Setting the record straight with Veterans benefits

by Ed Mattson


When an individual chooses to join the military, most would realize the incentive was not for the money. Many of those inside the Beltway of Washington DC don’t seem to realize that. Like my grandson who opted to go to a smaller Christian university to become a minister, turning down a full-ride scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma, many youth today have a higher calling.

The military is a noble profession, and not the “last bastion of employment”, as has been alluded to in the circles of the politically correct, elitist snobs, that are far often more wrong than right on every topic. Some of the best known American leaders have come from the military, going back to George Washington. The list is long and includes General Ulysses Grant, Dwight Eisenhower, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Pierce, Zackary Taylor, William Harrison, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, and not all were generals. Thomas Jefferson was a Colonel, James Monroe (Major), Lyndon Johnson (Commander), Richard Nixon, George Bush, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, and others. More of our Presidents served in the military than those that did not.

Military service is a “calling”, and in exchange for defending the United States, the reward is in honor, integrity (in most cases, though many will argue about Mr. Nixon’s integrity), and service above self. Most of those reaching the Presidency of the U.S., did not have that goal in mind when they enlisted. Their Presidency came about as the result of their military service in many cases. Furthermore, unlike in many despotic countries, our military personnel never became wealthy while in the service. They served because, for them, it was the right thing to do.

It’s the poor foot soldier who will bear the burden of budget cuts

Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to those who chose the military. We promise them that, while they will not reap rich financial reward, we as a nation will provide a benefit package that makes risking one’s life a little more palatable. To see the whiners and snivelers now willing to make needed budget cuts on the backs of veterans is offensive, appalling, and will not be tolerated. To hear the Beltway Crowd compare our Tri Care medical program with plans that would cost an employer $1000/month and should be adjusted with higher co-pays, is almost comical were it not so crucial to the well-being of veterans and their families.

Senator Tom Colburn made the following statement at a recent Town Hall meeting in Oklahoma “The average military person, noncombat, retires at 21 years,” he said. “During that time, there are significant benefits and salary that are higher than the average earnings in Oklahoma.” Maybe that’s why only 1.2% of the US population lives down there in the “dust bowl”, and certainly isn’t the fault of the military. Colburn went on the say, “veterans are paying $250 a year for health benefits, through Tri-Care Prime which would cost most other Americans or their employers $1,000 a month or more”. Maybe a true statement, BUT public employees have an even better healthcare program than most private sector employees! That seems a better place to start looking for budget cuts.

His criticism didn’t stop there regarding “veterans benefits”, as relating to those affected by Agent Orange. He said a 2009 decision to extend Agent Orange benefits to Vietnam War veterans suffering from ischemic heart disease was foolish in that there is no evidence to support the conclusion that heart disease is caused by Agent Orange. Mr. Colburn…it was the decision of the US Military to use Agent Orange and other toxins, and therefore carries with it, the need to care for everyone who was exposed to it.

To say there is no link between Agent Orange and heart disease, and then in the next breath tell us all about the belief in the bogus theory of GLOBAL WARNING, take a lots of balls!

He was right however, when he went on to talk about his study, “Back in Black”, which details $9 trillion of what he believes is “waste, fraud and stupidity” in federal spending. Addressing the town hall, Coburn called the recent debt ceiling agreement “BS”. He also said,  “I’m not very proud of the work the Senate has done this year.  I think we’ve treated a lot of symptoms but not any of the disease.”  If the Senate didn’t earn their pay, why should the taxpayer have to make good on their promised salaries and benefits?

I cannot speak for all veterans, but to my way of thinking, how about cleaning out the “waste, fraud and stupidity” in the Washington DC cesspool first, and then let’s have a rational discussion on savings that can be made in veterans benefits starting with the next generation of military volunteers. If you don’t like the “benefit package”, boost the upfront compensation so that military personnel can afford 401K style retirement programs as was recently suggested by several in Congress and Mr. Panetta.

Mr. Colburn, the Beltway gang finds it all to fitting to compensate “government workers” (accept for those who serve in the military) at salary/benefit levels 44% higher than the private sector compensation levels. According to the most recent Employer Costs for Employee Compensation survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of December 2009, state and local government employees earned total compensation of $39.60 an hour, compared to $27.42 an hour for private industry workers – a difference of over 44 percent. This includes 35 percent higher wages and nearly 69 percent greater benefits.

With the exception of the police, fire department personnel, and other “emergency employees”, which go to work every day not knowing for sure they will come home at night to their families (sounds just like the military to me), what risks do normal government employees have other than being scalded by their coffee, choking on a hamburger at lunch, or a getting a paper cut from shuffling paperwork all day?

Monday we need to tackle whether the care for Agent Orange illnesses should be considered a “veteran’s benefit” or an irrevocable government obligation.

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on Aug 26 2011,


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