HARTFORD (AP) - The words of Abraham Lincoln are usually revered, but not so for some when it comes to the motto for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans groups and Yale Law School students are asking the VA to change its creed, saying it excludes women and ignores their contributions to the military.
The VA’s mission is to fulfill a promise of America’s 16th president “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” Lincoln made the comments in his second inaugural address in 1865 while talking about reconciliation and reconstruction as the Civil War was coming to an end.
Yale students, representing the advocacy groups Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, NYC Veterans Alliance and Service Women’s Action Network, petitioned the VA Friday to change the motto.
“The VA’s motto is outdated,” Students with Yale’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic wrote in the petition. “By excluding women, it effectively erases the meaningful contributions that women have made to the military, and communicates to women veterans that they are unwelcome outsiders.”
The students also said the VA has been failing to meet the health care needs of many women veterans and service members.
VA officials have rejected previous requests to change the motto, including one made last year by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The Service Women’s Action Network, which advocates for women military service members and veterans, made its first request nearly a decade ago.