Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Budget Vultures

A hawk is a majestic bird, ruthless, predatory and successful. They possess a clean, if brutal, manner of survival. A swift accurate drop and a clean snatch; to the rest of the meadow, it's hard to see what's missing.

There are programs funded with our national budget that we all know are pork barrel pets, favorites that keep the home fires burning and professional politicos employed. Budget Hawks like to think they're clearing the meadow of excessive pork, and sometimes they do. Sometimes, it's the pork they're protecting.

What's happening to our veterans is the stuff of vultures.

Burn the name of Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, into your mind. He thinks that he can raid the nearly bare veteran's panty and glean a few bones. In a nutshell he want to shift the focus of the VA to a core constituency of service-disabled, indigent and special-needs veterans.

Here's what Thomas P. Cadmus, national commander of the 2.7 million-member American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veterans organization has to say about that:

To further cut costs, leaders in Washington again are redefining what it means to be a veteran. They conjure up buzz-terms like "core constituency." Veterans in that group, apparently, are more likely than others to expect future access to VA clinics and hospitals. The "core constituency" is a smaller, less costly population of veterans. And it's convenient for future budget-makers. Because "core constituency" is not really defined in law, it can keep getting smaller and smaller until gone.

The official definition of a veteran can be found in Title 38, Section 101, of U.S. Code: "The term 'veteran' means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released there from under conditions other than dishonorable.

"U.S. Code mentions no "core constituency" because a veteran may be a former infantryman who marched through the swamps of the Mekong Delta or a Parris Island drill instructor who taught him the skills to survive there. U.S. Code bonds the Black Hawk pilot who outmaneuvered daily rocket attacks and the base crew that prepped his helicopter for every mission. A veteran may be a combat cook, an Air Force fighter pilot, a Coast Guard sea marshal, corpsman, paratrooper or chaplain. Private or a general. All their roles are interwoven, all potentially fatal in times of war.

When discharged, they are veterans. It's that simple.

Sen Patty Murray (D-WA) waged a good fight to try to increase funding for the VA in mid March. She lost. Here's a list of Senators and how they voted. Only Coleman of Minnesota crossed party lines. I have a nephew from Minnesota. He's in Afghanistan.

Mr. Buyer is concerned about the $3 billion in uncollected healthcare debts for services that insurance companies have not paid to the VA. So naturally, instead of pursuing the insurance companies who donate money to campaigns, he's decided that veterans are his prey. He's concerned about the potential increase in veteran applications as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He's concerned that the money budgeted to the VA will fall way short. Smart vulture, our Mr. Buyer, he's absolutely right. We have history to go with this assault.

The Independent Budget (IB), annual budget and policy analysis, published annually by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars is now in its seventeenth year. The Administration and the Congress have never met the IB recommendations that are determined on need-based formulas and annual projections for the costs of health care services. The VA "funding shortfall" has been, and still is, a major cause of concern for all of these years. In fact, 24 year ago, in 1979, the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs, held what was then called an "unprecedented" joint hearing to decry the seriously under-funded VA health care system and the impact this was having on the veteran population. I am certain the problem, whether it was under-funding or inconsistent funding, goes farther back than most of us can remember.-- Richard Fuller, Legislative Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America

I am astounded by the short sightedness of Buyer's solution. The situation developed over decades; yet Buyer's intentions are for a quick fix with blanket disregard for the promises made to enlistees at the time they volunteered. He disrespects their sacrifices and their willingness to be sacrificed. As a Citadel graduate who was deployed in the first Gulf War, he should have a better set of guidelines. Whoops, he served as an Army reserve lawyer. My bad. Still, one would have higher hopes that as chair for the HVAC, he'd bring something beside big love for the bottom line to the table. Perhaps, be willing to scavenge something besides his brothers in arms.

People who are willing to die for an ideal are not people who whine over lost benefits. It's up to us to be there for them. We've GOT to have their backs.

Feel free to use the link on the sidebar to contact Rep. Buyer. Just indicate you are from Lafayette Indiana and use the zip 47960-1244. Let him know how -- the reduction of benefits to Vets who, although they were willing to get shot, unfortunately did not so they don't need the health benefits they were promised when they enlisted -- makes you feel.

It makes me mad as hell.


At April 05, 2005 8:03 PM, Blogger Tom Harper said...

It figures. The louder they yell about Supporting Our Troops, the more likely they are to shaft veterans when they return. And they wonder why fewer people are enlisting. They're gonna have to reinstate the draft or raise the enlistment age to 70.

At April 06, 2005 4:29 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Why wait until they come home? Remember Rummy and his "you go to war with what you have" no body/vehicle armour shrug? Although I guess, technically, they aren't vets yet. Of course, at this rate, they'll NEVER let them come home. That'll keep VA enrollment down...

At April 06, 2005 8:43 AM, Blogger PATCAM2005 said...

I wonder if Rummy would sign his kids/grandkids up?

At April 06, 2005 9:27 AM, Blogger Brother Kenya said...

Hypocrisy runs deep, don't it? Now if we can just get veterans to vote their true interest instead of social nonissues like gay marriage...

At April 06, 2005 1:29 PM, Blogger Jet said...

My apologies to everyone for the various typos and general incoherence in the initial version of this post. I'm simply incensed about this. I need to remember not to post when in fire breathing rhino mode.

I've fixed it up a bit; this version should be easier on all craniums, including my own. ;-D

At April 06, 2005 2:29 PM, Blogger TrueJerseyGirl said...

Thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. Its such an important topic and one we don't hear much about. Its infuriating to think that we send our kids to war to potentially die for us, but we won't care for them properly when they return and need us.


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