AN ATTACK ON THE POSTAL SERVICE IS AN ATTACK ON THE COMMUNITY OF VETERANS
By Jay Youngdahl Veteran, Third Armored Division, U.S. Army VHPI Advisory Board Member
Veterans are served by and serve at the United States Postal Service. Like the military, the Postal Service serves society at-large and it is based on a communal culture intended to fulfill the aims of American society.
In shocking news, forces in government wish to gut the USPS. On August 13, President Donald Trump stated that he opposed bipartisan plans to fund the United States Postal Service due to its role in handling mail-in ballots. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has begun to implement disruptive measures that “may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks”. Although those changes have been halted (for now), the fallout has continued.
The USPS slowdown will impact more than purveyor of Amazon orders and absentee voters. Veterans, in particular, will face the fallout from a disabled Postal Service that will impact their physical and mental health as well as their financial stability.
Due to their service, veterans suffer from maladies at higher rates than Americans who have never served. Musco-skeletal pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, respiratory issues, toxic chemical exposures, and many other chronic conditions are common among veterans. Missing just a dose of insulin, an anti-depression medication, or high blood pressure pill could mean life or death to a veteran.
And getting these medications at home is critical during the global pandemic. Military veterans are at very high risk for suffering serious complications and even death from COVID-19 as they’re older, sicker, and poorer than their civilian counterparts. Getting them their meds at home and ontime is the easiest thing we can do for them.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has pioneered the most successful pharmacy program in the United States. First, the VA is able to provide prescriptions for lower cost to veterans because, as the largest integrated healthcare system in the nation, it can negotiate better prices. Second, its online interface and use of the U.S. Postal Service can quickly deploy those medications from regional pharmacies quickly and cost-effectively.
The Associated Press reports that “VA fills about 80% of veteran prescriptions by mail. That translates to almost 120 million prescriptions a year, with deliveries arriving daily to about 330,000 veterans across the country.”
The impact of COVID-19 on veterans’ employment status and access to healthcare can put additional pressure on physical and mental health for veterans and their families. A secure job in the Postal Service, after service in the military, can be the best antidote to the unique challenges veterans face when we return to civilian life. If these cuts to the U.S. Postal Service continues, the 100,000 veterans that work there may find themselves out of a stable income.
The added pressure on veterans cannot come at a worse time. Unemployment and underemployment will likely continue to be an issue for all Americans. In May, veteran unemployment was at 12 percent or about a million veterans. It remains double what it was pre-pandemic.
Veterans are committed to serving their country and, with the federal government's emphasis on hiring veterans, they do. After they leave the Armed Forces, 13 percent of all veterans choose to work for state and local governments. One-in-three workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. After serving in the US Army from 1972 - 1974, like many veterans, I joined the USPS, serving as a letter carrier in Houston beginning in 1975.
The Woodruff Foundation calls the coronavirus pandemic “the perfect storm” when it comes to mental health challenges for veterans. The Veterans and COVID-19: Projecting the Economic, Social, and Mental Health Needs of America’s Veterans report shows “that emergent trauma, loneliness due to social isolation, and unplanned wage loss or job termination can create or exacerbate mental health challenges for veterans. Accessing mental health services was already an area of concern for the veteran population, and now, there may be a surge in demand for these resources.”
If USPS cuts are not stopped, veterans may find themselves in a brand new crisis they never thought they’d have to face. An attack on the Postal Service is an attack on the community of veterans.