By Debbie Gregory.
It’s easy to criticize the concept of war, the art of warfare, and those who participate in war. News stories show images that illustrate the destruction caused by war and the aftermath of its carnage. We see images and read stories that depict wounded Veterans, with visible scars, missing limbs, or severe burns, not to mention the mental and emotional combat scars. All of these pictures, images and stories make it easy to focus on the negative aspects of our country having spent more than twelve years at war.
But what is often overlooked in the “big picture” are the technological and societal advancements made as a result of war. While I’m not trying to sell you that war is good, I am saying that a lot of positive things have happened since Sept 11, 2001 that are a direct result of our military’s involvement in two wars for more than a decade. These improvements should not be overlooked.
Recently, the DOD’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, told the Reserve Officer Association that the time spent at war has led to innovations in medical technology and advancements in medicine and care. The Global War on Terrorism has made great advancements in initial care and transportation of critically wounded personnel. The improvements made in the trauma system have led to the lowest death rate of any modern conflict. Advancements made in combat care have a direct impact on how civilian doctors and rescuers save lives in non-combat emergency situations. The skills and innovations that our personnel came up with in Iraq and Afghanistan could, and most likely will, be put to use in saving lives in the United States.
Dr. Woodson also commented that the wars have had a huge impact on the advancement of prosthetic technology, leading to major breakthroughs in the use of implants for prostheses in the near future. Of course, it is unfortunate to have the need to develop these advancements. But civilians have limbs amputated without ever going near a battlefield. The advancements made in prosthetic technology will benefit civilians and military forever.
The increased wartime force size, and now the mass departure of thousands of service members has also paved the way for an overhauled and improved VA. While there are still lingering growing pains, the VA is rapidly evolving from the outdated benefits provider that still used programs and systems that served previous generations of Veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even Desert Storm.
Veterans of the Global War on Terrorism are seeing the best ever Veteran education benefit in the Post-9/11 GI Bill. And while most people are quick to harp on the VA’s system and care, these are old complaints that existed before the current wars. But there are improvements currently in the works, in the form of improved quality and quantity of healthcare, through hiring increases in the VA’s medical and social workers fields.
The backlog of VA disability claims was a problem before the GWOT began. And it did get much, much worse. But the unacceptable amount of backlogged claims sparked the VA to change the way it operates. Moving from a hard file system that requires handwritten paper applications, to an online digital file system will streamline the VA process, making it more efficient. This will forever improve the way Veterans apply for and receive benefits.