Talk is Cheap!
Let’s start with a look back in time. According to Dave Lindorff, in his 2003 article, “Dishonorable Discharge”, “George W. Bush, even more than his father or Ronald Reagan before him, is cutting budgets for a myriad of programs intended to protect or improve the lives of veterans and active duty soldiers. In fact Bill Clinton was the only president of the last four who cut weapon programs instead of veteran benefits”. Lindorff goes on to ask that we consider the following;
· With 130,000 soldiers still in the heat of battle in Iraq and more fighting and dying in Afghanistan, the Bush administration sought this year (2003) to cut $75 a month from the “imminent danger” pay added to soldiers’ paychecks when in battle zones.
The administration sought to cut by $150 a month the family separation allowance offered to those same soldiers and others who serve overseas away from their families. Although they were termed “wasteful and unnecessary” by the White House, Congress blocked those cuts this year, largely because of Democratic votes.
· This year’s White House budget for Veterans Affairs cut $3 billion from VA hospitals—despite 9,000 casualties in Iraq and aging Vietnam veterans needing more care. VA spending today averages $2,800 less per patient than nine years ago.
· The administration also proposed levying a $250 annual charge on all Priority 8 veterans—those with “non-service-related illnesses”—who seek treatment at VA facilities, and seeks to close VA hospitals to Priority 8 veterans who earn more than $26,000 a year.
· At the same time, the Pentagon also announced it was trying to determine whether to shutdown 58 military-run schools for soldiers’ children at 14 military installations.
· The White House is seeking to block a federal judge’s award of damages to a group of servicemen who sued the Iraqi government for torture during the 1991 Gulf War. The White House claims the money, to come from Iraqi assets confiscated by the United States, is needed for that country’s reconstruction.
· The administration beat back a bipartisan attempt in Congress to add $1.3 billion for VA hospitals to Bush’s request of $87 billion for war and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
· In perhaps its most dangerous policy, the White House is refusing to provide more than 40,000 active-duty troops in Iraq with Kevlar body armor, leaving it up to them and their families to buy this life-saving equipment. This last bit of penny-pinching prompted Pentagon critic and Vietnam veteran Col. David Hackworth to point to “the cost of the extraordinary security” during Bush’s recent trip to Asia, which he noted grimly “would cover a vest for every soldier” in Iraq.
In 2004, according to the United States Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the VA’s budget had been pushed to the limit. The House of Representatives voted and passed a 2004 budget which would cut funding for veteran’s healthcare and benefit programs by nearly $25 billion over the next ten years. In Dec. 2004 it was widely reported that the VA’s funding crisis had become so severe that it could no longer provide disability ratings to veterans in a timely fashion. The VA explained, “this is a problem because until veterans are fully transitioned from the active-duty Tricare healthcare system to the VA they are on their own with regard to any healthcare costs”. The Dept. of Vet Affairs also noted that the backlog of pending disability claims under review peaked at 421,000 in 2001, bottomed out at 254,000 in 2003, but went back up to 340,000 in 2005.
This post is getting long so I will break it up into 2 parts. Part 2 coming soon….