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Five Reasons Why Veterans Are Part Of The 99 Percent

By Lee Fang  

"Five Reasons Why Veterans Are Part Of The 99 Percent"

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Veterans protest with the 99 Percent near Wall Street

The 99 Percent Movement has attracted students, labor unions, unemployed workers, teachers, artists, singers, writers, former real estate brokers, political activists, people who have given up on the traditional political system, and thousands more. But a growing contingent seen at Occupy Wall Street solidarity protests all across the country are veterans.

The signs of a veterans movement are everywhere, from new groups dedicated to supporting veterans in the occupy movement, to thousands of veterans showing up at street actions. And despite condescending rhetoric from the right-wing media, veterans have every reason to be there:

1.) Veterans Deserve Economic Justice: Thousands of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding a grim job market. Veterans who served since 9/11 experience a 12.1% unemployment rate, which is higher than the national average, while one in three male veterans are jobless. Recent reports have showed that the number of homeless veterans is surging, while there are insufficient job placement programs.

2.) Veterans Embrace Occupy Wall Street Out Of Love For Country: A growing number of veterans groups are enthusiastically embracing the movement. Although some are demonstrating against a terrible economic conditions, many are doing so out of simple patriotism. Thousands have marched near Zuccotti Park and at other occupy encampments with a message about taking their country back from the grip of lobbyists and predatory financial institutions. One iconic sign, held by a veteran at Occupy Wall Street, summed up the sentiment: “Second time I’ve fought for my country. First time I’ve known my enemy.”

3.) The Banks Are Preying On Veterans: Big banks have found ways to rip off and ruin the men and women who placed their lives on the line for this country. According to a recent whistleblower lawsuit, some of the nation’s biggest banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and J.P. Morgan Chase, “defrauded veterans and taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars by disguising illegal fees in veterans’ home refinancing loans.” Fly-by-night scam for-profit universities, many of which are owned by Wall Street investment banks, heavily target veterans with fraudulent educational programs. While military families struggle to get by all over the country, defense contractor CEO’s earn as much as $19 million a year.

4.) K Street Domination Of Government Means Defense Money Goes To War Profiteering Corporations Over Veterans: America spends more on the military than most of our rival nations combined. Yet much of that money, because of the influence of defense contractors and other private military interests, is spent on expensive weapons we never use instead of on rank and file soldiers. Revolving door lobbyists, who go from the Pentagon to K Street firms, have secured over a trillion in wasteful spending to companies like Lockheed Martin.

5.) During The Economic Downturn, Veterans Programs Are Being Cut And Privatized As Well: As Republicans and their allies have succeeded so far in pushing an austerity agenda of massive government cuts, veterans have also been targeted. According to a recent analysis by Military.com of a CBO study outlining suggested cuts, Congress is debating proposals to cap military basic pay and limiting veterans health benefits. Notably, the Defense Business Board is also considering a move to privatize the military pension program, swapping it out with a 401k system. If there is another crisis on Wall Street, veterans could lose see their retirement benefits wiped out if such a system is put in place.

In many cases, veterans have been the most visible victims of police brutality: like in Boston, where police violently raided a group of peaceful veterans occupying a city plaza, and in Oakland, where police fractured the skull of Scott Olson, an Iraq veteran, with a shot from a projectile aimed at protesters.

Occupy Wall Street solidarity protests will hold Veterans Day events to stand with veterans in cities across America, from Colorado Springs to San Diego, to Syracuse, to Chicago, to Denver, to Missoula, to Sacramento, to Gainesville, and beyond.

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