Breaking News
More () »

New report says Defense Department, Veterans Affairs need to do more to combat vet extremism

Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee say vets are recruited because of their military skills, and are exploited because of their patriotism.

WASHINGTON — A  new report released Thursday says that "individuals with military backgrounds have become increasingly involved with violent extremist plots and attacks in recent years."

The House Veterans Affairs Committee Democratic majority report says the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense need to find new ways to study and prevent extremism.

The report follows a series of hearings and inquiries by the committee over the last year into the issue of extremism and radicalization.

Witnesses described how vets are recruited.

"They typically target isolated, the impoverished veterans who are frustrated and confused, those who are struggling to adapt to the civilian world," said Joe Plenzler, a retired Maine Corps Lieutenant Colonel.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Director of the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab at American University said: "Extremist groups seek to convert a sense of betrayal and anger at the government or mainstream society into mobilization to violent action that is framed as heroic defense of a real or true nation."

Oren Segal, Vice President of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League also weighed in. He said: "We are seeing how extremists use the language of patriotism to further their reach, wrapping their agendas up in the stars and stripes."

 According to the report, veterans have been involved in about 10% of all domestic terrorist plots and attacks in the last seven years. 

Over the last 30 years, the report says, individuals with military backgrounds killed 314 individuals and injured nearly 2,000 others in violence rooted in extremist ideology.

"Acknowledging the small but growing threat of violent extremism among the veteran population does not impugn all veterans," said Rep. Mark Takano (D-California), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "But ignoring this phenomenon is a disservice to those who continue to support and defend the Constitution, and forsakes our ability to formulate effective solutions for countering it.”

Before You Leave, Check This Out