Occupy Veterans Affairs

U.S. Marine veteran Angela Madsen camps on the doorstep of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs as part of the Occupy movement in Wash., D.C. Photo Angela Madsen

Veterans seek answers from VA administrators

In 2011, cities across the country were inundated by scores of people claiming social and economic inequality and corporate corruption. The protest group came to be known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and spent nearly two years voicing their cause.

Since October 4, 2012, a group of veterans, many of them homeless, have been camped outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) headquarters in Washington D.C., hoping to open a dialog with administrators about the mounting backlog of claims, the VA’s “simple to navigate” adjudication system, veteran homelessness, and obstacles concerning healthcare and benefits.

Temporary bedding lines the walkway in front of the VA Headquarters in Wash., D.C. Photo Angel Madsen

Unlike the deluge of media coverage the OWS protesters received, the veterans in D.C. have been labeled “drunken bums” and are hardly known to the outside world while they wait patiently and peacefully for answers to their requests. And unlike the OWS protesters, these veterans are not seeking anything they have not rightfully earned.

Since their vigil started more than three months ago, they have taken up refuge in vestibules and walkways outside VA headquarters. Just blocks from The White House, and in plain view of the VA employees reporting for work, these weary veterans man their posts before a headfirst humanity.

Some of the group have traveled from other parts of the country while many of them live within the D.C. community and know firsthand what life on the street is like as members of the homeless population.

There are no booming loudspeakers, or passionate speeches from the group. Simply a sign that reads “Occupy Veterans Affairs, Wash., DC” and the hopes their voices will be heard.

“They’re not demanding anything but the opportunity to open a dialog with administrators and share ideas on how to improve veterans services within the D.C. area,” says U.S. Marine veteran and Paralympic athlete Angela Madsen.

Having read about their plight via social media, Madsen traveled from her San Diego home to support her fellow veterans and see firsthand the veracity of the movement. “I read about something going on in D.C. on Facebook but wasn’t able to confirm any details,” says Madsen. “I traveled out here on a whim not knowing what I would find.”

Madsen spent three nights with the veterans and was outraged by how the VA was labeling them. “When they [protesters] first arrived they were informed a VA representative would speak with them within the next 24-hours,” says Madsen. “That was three months ago.”

Since then, Madsen has learned the VA has shunned any further request to meet the group and has instructed their employees not to interact with the veterans. “They [VA] started a pressure washer campaign last month in the hopes of dispersing the group,” says Madsen.

So, what’s the incentive of upcoming generations to enlist and serve their country if their own government continues to hide behind the bureaucracy of a broken system?

System of adjudicating claims can be read here.

Attempts by PNOnline to reach the VA for comment have gone unanswered.

Veterans are denied access to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs during the Occupy Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. Video courtesy YouTube user OccupyCarlisle

Angela Madsen in a U.S. Marine veteran, disabled Paralympic athlete, and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) life member. Read more about her on her blogsite. Row of Life


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