An American disgraceful inequity
Most recently, President Bush celebrated his signing of the largest defense spending increase since President Reagan, by surrounding himself with men and women in uniform and proclaiming that, "we owe you, our service men and women, our best, because we owe you our freedom".
Disabled military veterans, unlike retired civilian federal employees, see their retired pay reduced, dollar for dollar, by their disability compensation, compensation that for many is based on combat injuries. Yet, civilian federal employees, who are not called to make the ultimate sacrifice, have always received every penny of their retirement and disability pay, without offset. We Americans, and our current President, who are so quick to celebrate the courage and patriotism of our men and women in uniform with parades and yellow ribbons, continue to impose this disgraceful inequity.
Most recently, President Bush celebrated his signing of the largest defense spending increase since President Reagan, by surrounding himself with men and women in uniform and proclaiming that, "We owe you, our service men and women, our best, because we owe you our freedom. We want the people who wear the uniform to know America appreciates their service," our military veterans continue to be accorded less consideration than the least federal filing clerk. As a disabled military retiree, I feel a particular sense of outrage towards an American citizenry that are happy to enjoy the fruits of security, but unwilling to provide for those who obtain and defend it.
For more than twenty years legislation has been proposed to correct this tragedy and every year that legislation has failed. As a historic first step, President Clinton signed the 2000 Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 107-107), which eliminated the concurrent receipt offset for retired military veterans. All that is required now is for the President and the Congress to fund this authorization. President Bush continues to threaten to veto any such attempt. The administration's most ironic, and callous response, came from a military veteran, David Chu, the President's Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. In a recent interview, Mr. Chu stated,
"It's always nice to give any group more, but this price tag ought to be based on a clear problem we're solving, and we don't see the problem we're solving. This has been posed as an issue of entitlement. We think that's the wrong way to think about the problem. It's also not the way the country's thought about the problem for over a century... however nice it would be to further honor the service of these individuals, but we don't see the kind of need there that would justify this kind of expense."
"Nice?" Apparently Mr. Chu, is not disturbed by this inequity, and does not believe that veterans have an "entitlement" to be appropriately compensated for blindness, lost limbs, Agent Orange illnesses, post traumatic combat stress, and on and on. It would appear that, contrary to what our President maintains, the price of freedom has been marked down. No where is this more evident than the inadequately funded Veterans Administration where, recently, a senior VA official actually proposed eliminating its outreach to veterans to reduce its caseload.
Despite this inequity, and the continued lack of funding for the Veterans Administration, not a word of advocacy or outrage is heard from the Secretary for Veterans Affairs. It is time for us to express that outrage. It is time for us to call upon our elected and appointed representatives, and our President, and demand the kind of leadership and true patriotism that is necessary to correct this American disgrace.
Wade Sanders is a former deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, a decorated combat veteran and attorney practicing in San Diego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember.... he is a news commentator for NBC News.... the same folks who have used the VDT on the Fleecing on several occasions.
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