Debating veterans affairs

WBZ’s Jon Keller broached the idea that the Republican debate in Milwaukee should focus on veterans affairs, specifically what to do about the Veterans Administration, mental health issues faced by returning soldiers, and the decision-making that goes into foreign incursions.

The eight major GOP presidential contenders talked a good game about national defense and the new missions they would undertake. Predictably, they had little to say about what happens to the people who make wars possible.

None of the candidates talked about Iraq and Afghanistan veterans until their closing statements, noted the Military Times, when Donald Trump “suggested that the U.S. should have taken oil from the Iraqi government to give to ‘our wounded warriors.'” The four men in the undercard round did a slightly better job of getting veterans in the mix but half of those comments were platitudes thanking veterans for their service. The Military Times concluded “the comments likely were not enough to calm veterans groups who have heard only a passing mention of their issues at the four debates so far.”

The US is very good at thanking veterans for their service, as the furor the Pentagon’s sports marketing campaign demonstrated, but less so with giving them services when they get home.

When veterans get back to places such as Boston, they are immediately confronted with some harsh realities. The Hub ranks as the fourth-worst city for veterans, with high numbers of poor and homeless veterans and abysmal housing affordability.

US Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs recently announced nearly $360,000 in new funding to help 43 Bay State veterans find housing. Boston has committed to ending veteran homelessness by the end of the year. But that goal is threatened by problems like opioid abuse and other health issues, such as PTSD, confronting places like the New England Center for Homeless Veterans.

The nationwide health care crisis facing veterans continues to consume policy makers. In September, a report commissioned by the VA found that the agency’s health care facilities “deliver strikingly different patient experiences, apply inconsistent business processes, and differ widely on key measures of performance and efficiency.”

Massachusetts has high-rated facilities and spends more than any other state in the US on veterans, according to a 2014 Boston Globe report. Not surprisingly, however, the better facilities are in metro Boston. A Worcester Telegram analysis shows that the VA’s Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System ranks last in New England in a number of areas.

War presents endless opportunities for presidential candidates to strut their stuff. Dealing with housing or PTSD, not so much. As the Boston Herald observes, “Solving the seemingly intractable problems of long waits for health care and homelessness among those who have served this nation are where the attention should be.”




By a 4-2 vote, the Legislature’s Labor and Workforce Development Committee approved a $15-an-hour minimum wage. (State House News)

Carol Sanchez, the head of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, resigned yesterday after just seven months on the job, the first high-level departure from the Baker administration. (Boston Globe) In a July story on DCR’s troubled land leasing program, Sanchez came across as cautious and uncertain. (CommonWealth)

About 45 former state workers, who left their posts in June under the early retirement incentive program, have yet to receive a pension check — and they’re not happy about the hold up. (Boston Globe)


A judge strikes down Worcester’s panhandling laws. (Telegram & Gazette)

A cafe and WGBH television and radio studios are coming to the main branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. (Boston Globe)

Ben Affleck’s movie Live by Night will pay Lawrence $100,000 to use city streets for filming. Mayor Dan Rivera says “it’s great to have Hollywood in Lawrence.” (Eagle-Tribune)

The Fall River City Council, with mayor-elect Jasiel Correia abstaining, approved a request from outgoing Mayor Sam Sutter to transfer $1.2 million from the city’s rainy day fund to the sanitation budget, effectively draining the stabilization account. (Herald News)

The Bridgewater Town Council voted to fill a vacant at-large seat by appointing someone rather than leaving the post empty until the April election. (The Enterprise)

Somerset selectmen want to use $5 million from the town’s stabilization and overlay funds to reduce the tax impact on homeowners and businesses. (Herald News)

Suffolk DA Dan Conley seems to pour cold water on the idea floated just yesterday by Globe columnist Joan Vennochi of a three-way game of musical chairs that would end up with Steve Murphy, deposed last week by voters, back in his Boston City Council seat. (Boston Globe)


No clear winner emerges in the GOP presidential debate, suggesting the field won’t be narrowed any time soon. (Time) That’s also the assessment from the Globe‘s James Pindell. Joe Battenfeld says Ben Carson emerged in good shape, mainly because he wasn’t really put on the spot over allegations of embellishing his bio or creative thinking about historical phenomena like the pyramids in Egypt. Batts calls it Trump’s worst debate performance yet, while his Herald colleague Howie Carr says the bloviating billionaire was the winner. Most pundits say the focus on issues may have been boring but it put the candidates’ positions in stark relief, especially around immigration and foreign policy. (U.S. News & World Report) The New York Times says the moderators were less bad than the last debate, which is not the same as good.

Poll results were way off in the Kentucky governor’s race, as they have been increasingly in races across the country and the world, raising the possibility, say some, that political polling may not be worth the cost. (Governing) On WBUR’s Radio Boston, Harvard historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore takes on polling, too, while MassINC Polling Group’s Steve Koczela pushes back on the idea that all polling has gone off track.


Longtime Ted Kennedy aide Nick Littlefield has persevered through a rare form of Parkinson’s disease to author a new book that chronicles how his one-time boss also persevered following the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress and forged bipartisan alliances to get things done. (Boston Herald)


New York’s attorney general ordered fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel to cease accepting bets from that state’s residents, determining the operations are a form of illegal gambling that violates New York’s laws. (New York Times)

Snoop Dogg launches his own marijuana line in Colorado.(Time)

A new study from Indiana University finds parents of only children are more likely to give to charities, especially if that child is a girl, and those with a first-born son are also likely to be more generous. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)


A new report says UMass Lowell contributes $854 million a year to the regional economy, twice the impact of five years ago. (The Sun)

Two former Weymouth High School students have filed suit in federal court claiming their civil rights were violated when school officials forced them to take a Breathalyzer test at a dance in 2012 and suspended them for violating the school’s alcohol policy even though they say they weren’t drinking. (Patriot Ledger)

As was true with MCAS, Boston students underperformed statewide averages on the new PARCC exam. (Boston Globe)


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pediatricians are warning parents about the cumulative effects of concussions to youths’ brains and it’s not just football, as more than 175,000 children are treated in emergency rooms every year for sports-related head trauma. (U.S. News & World Report)

Partners HealthCare is expanding its global reach with plans to help build hospitals in Malta and the Ivory Coast. (Boston Globe)


The MBTA announces new subway car designs for the Red, Orange, and Green Lines, and then pulls them back because of possible irregularities in the public voting on the various options. (WBUR)


A Q&A with climate crusader Wen Stephenson. (CommonWealth)

Toxins are detected in wells near a Southbridge landfill operated by Casella Waste Systems. (Telegram & Gazette)

A State House hearing on Kinder Morgan’s plan to run its proposed natural gas pipeline through Otis State Forest draws a crowd. (Masslive)

Bay State Wind and the ill-fated Cape Wind are different in many ways, but the same in others. (WBUR)


Harvey Silverglate examines US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s relentless campaign to criminalize patronage and lock up, or at least embarrass, House Speaker Robert DeLeo. (WGBH)

An 8-year-old boy in Alabama, who was the oldest of six children left alone when their mothers went out to a nightclub, is being charged with murder after he allegedly beat a toddler to death because she wouldn’t stop crying. (New York Times)


The New York Times says its virtual reality app is a success.

When conservatives collide: George Will really, really dislikes Bill O’Reilly. And vice versa.