Praise for “Our Veterans”

Praise for Our Veterans: Winners, Losers, Friends, and Enemies on the New Terrain of Veterans Affairs

“This chilling account explores the physical, economic and psychological consequences of military service on veteran health and takes a critical look at the many players involved in shaping veteran life in the United States.”

NY Times Book Review

“Americans disagree on many things, but we all love and honor our veterans, right? Not according to this eye-opening book. Finally we have an honest account that contrasts our game-day celebration of veterans with the cold realities many of them face in post-military life. Written with compassion and just the right amount of outrage, Our Veterans is an essential contribution to an urgent national debate.”

Stephen Kinzer

Former New York Times correspondent, author of "Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change"

Our Veterans tells a working-class story, a labor story, and a political story. In the process, the authors have done the near-impossible: written a page-turner about the Department of Veterans Affairs. They nimbly chronicle how the U.S. created a successful system of socialized medicine only to have members of Congress, in recent years, try to dismantle it. Our Veterans is an indictment of neo-liberalism, since VA outsourcing has been a bipartisan project. While alarming in many ways, this book is also hopeful. It shows how VA-delivered care can be strengthened and improved as a model for health care for all.”

Chris Lombardi

Journalist, author of "I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Dissenters, Deserters, and Objectors to America’s Wars"

Our Veterans does an excellent job setting the record straight. It shows how people who have served in the military since 9/11 defy traditional stereotypes about veterans and their organizations. Veterans are far more diverse, overwhelmingly working-class, and very assertive about our rights as workers. We’re also angry about the enormous financial waste of ‘forever wars’ while our communities crumble. The veterans profiled in this book are deeply involved in  struggles against racial injustice, militarized policing, and big money in politics—and those movements are growing every day.”

Kyle Bibby

Co-founder of Black Veterans Project & National Campaigns Manager, Common Defense, U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Captain, Afghanistan war veteran

“When it comes to the military, the mantra of many of our fellow citizens is: ‘thank, don’t think.’  The authors of this book are asking us to think long and hard about the costs of war for men and women still dealing with traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and many other service related conditions. The best way that Americans can show gratitude to veterans is by making sure that their physical, psychological, and social needs are met. And that means strengthening and expanding the services available at the VA, a healthcare system that understands and supports its patients.”

Arlys Herem

Veterans for Peace member & “Save Our VA” campaigner, former Army nurse

“Few are more qualified to critically assess the impact of America’s decades-long wars than Suzanne Gordon, Steve Early, and Jasper Craven. Our Veterans is an accessible, thoroughly researched deep-dive into why young men and women sign up for the military, the demographics they come from, and what they experience in uniform and, later, as veterans. You don’t often see a book with this level of seriousness, research, and organization.  Our Veterans should be read and shared by everyone looking to challenge America’s war-machine.”

Rory Fanning

Author of "Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey out of the Military and Across America", Afghanistan war veteran

“Our Veterans gives readers a unique tour of the inside-the-Beltway world of veterans service organizations, both traditional ones and their post 9/11 competitors. As the authors reveal, the ‘veterans lobby’ is now subject to far more corporate influence—particularly from the healthcare industry—than is healthy for veterans and their families. This book also examines the record of “service candidates,” who’ve used their military laurels to run for president or get elected to Congress. Too often, we find, these men and women are just as beholden to wealthy donors and special interests as any other politicians. Only a brave few have questioned the direction of US military and foreign policy and others are not even reliable allies of fellow veterans.”

Phillip Longman

Senior Editor of Washington Monthly & author of "Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Care is Better than Yours", Congressional appointee to the Commission on VA Care

“Suzanne Gordon, Steve Early and Jasper Craven care about veterans and believe that promises made to them should be kept.  Our Veterans shows how VA care-givers and their patients, along with allies in labor and the community, can better organize against the powerful private interests which seek to discredit the VA and keep it from fulfilling those commitments.”

Wade Rathke

Chief Organizer of ACORN International, Editor/Publisher of "Social Policy"

 “Our Veterans is an important new study of military service as work, its place in American society, and the fate of foot-soldiers who, unlike the generals, politicians, and arms merchants, bear the burdens of war for the rest of their lives. Millions of us know that—my own cousin, drafted for Vietnam, later died from Agent Orange. But these authors lucidly explain how active duty, since 9/11, exposed a whole new generation of veterans to illness and injury that was largely preventable.”

Paul Buhle

Former Senior Lecturer, Brown University, historian & author

“Public provision of veterans healthcare fulfills a societal pledge to those who have served. Unfortunately, as these authors show, restrictive VA eligibility rules, including means testing, excludes half of all former military personnel from benefit coverage. This important book effectively debunks the myth that out-sourced federal services are better and more cost-effective, while revealing the dangers of turning VA patients into ‘customers’ of the healthcare industry. Only an aroused citizenry can help veterans and their families resist this trend.”

Donald Cohen

Executive Director of In the Public Interest , Co-author of "The Privatization of Everything"

“A must read for those who wish to understand how the veteran fits into the larger mosaic of American politics and culture…This is among the most important veteran policy books of the last decade.”
Veterans Studies Association

“You can describe “Our Veterans” in a single word: ‘thorough.’ It summarizes every important aspect of veterans’ lives, including topics rarely covered like moral injury, military sexual assault and our disproportional suicide rates. But it’s at its most thorough regarding the V.A. — when it does a great job, when it falters and more importantly, why. It examines politicians’ voting records, highlighting those with greatest power to influence policy, and particularly those who profess to love veterans but have a much greater love for funding from insurance companies trying to destroy the V.A. through privatization. It examines well-known veterans groups like the Legion and VFW as well as several post 9-11 ones, critiquing some for spotty advocacy and some for becoming little more than platforms for outsized egos. It even gives a nod to smaller organizations that aren’t courted by presidential candidates but do the remarkable work of trying to change U.S. foreign policy to reduce the number of veterans we produce.”

Mike Ferner

Vietnam-era veteran, former Toledo City Council member, past national president of Veterans For Peace

“Our Veterans pulls back the curtain on the military and veteran community, often shrouded and protected by invocations of patriotism. As an institution, the military operates with impunity, wreaking havoc on the future lives of those who serve. When those service members become veterans, rather than discussing the very real implications of that service, they’re often valorized, tokenized, and used by Congress and advocates with personal agendas. The truth of the matter is that military service is complicated, and the veteran community reflects that. This book is a wake-up call for an American public led to believe that our country supports veterans.”

Lindsay Church

Co-founder and Executive Director, Minority Veterans of America, U.S. Navy veteran

“Our Veterans is just what we need right now – an up-to-date, solidly reported, pulls-no-punches account of what it’s like to be a veteran in America today. Deftly avoiding the dichotomy of veterans as either heroes or victims, the authors explore the health, employment, community, and political issues that former soldiers, especially the post 9/11 cohort, are threading their way through. This book is very well done and I thank the authors for writing it.”

Nan Levinson

Tufts University lecturer, Author of "War Is Not a Game: The New Antiwar Soldiers and the Movement They Built"

“As this book reveals, too many men and women in the military are exposed, callously and carelessly, to a toxic work environment. Their service-related problems can lead to unemployment, homelessness, and high suicide rates. That’s why veterans need more real friends, in Congress and the public, who will better defend the lifesaving programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our Veterans is a call to action by everyone concerned about health equity and educational opportunity for all Americans.”

Michael Blecker

Executive director of Swords to Plowshares, Vietnam veteran

“Our Veterans brings to life the meaning of the cadence “They wave the flag when you attack, when you return they turn their back.”  It’s a meticulous account of the many challenges facing military service members and their families, while on active duty and afterwards. The authors shine a light on military sexual trauma and cancer-causing drinking water on military bases, toxic soup burn-pits in combat zones and helmets lacking padding to protect against traumatic brain injuries. They ask why treatment for the moral injuries of unjust wars is so hard to get, and why so many veterans are denied VA benefits because they were discharged unfairly. This is an amazing, timely and much needed book.”

Nancy Lessin

Co-founder, Military Families Speak Out, retired United Steelworkers-Tony Mazzocchi Center specialist in occupational health

“Our Veterans grapples with some hard questions that concerned citizens can’t afford to ignore. How do we deal with Congressional Democrats from military backgrounds who back ‘forever wars’ and obscene Pentagon budgets? How do we challenge the Pentagon-to-police pipeline that puts too many former soldiers and their military equipment on the front-lines of local law enforcement? How do we help veterans make healthier transitions from active duty to civilian life so they don’t end up in right-wing militias and white supremacist groups? As Republicans mobilize to retake Congress and the White House, the ‘vet vote’ is once again up for grabs, making the progressive approach to veterans’ issues, proposed by the authors, both timely and relevant.”

Larry Cohen

National Board Chair of Our Revolution, Former president of Communications Workers of America

“Working with VA medical center staff, I saw firsthand how under-staffing, under-funding, and headquarters officials hostile to the mission of the agency adversely affected patient care. As this book shows, much recent damage to the VA is the result of ‘bi-partisanship’ on Capitol Hill—Democrats joining Republicans in the push for privatization of veterans’ services. If you want to find out who, in Congress or the White House claims to be ‘pro-veteran,’ but actually puts the demands of corporate donors before the needs of former soldiers, read this book. Better yet, use it as a voter guide, in 2022 and beyond.”

Ian Hoffmann

Former Legislative/Political Organizer, American Federation of Government Employees

““The hundreds of thousands of military veterans who belong to unions are an underutilized resource for the labor movement. As this book shows, veterans in labor have a big stake in the outcome of on-going fights against privatization of the postal service and veterans’ healthcare. I have often seen workers who served in the military on the frontlines of campaigns for higher wages, safer job conditions, and good union contracts. Our Veterans does a badass job of exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity of anti-union firms like Amazon and Walmart, who wrap themselves in the flag, while violating the rights of working-class Americans who served in uniform and the many who did not.”

David Van Deusen

President of Vermont AFL-CIO, AFSCME Representative

“We live in a country where about one percent of the population serves in the military. Bases are closed to the public. Many Americans have forgotten about our post-9/11 wars. Congress continues to slash services for veterans. In other words, the cultural chasm between military families and other Americans has seldom been wider. “Thank you for your service” is a hollow refrain since the extent of Americans’ gratitude consists of symbolic gestures like posting patriotic Facebook memes on Memorial Day, and in the case of elected officials, making appearances at high profile gatherings to honor troops. Rather than care for veterans and military families as Abraham Lincoln once called for during the final days of the Civil War, we place them on a pedestal without seeking to understand their stories. “

“Our Veterans traces the history of veterans’ engagement with American politics and in doing so, it takes members of the military down from that pedestal. Gordon, Early, and Craven give Americans a rare glimpse of veterans’ diverse stories – from women who risked retaliation for reporting sexual assault by their compatriots, to advocates who pushed the expansion of housing and education benefits on behalf of military families, to veterans who used the banner of supporting our troops to defend the interests of big Pharma, to those who joined white supremacist militia groups, among others.”

“The one thing the stories in this book have in common is that they reflect how America’s forever wars abroad have eroded the American dream for those we claim to honor most – members of our military. Even as many veterans live with chronic illnesses and poverty, in myriad ways, they bear the brunt of policymakers’ increasing push to privatize healthcare, the lack of safe jobs for the least privileged among us, our culture of misogyny and sexual violence, and the opioid epidemic.”

“Our Veterans suggests how a deteriorating safety net for military families is a warning sign of where this country may be headed if Congress does not start diverting resources away from wars abroad towards our own peoples’ well-being. This book is unique because it does not gloss over differences in military communities, but it makes clear that supporting our troops means securing a social safety net for all Americans in the hopes of closing the growing cultural gaps that divide us.”

Andrea Mazzarino

Co-founder of Brown University’s Costs of War Project, co-editor of "War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan"