This week, the Clay Hunt Bill sailed through Congress and has made its way to President Obama’s desk, his signature of approval expected. Long overdue, the bill aims to address the crisis of suicide rates among veterans; currently 22 lives lost every day.
The United States policy toward caring for our veterans is highly contentious. When an individual enlists, they are told they will be taken care of while serving as well as when they return from duty. In reality, this has amounted to life threatening waits for appointments at VA centers, cuts in benefits and a rising homeless veteran population.
On January 29, 2015, the Final Report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission was released. Within the 300 pages are the plans for benefits, health care and compensation pay for the coming years. Included is an end to the 20-year, all-or-nothing military retirement system, to be replaced with a 401(k)-style investment plan, the idea of “abolishing Tricare,” closing hospitals and changing medical access, moving dependents to Medicaid coverage, relying on SNAP for food benefits and many more “sustainability” measures that remove more quality of life benefits to our veterans and their dependents’.
The President has just released his budget plan. In his budget, Obama calls to allocate about $561 billion for Pentagon expenditures, about $38 billion more than is currently allowed under the law. We need more equipment, more weaponry, more technology, more, more, more. Congress demands the Pentagon spend huge amounts of money on equipment they do not want or need; In 2012, the Senate voted to approve $181 million for tanks, and in Dec. 2014, it approved a $120 million budget on Abram tanks.
“…Military officials warned of dire consequences of future automatic cuts, but stressed the Army’s surplus of tanks doesn’t imply bad spending decisions on the part of the Pentagon, reports Military.com. Instead, it points to Congress forcing unnecessary hardware on the Defense Department,” reports say.
Some Senators also raised concerns about preventing the Defense Department from wasting money on unneeded equipment.
“There has got to be a more effective and efficient method of procurement,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said. “When [President] Eisenhower said ‘beware of the military industrial complex,’ man he knew what he was talking about… We force stuff on you all that we know you don’t want.”
Other lawmakers argued that funding more tanks boosts the labor force and protects national interests.
“The [Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act] recognizes the necessity of the Abrams tank to our national security,” Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) stated in December. “This provision keeps the production lines open in Lima, Ohio, and ensures that our skilled, technical workers are protected.”
The focus of Congress regarding military funding is to force money to be spent for the benefit of the contractors and industrial complex that supports the US military. The priorities have little to do with national security or foreign policy. We are more than willing to spend billions on hardware. Without the greatest asset the military has – the enlisted soldier – we would have no might, no power and no security.
Meanwhile, the funding for the Department of Homeland Security hangs in balance as a political football, not as a practical debate about national security.
For far too long, America has failed our service members. If you watch advertisements at all, there is barely an evening you don’t see something from “Wounded Warriors Project,” “Paralyzed Veterans of America,” “Disabled Veterans Foundation,” the list is endless. There are literally HUNDREDS of charity organizations all created to fill the void left by the government’s shortcomings.
How is this a national policy?