Stephen R. Ortiz, ed. Veterans' Policies, Veterans' Politics: New Perspectives on Veterans in the Modern United States. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012. xiv + 318 pp. $69.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8130-4207-7.
Reviewed by Heather Salazar (Ohio University)
Published on H-War (May, 2016)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air War College)
Stephen Ortiz's Veterans' Policies, Veterans' Politics is a thematically organized anthology that examines the challenges that have faced veterans from the days of the Spanish American War to the contemporary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These challenges constitute the book's multiple sections, which analyze veterans' health care, benefits, disability, reintegration into the workforce, and contemporary politics. It is evident that no matter the issue, each is part of a larger ideological battle that brings the idea of citizenship and the federal government's role into conflict. Ortiz is able to demonstrate this through the scholars he chose for each theme and the various disciplines they work in.
The essays within Veterans' Policies, Veterans' Politics demonstrate the evolution of challenges in creating and implementing policies to assist veterans. Problems within the health care field began with identifying locations to treat disease in soldiers and prevent its spread
throughout the garrisons. Once the locations were identified, struggles then emerged in implementing procedures to administer care. With the development of hospitals as part of the newly created Veterans' Bureau, new policy challenges faced soldiers and veterans, raising questions about leadership, funding, and care. Combating veterans' disabilities raised the importance of understanding disabilities in both the veteran and nonveteran communities. Congress elevated the disabilities of veterans above those sustained by individuals injured in wartime industrial accidents, which led to tensions between these groups. While these disabled veterans policies became a positive template for broader policies, they also served to deter other social welfare policies.
As wars ended, reintegrating veterans back into the civilian job market became necessary, which presented new challenges. Veterans struggled to reintegrate into an already flooded unemployment market, not just because of their wartime experience but also due to the racial and ethnic discrimination that infiltrated society. These veterans then had to compete for jobs without the proper training or programs in place for them to acquire the necessary skills. While trying to gain employment, veterans also fought for their bonuses and G.I. Bill benefits. Organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War emerged to advocate for veterans and over the years, they became powerfufl political actors in the push for veteran benefits, bonuses, and pay. In recent years, though, veterans themselves have been more involved in pushing for policies to provide them with the benefits they deserve.
All of the aforementioned struggles appear in what Ortiz defines as the modern United States, the period from 1898 to the present day. While the majority of the essays stay within this realm, a few of them backtrack a bit further. This is necessary in some cases to establish the background for an issue and show the evolution of the specific policies under discussion. However, in some essays, the overall argument and conclusion are slightly difficult to identify. Because the scholars writing the essays are not all historians, this difficulty may partially be due to a different disciplinary writing style. Regardless, each essay concludes with a thorough notes section providing the reader additional sources to further their knowledge.
Ortiz's Veterans' Policies, Veterans' Politics pushes the research on these issues forward in two ways. First, by dividing the book into various themes and including scholars from various fields, Ortiz is able to bring together once segregated research on veterans' policies and politics into one interdisciplinary study. This opens the door for much greater research within the social sciences. Second, Ortiz pushes scholars and researchers to examine the importance of veterans' policies within this country in greater depth. These policies shape the way veterans live and contribute to American society. Without analyzing the policies of the past, current decision makers and researchers are limited in their knowledge of what works and how well. The policies and politics that are decided upon now will inevitably influence the future ways in which we study veterans, the challenges they face, and the impact policy and politics has on them and the rest of society. Readers who are not familiar with the themes that Ortiz presents in this book should read it to understand how veterans are closely connected to policy and politics.
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Heather Salazar. Review of Ortiz, Stephen R., ed., Veterans' Policies, Veterans' Politics: New Perspectives on Veterans in the Modern United States.
H-War, H-Net Reviews.
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