Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., discussed his “pro-veteran, anti-war” views on veterans’ affairs with around 90 College Democrats on Thursday night.
Filner, a six-time elected representative from San Diego, shared his background working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spoke of the responsibility of the country to provide for its men and women in uniform.
Filner explained how people in the military were “thrown into a war they should not have been in.” In general, Filner avoided discussing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan directly, instead focusing on care for soldiers returning from serving their country.
“Part of the cost of war is taking care of the veterans,” Filner said.
The GW Veterans co-sponsored the event. Brian Hawthorne, Washington D.C. director for Student Veterans of America, an advocacy group for veterans in higher education, said Filner has helped SVA raise awareness and write legislation.
The problem for student veterans, Hawthorne said, is that “schools don’t need to care” because they have very small segments of their student body involved with the armed forces.
Filner discussed the problems he sees in the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. One detail that drew his ire was the design of helmets issued at the beginning of the war, which he said contributed to injuries relating to explosions, as well as qualifications that limit some veterans’ benefits.
“Once you get through the paper[work] you get good care,” Filner said. “The real fight [for veterans] is getting them to that care.”
Filner also criticized the VA’s method of diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder, which he calls a combat stress injury. Speaking on the policy requiring veterans to report their symptoms before receiving care, Filner said it creates “a stigma of admitting you need help,” and that it is considered a “sign of weakness.”
CD President Peter Weiss was pleased with the tone of the evening and happy that he could raise awareness about veterans’ issues.
Weiss said he viewed the evening as a success and that he hoped the CDs could hold more similarly enlightening events about specific issues ranging from gay and lesbian rights to the environment.
Matt Ingoglia, the CD’s communications director, said Filner’s background as a community organizer made him a more impressive speaker.
“His concerns for veterans I think surprises most people. Most people think of the military as a Republican concern, but even without a military background he does a lot of work for veterans,” he added.