RANGER AGAINST WAR: A Dicey Situation <

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Dicey Situation

1941 Big Little Book

I don't feel mahvelous, but I look mahvelous, which is okey dokey with me 'cause you know my credo, it is better to look good than to feel good, you know what I am saying?

--Fernando, Saturday Night Live

It is a generally accepted rule that the Army takes care of the troops. However, articles like the recent "Injury Ratings may be Shortchanging U.S. Soldiers" expose the limits of that caring ethos.

Back in the 1970's, Infantry Officer Advanced course started with a block of instruction called "Leadership." I'd call it Fantasyland, since the basic premise was that the goal of leadership is to take care of the health and welfare of the troops. This tenet is only true if one adds, "as long as they are deployable assets."

The Army only takes care of the soldiers until they are used up and broken, at which point they are hurriedly shuttled into the cavernous jaws of the medical assessments and Physical Evaluation Boards (PEB's)--a management tool to get them off the books and out of uniform. Next!

MSM has addressed the rubber yardsticks of the PEB's, and the differences resulting from the varying DVA regional disability rating decisions. Ranger has also presented data that Reservists receive proportionally lower PEB and DVA ratings than former active duty soldiers. In effect, disability determinations are arrived at through a throw of the dice.

In the article, retired LTG James Terry Scott, chairman of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission, said, "'
It is apparent that service members are not well-served,' at an unusual joint hearing of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees."

He said the Pentagon "has strong incentive to assign ratings less than 30 percent" so the military won't have to pay disability benefits. The typical cutoff to determine whether a person can receive lifetime retirement payments and healthcare is a disability rating of over 30%.

Separately, the VA came under fire by members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee after reports that (Michael) Kussman, now the acting undersecretary, and other top department officials knew of problems at Walter Reed as early as 2004.

Kussman, currently President Bush's nominee to be VA's undersecretary for health, co-chaired a task force in 2004 which produced a report in which "Walter Reed patients —- seriously wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan —- stated that they were 'frustrated, confused, sometimes angry' about their experiences." However, no actions were suggested to rectify the problems at that time.

In this administration so characterized by swagger and bravado, I am imagining that one solution Kussman might institute to address flagging morale among personnel being (mis)treated in the VA system is distribution of larger yellow ribbon magnets at all check in stations.

As in my previous post about the armed pilots not receiving the training they desire, but nonetheless, possibly soon to the be the recipients of faux-police identification badges, I cannot help thinking that this administration was unduly affected by their early thrills with their Ovaltine magic decoder patches. The flashy gadgets and tokens suffice to disguise a lack of substance.


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