Larry Kerschner Writes

Veterans Benefits

Editor, The Chronicle

        It is easy to see that the military programs in the United States are controlled by those willing to use our children for political purposes.  It is also easy to see that they do not value the service of the veterans.  This may be because most of those in power were rich enough or connected enough to never have to actually serve.

      I make no secret of the fact that I think that there should never be any veterans again because there is never a need for war.  However I believe that as long as we allow our children to be sent into kill or be killed situations we should be be honoring the promises made to them.  I think the attitude of the current administration can be summed up in the outrageous assertion made by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David Chu that veterans benefits are responsible for the Pentagon's inability to provide weapons and equipment for our troops. 

        Clearly those in charge at the Bush administration believe that veterans don't deserve benefits or that the government cannot afford to pay for them.  This at the same time that Bush and the Republican controlled Congress is giving billions in tax rebates to the wealthiest people in our country.  I wonder how many of those getting the tax money back have children in the military.

        Whatever budget problems the Pentagon may be having, it is unconscionable to blame health care, disability compensation and other promised benefits for veterans as the source of the problem.  The Republican controlled Senate rejected 53-47 an amendment to the Presidents request for veterans health care offered by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking member Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) that would have added $2.8 billion for veterans health care. 

        During floor debate in the House of Representatives repeated attempts to increase funding for veterans were rejected. Among them was a Democratic alternative budget resolution offered by Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee, that would have added $2.4 billion to veterans benefits and services.  The Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS and the Veterans of Foreign Wars co-authored a study that shows that Congress needs to increase funding by at least $3 billion to maintain current services.

       Current services are clearly not going to be adequate for the veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.  The President's veterans budget would increase spending by 1.1% but this increase would be paid by charging veterans a $250 a year fee and by doubling the cost of pharmacy fees.   So instead of adequately funding the needs of U.S. Veterans the President proposes to shift the cost onto the veterans themselves. 

        Again I wonder how many of the very rich getting tax breaks have family members in the military.  Until the time comes that we have abolished war as an instrument of national policy we are morally bound to care for those we purposely put in harms way.