No Free Lunch
NYT columnist Paul Krugman is one of my heroes, but there are several issues that flaw his treatment of the Department of Veterans Affairs in his commentary on the Walter Reed fiasco, "Valor and Squalor."
The official position is that the Clinton years were the golden era of veterans medical care. This assertion is wrong. I read all the fraternal veterans magazines, and their letters to the editor reveal a different and opposite experience for many veterans.
In addition, the Clinton administration enacted into law the right of the DVA to create categories of veterans, effectively eliminating hundreds of thousands of veterans from access to DVA veterans health care. Just ask wartime vets without disabilities or purple hearts if they can get VA care. In addition, vets with $27,790 annual income are not eligible for DVA care, even with wartime service in a combat zone.
Of course, the official line is that they are eligible, provided assets are available, which is a contingency that happens as often as pigs growing wings. Just visit a VA clinic outpatient clinic and talk with some vets, if you want the real scoop.
Krugman asserts that the administration has been charging veterans for many formerly free services, but this is not correct, as the services were never free in the first place.
The DVA is not welfare. The services were paid for up front by the veterans through their service. Neither the DVA nor the government gives anything to the veterans for free; we earned our benefits, and we continue to earn our compensation with pain that neither Clinton, nor his flight suit bedecked successor, ever felt.
What is actually happening is the Congress has authorized the DVA to increase co-pays and other enrollment fees, consequently saving the DVA money.
And note that the special eligibility factor of "recent combat service" effectively eliminates older veterans from the system in favor of the newly created vets from the Phony War on Terror.
The Bush administration is not the sole culprit--it is the Congress that allows and enacts the veterans issues into law. Recently it has been the Bush league Congress, but neither Carter, Reagan, Bush 41 nor Clinton did anything out of the ordinary to benefit veterans, either. If anyone thinks this statement false, please pony up with your proof.
The American voter loves to voice their support for the veterans, but in my life I've seen veterans consistently get screwed. Every voter and member of Congress is responsible. It is simplistic to lay this on GWB's doorstep. It would get lost among the pile of wrongs, anyway. The trend to give the short shrift to veterans began before young Bush avoided military service, and will continue after his administration is history.
As always, I respect Krugman's general analysis, but it is an outsider's view. For a look at how things really are, visit a site like Veterans for Justice or the Retired Military Advocate.