Americans Blame Congress and Veterans Affairs for Poor Care of Veterans

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FDU PublicMind Poll Finds Lack of Mental Health Services and Homelessness Seen as Most Critical Issue

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“Apparently you don’t need to experience the unsatisfactory nature of veteran care up close and personal in order to appreciate how disappointing it can be,” said Krista Jenkins.

Republicans and Democrats rarely agree on anything these days, but as the nation prepares to celebrate its bravest, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that the vast majority of all Americans believe the United States is shortchanging its veterans.

In a nationwide survey of adults, PublicMind finds that almost half (48%) believe the US is doing a poor job in caring for its veterans, with an additional third (32%) who believe their treatment can best be described as fair. Just three percent believe care for our veterans is excellent and 15 percent say it is good. Together, a full 80 percent believe the United States’ care of veterans is less than “good.”

Partisans of both stripes are of like minds on this question, with 78 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of Republicans giving the US a less than stellar grade regarding veteran care.

“On this day devoted to honoring military service, when we are faced with the prospect of increased military action abroad, it is especially important to take stock of whether the nation is providing the proper care for its veterans,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind. “These new poll findings indicate the public thinks the government is merely paying lip service to its solemn vow to care for those who put themselves in harm’s way.”

This poor view of the government’s care for veterans was consistent across categories, including veterans and non-veterans – and it shows little variation whether or not respondents live in a household with a veteran. “Apparently you don’t need to experience the unsatisfactory nature of veteran care up close and personal in order to appreciate how disappointing it can be,” said Jenkins.

Congress is seen as most to blame for letting veterans down. When asked who is to blame for not giving veterans their due, a plurality (42%) points the finger at Congress, with around a third (29%) who identifies the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Eleven percent blame President Obama. This question elicited similar responses among both Democrats and Republicans, with blame apportioned nearly identically between veteran and non-veteran households.

“The Veterans that I speak with on a daily basis are disillusioned by the inconsistency of the federal government. This new poll confirms that many Americans feel the same way,” said Paul Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Director of Veteran Services, and a 30+ year Marine Corps and State Department veteran.

Opinion is more divided on the question of where help is needed the most. Americans were given a choice of the following areas: Physical care, mental health, job training and employment assistance, and housing for homeless vets. A little more than a third (37%) believe veterans today are mostly in need of additional mental health services, with more than a fifth (22%) expressing the most concern for the homeless vet population.

“All of these areas are of vital importance to veterans. The public seems keenly aware of the breadth and depth of the current problems,” said Jenkins.

Given the problems that have lately plagued the VA, Americans were also asked whether government or the private sector is best positioned to tend to the needs of veterans. A majority believe the responsibility should remain with government (56%), with 35 percent who believe the private sector would do a better job.

Democrats and Republicans part ways on the question of government versus private sector support. More than two thirds (69%) of Democrats trust government to do the right thing, with over half of Republicans (55%) preferring the job of caring for veterans be outsourced to private companies.

Methodology - The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone October 1-5, 2015 among a random national sample of 1026 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/-3.7 percentage points, including the design effect.

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Dina Schipper
Fairleigh Dickinson University
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