Last week’s elections not only dealt a major blow to Democrats in Pennsylvania and across the country, but could have unintended consequences for veterans.
Four of the five members of Congress from Pennsylvania who had military experience — Patrick Murphy, Paul Kanjorski, Christopher Carney and Joe Sestak — were defeated in re-election bids. Combined with John Murtha’s death in February, some are concerned veterans issues could be put on the back burner.
“What I think that points out is that people have forgotten there are two wars going on. No one cares,” said anti-war activist Celeste Zappala, whose son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Iraq in 2004. “It’s hard to know whether the people who don’t have military experience will be advocates for veterans.”
Providing resources for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and joblessness has been a major issue recently as soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan. Research also indicates that one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.
“I am a little concerned,” said Sestak, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who narrowly lost a Senate race to Republican Pat Toomey. “Remember when we arrived in Congress, in previous years there had been an underfunding of the VA Hospital, creating a backlog of [thousands of] cases.”
Sestak added, however, that lawmakers can still support vets without running up the deficit.
“It can be done, you’ve just got to find the right programs to cut,” he said.