is a vital ingredient in achieving success at the tactical level. But dominance on the tactical battlefield is achieved more by leveraging the human, social, cultural, behavioral and cognitive sciences as well as the physical sciences. The weapons acquisition community is still optimized to develop technologically sophisticated big-ticket systems using a process that often takes decades. The innovation cycle is much shorter at the tactical level, where our enemies intend to win and, all too often, are able to adapt to changes on the tactical battlefield faster than our centrally controlled acquisition system can respond.

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