Veterans and Cold War Patriots Deserve Better Than What They Are Receiving
by Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin
December 10, 2023

Congressional representatives have bipartisan unity in declaring their admiration for members and former members of America’s armed forces. Unfortunately, there is a major gap between declarations of admiration and the reality of actionable support, especially in the care of veterans with medical problems. Veterans deserving assistance are finding themselves facing an uphill battle in working through bureaucracy and dealing with federal government employees.

National embarrassment, media attention, and Congressional involvement led to reforms within the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital care. Unlike before the scandals, with the Phoenix Veterans Hospital being the worst-case example, today the hospitals work hard to provide professional treatment.

Breaking them down into four overlapping components, problems still exist for veterans requiring medical assistance.

First is the increasing difficulty faced in filing disability claims. Veterans Shouldn’t Face New Restrictions on Filing Disability Claims ( Responding to scammers trying to receive compensation, which is neither necessary nor deserved, Congress has implemented a series of regulations that make it extremely difficult for veterans who truly need assistance to navigate through the bureaucracy.

Second is dealing with federal employees who come to work just for a paycheck. This has been a long-term problem. In both the VA scandals and Army-wide investigation following the Walter Reed Medical Center debacle, patients did not experience problems with doctors and nurses. It was always with administrative support staffs.

Third is the profit-oriented advocacy groups who pretend to be solely dedicated to helping veterans receive attention and compensation for their medical conditions. It is impossible to watch television without seeing commercials from opportunistic law firms advertising their services for Camp Lejeune cancer victims.

Fourth is the history of an “admit nothing/deny everything” policy of the federal government when medical issues arise. With Vietnam it was the lethality of Agent Orange. For First and Second Gulf Wars, it was the smoke from the Iraqi military torching of Kuwaiti oil wells, depleted uranium, and burn pits. These have all now been proven to be valid. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is now recognized, but resolving remains elusive while situations vary between patients.

The Air Force has recently commenced investigations into the effects of radiation contamination from missile sites. The Air Force is expanding a review of cancers for service members who worked with nuclear missiles ( The Air Force must broaden this review to include bomb storage sites. The Navy, Army, and Marines need to monitor the Air Force’s work and implement their own reviews. During the Reagan years of the Cold War, the Navy had six hundred ships at sea carrying nuclear weapons and propelled by nuclear power. Army surface-to-air missiles and ordnance sites were positioned throughout NATO. I followed up working at a nuclear missile site in Germany by serving as an inspector for Defense Nuclear Agency. In the air, at sea, and on land, I have witnessed tens of thousands of service-members spending years of their lives around nuclear weapons and reactors.

Concerning cancer from radiation contamination, which dosimeters confirmed existed, the services already have available a template available that they need to examine. As Governor of New Mexico, and later as US Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson (D-NM) recognized an increased cancer rate among Department of Energy employees (aka Cold War Patriots) who worked with radioactive and hazardous materials.

Governor Richardson’s diligence and determination resulted in Congress approving the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). The armed services can save themselves a lot of time by examining EEOICPA’s medical analysis of the types of cancers caused by radiation exposure.

Being an employee issue, the administration of this EEOICPA resides with the Department of Labor. This too has fallen victim to the four above-described problems concerning disability claims and treatment. The situation is so serious that Governor Richardson and I teamed together to bring Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) into the fight. Their staffs provided extensive documentation to DOL on how to improve operations, all of which was ignored by DOL bureaucrats. While Governor Richardson and I met with Senator Grassley, I shared this assessment of DOL’s behavior, “Arrogance and incompetence have a habit of riding together.”

Military veterans and Cold War Patriots with illnesses often do not have the physical and mental ability to sustain the long uphill fight with government bureaucracy and bureaucrats. They should not be dependent on advocacy groups.

Congress needs to appoint a bipartisan committee, supported by a research team, to thoroughly analyze the entire problem and provide actionable solutions. This was done when it was realized the VA hospital situation required reform. It can be done with the filing of disability claims, behavior of federal employees, and medical treatment follow-up.

It is nice that those who served our nation receive bipartisan expressions of support from congressional representatives. Words need to become actionable reality. Just as Governor Richardson did in having Congress provide bipartisan support for his EEOICPA, members of both the House and Senate need to come together in figuring out ways to better assist veterans and patriots who suffer from their service. Bipartisan Solutions are Best for Veterans' Care (

©2024 Wes Martin