On Memorial Day, Let’s do right by our Veterans

(By Juan Cole)

Memorial Day should honor not only those military personnel who gave their lives for America but really all those who have suffered and died in war.

Given the difficulties that have been revealed for Veterans in getting prompt and thorough healthcare from the VA, it is also a day in which those who have served in combat should come to mind. Despite the lip service often paid to veterans, society doesn’t always honor its obligations to them. Here are the ways they could more effectively be honored, or at least ways US politicians could avoid dishonoring them. I wrote some of this last November but think it bears repeating:

1. The Tea Party Congress should pass the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014, which they connived at sinking last February. WaPo explains: “The $21 billion legislation was supposed to improve health, education and other benefits for veterans. Instead, it failed to get the 60 votes needed to stop a threatened filibuster.”

2. Renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), which our far right wing Congress allowed to expire in December. It is estimated that of the 2 million unemployed laborers who no long have Federal jobless benefits, 200,000 are veterans.

3. Reverse the foolish “sequestration” budget cuts, which cut programs across the board rather than on the basis of their comparative value. Although the Veteran Affairs administration is spared in those cuts, many government programs for Veterans outside that department will be cut back.

4. Reverse the $5 bn in cuts to food stamps (SNAP); in any one month nearly a million veterans have lived in a household receiving food stamp help. Civilians like the chickenhawks in Congress don’t know this, but service personnel are paid almost nothing, so serving their country severely hurt their lifetime earnings, and many fall into circumstances where they need a little help. The Scrooges in the GOP in Congress just took food out of the mouths of their children.

5. Stop opposing Obamacare. About 1 million children and spouses of veterans do not have health care, but can get it under the Affordable Care Act.

6. Tell the GOP it it shouldn’t have blocked a $1 billion jobs bill for Veterans.

7. Fund more counseling services to prevent the over 8,000 suicides by Veterans every year, a toll that is certainly an underestimate and which has increased 11% since the middle of the last decade. Those who suffered intense conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan are at extra risk.

8. Reject a chained consumer price index (cpi), which over time will act as a de facto cut in Veterans’ benefits.

9. Help for Veterans to avoid homelessness or loss of mortgage. People who risked their lives for this country shouldn’t be on the street.

10. Stop needlessly and illegally creating more veterans of foreign wars; no war should be launched by the United States or any other country that isn’t in self defense or in response to a UN Security Council warning that a situation threatens the good order of the world.


Related video:

AP: “Memorial Day Concert Draws Thousands”

8 Responses

  1. The article properly advances good causes consistent with good treatment of veterans. But of course Memorial Day has become a rightwing celebration of war, and the myth of war as inherently honorable, and an effective means of covering our rightwing wars against economic justice with honor as wars for democracy. But for three generations those wars have never intended or succeeded in establishing democracy, but rather in replacing often-democratic governments with others more agreeable to rich campaign contributors and mass media owners. Memorial Day is now a memorial to democracy, to America as it was before gold came to control public debate via the mass media ownership and election campaign contributions.

  2. The problem with Memorial Day and Veterans Day is the side effect of glorifying war and encouraging each succeeding wave of young people to enlist in support of war crimes. On these days we would do well to read Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket” link to warisaracket.org and encourage young people to do the same.

    Memorial Day What?: Screening War Flicks by CLANCY SIGAL – link to counterpunch.org

  3. There’s veterans, and there’s veterans. If you were an 0-6, WO-1 or E-8, and leave the service, you are mostly sitting in the catbird seat. Since not only do you have a great pension, medical care and all that, there’s probably a comfy new job for you in the Great Inter-Supra-Post-National Security System, so aptly named since the MIC and its tentacles sure provide a secure career path with lots of growth built into the destruction it does, and a gentle landing for those who live large at our horrific expense and can’t even win the effing wars they embark on. If you’re an ordinary person, doing that “combat” stuff that mostly has ZERO effect on that hallowed “national security,” over there in Kandahar or Mogadishu or the Next Hot Spot That Requires The Imperial Army To Take Action, not so much. Nice set of policy prescriptions, there, but dare I point out that most of the wounding and dying that’s been done HAS NOT BEEN DONE “FOR THIS COUNTRY.” The “nation-building,” code for “making the wogs behave properly toward commercial interests and land owners,” has since before the days of Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was honest enough to characterize it for what it is, been “nothing but a racket.” GI’s fight, at the root, for their buddies, to protect one another or get revenge for lost comrades, and to stay alive. And sometimes because it’s just a lot of edifying good old FUN.

    As to taking care of the vets: A disabled vet who is “entitled” to the max amount that “workers comp for Troopers” allows, for 100% disability, as in “disabled 100%,” which comes to $3300 a month, and VA medical care which is worth “something,” I guess is doing “better” than a lot of folks. And since time leads to discounting of all things monetizable, by a variety of spreadsheet computations, that “better” gets ever smaller. Ooooh, the Deficit! after all. Can’t Afford It, not prudent… And then the policy dudes get into it, and work to shrink what’s there by adding co-pays and co-insurance and means testing and chained-CPI and whatever other incremental, wedge-issue-divide-and-conquer crap their fecund little brains can come up with to keep the upward migration of all the wealth continuing while us mopes scrabble in the dirt for the untaken trifles.

    The first nine items in the post are nice-to-haves but all are built on the tacit assumption that there will be ever more effing “war,” hence ever more dead and wounded, with costs once again pushed out onto the future workers of the Imperium, by people who sneer at the earnest Troops and suffer neither the initial injuries that their “policies” and “national interest” (and I note that phrase seems to be disappearing from the polwonk lexicon in light of “reality”) cause, nor the costs of palliating or repairing where possible the shit they do to enrich themselves and their cadres.

    Thanks for the tip, for services rendered, I would offer in reply, but the only point I would wholeheartedly endorse is Number 10: stop the effing war crap. Stop sowing dragons’ teeth all over the effing planet, and making more of us “Wounded Warriors.” We all know how likely that is, of course, and I give small chances to “policy success” for the others. Honor me and the rest most kindly, by NOT MAKING ANY MORE OF US. And you don’t get to do that by outsourcing to mercenaries, or turning effing autonomous killing machines loose on the planet.

    There’s more than enough to go around, to provide decency to the Troops and the Worker Bees –too bad the Kleptocracy is so adept at getting us to go to war with each other over the scraps that are left after they are done fighting each other over the carcass… But that ain’t how it works, unless the lower orders figure out how to demand and get it, without just turning the wheel of Revolution through another idiot Terror-Napoleon-Restoration-Republic cycle…

  4. War is a beast with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. That’s what I learned as a medical corpsman in Vietnam. So I just don’t get Memorial Day.

    • “So I just don’t get Memorial Day.”

      It is part of the national propaganda program to keep our national myths in circulation and the gullible gullible.

    • What we call “war” is also a great way to transfer a whole lot of wealth. All those procurements and logistics have a “profit” and a lot of careers built in. The corpses and casualties are just part of the patriotic window dressing…

  5. It was practically nauseating over the weekend to witness the clichéd remarks about honoring service personnel amidst the truths of the swirling VA scandal. Utterly unconscionable hypocrisy.

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