Several veterans and their supporters who have been camped out for more than a week in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC have gained a meeting with VA officials.
Veterans for Peace, the group occupying the sidewalk on Vermont Ave., originally planned a 24-hour vigil but lengthened it to a continuous weekday presence when no one from Veterans Affairs would speak with them about their concerns.
But now they say that two VA officials, Assistant Director Rodrigo Garcia and Dr. Janet Kemp, have promised to meet with them on Monday, October 15.
Bill Miniutti of Veterans for Peace said, “I’m here because so many Vietnam vets have passed on, and all of us are sick from Agent Orange” and other contaminants.
They also feel that suicides by veterans have reached epidemic proportions, and it’s a problem not being adequately addressed. “Did you know that more Vietnam vets have committed suicide than are [listed] on the Wall?” he said, referring to the Vietnam War Memorial.
Dr. Janet Kemp is National Director of the VA’s Suicide Prevention Program. Assistant Director Garcia’s responsibilities, according to his biography, include assisting veterans in transitioning and gaining meaningful employment.
About their sidewalk sit-in, Vietnam veteran Forrest “Frosty” Bibbee said, “No one’s ever done this before. This is the first time vets have occupied in front of the VA.” And they don’t appear ready to pack up and leave immediately after their discussion on Monday, saying they were looking forward to long-term communication with the department.