I am a Veteran, I am Complicit in our National Debt
I’m going to out myself.
I am 44 years old. I take no prescription drugs. My blood pressure and labs are all normal though my bp inches toward the upper end of the normal spectrum every year.
I train four to five days a week—I’m an avid weightlifter and hater of all things cardio. My current lifts are all within range of my max’s from younger days. I’ve lost a step or two, carry around a few more pounds of blubber but in all, I would classify my health as excellent. Anecdotally, I can ball my 17-year-old son up like tissue paper.
I am set to receive roughly 70% disability from the government.
A Great and Growing Immorality
The total outlay for President Trump’s 2018 budget submission is $4.09 trillion. Let’s write that out for perspective—$4,090,000,000,000. Estimated 2018 government revenue is $3.66 trillion leaving a budget deficit of $440 billion to add to the $20.6 trillion national debt.
The national debt is a generational issue. Though Trump’s proposal will purportedly balance the budget by 2027, every President makes similar claims. Yet, the debt continues to grow, even as we’ve raked in record tax returns year after year.
Our collective spending habits may one day doom this nation.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects to spend $57 billion on disability benefits next year. That’s up 25% from $46 billion this year, and nearly quadruple the $15 billion spent in 2000, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
And I’m angling to get my cut.
In 2007, The Washington Post published a series of articles outlining extreme cases of neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC).
Administrative errors allowed an outpatient soldier to drink himself to death and two others, who should’ve been restricted, died in a high-speed car accident. A therapist’s error led to the death of another. There were preventable suicides, avoidable drug overdoses, and even murder.
The articles described WRAMC’s building 18 as a rat- and cockroach-infested dump, with stained carpets, cheap mattresses, and black mold. Soldiers reported no heat or water in the facility.
Within a week of the articles, Defense Secretary Gates visited Walter Reed and declared that those responsible would be held accountable. Shortly thereafter, he relieved the Commander, Major General George Weightman.
As a result, the nation poured resources and money into the Veteran’s Administration (VA). They held oversight hearings, installed new leadership, and rewrote the rulebook. Veteran’s issues became even more of a flash-point.
“Support the troops,” was the battle-cry. To be categorized as not “supporting the troops” was political suicide. “Where’s your yellow ribbon?” Legislation and ultimately, appropriations, reflected this slant.
Everyone jockeyed to get on the right side of this issue. The fallout would not be felt downwind for a while, but it would generate broad and lasting ramifications.
On the Street
As a positive, our nation cares for our veterans in an unprecedented fashion. Our veterans, those who’ve served honorably and those not so much, receive great support, often for life, as many of them should.
Increased MEDEVAC proficiency and new battlefield medical treatments flood our system with a never-before-seen number of wounded. Previously, many of today’s survivors would’ve perished at the scene. The system struggles to cope with the sheer volume: amputees, double amputees, quadriplegics, burns, not to mention the burgeoning PTSD population.
We should lavish care and resources upon our battlefield wounded. They have literally stood as sword and shield on behalf of a grateful nation and I would personally donate a chunk of my pay to their care.
It’s the other’s such as myself that lend cause for concern.
A Cut for Everyone
Anecdotally, A PTSD diagnosis yields a 70% disability rating, automatically. The soldiers know it. Barracks lawyers coach up anyone willing, as to the correct answers to the test to yield a positive diagnosis.
My last unit’s psych, a civilian, was pretty good at weeding out the imposters. Yet, a shameless major at the hospital would readily overturn his diagnoses, common knowledge in the ranks. In frustration, I phoned this major and demanded an answer. He informed me that he had been at Walter Reed during the scandal and since then, has erred on the side of the soldier.
Consequently you, the taxpayer, fund ex-soldiers with questionable PTSD diagnoses for life. Ever heard of garrison PTSD? It exists.
Going through retirement, I’ve received a personal tour of an entire system geared toward inefficiency.
I come from a long line of mouth-breathers. My father was a great mouth-breather. My brother. One of my daughters. As a young child, I vividly recall a family trip where my father’s incredible snoring had me clinging to the edge of the hotel bedroom whimpering in misery.
For years, I’ve denied my wife’s claims that I have sleep apnea. Last year, I finally went and got a sleep study done and sure enough, sleep apnea. A rotor-rooter nose surgery coupled with a spankin’ new CPAP machine has me sleeping like a baby, very effective treatment.
I’ll also obtain a minimum of 50% disability due to this.
Six years ago, I grabbed a monster rebound in a pick-up basketball game. My ACL rebelled by ripping in two, to go along with a battered-up meniscus. Two knee surgeries later and I no longer play basketball, limit my poundage on the squat rack, and now have a joint that definitively responds to the weather. Otherwise I get around fine.
This was not a service-related incident but I’m sure to receive a few percentage points for this as well.
I’ve got a few other dents and dings in the fender. What middle-aged man who leads an active life doesn’t. I’m sure that several years on airborne status don’t help, but 70% disability? It’s the system. I was coached, as is every single other retiree.
“Mr. Smith, how long have you had ringing in your ears?”
“Well I don’t really…”
“You’ve been in aviation for over twenty years and you don’t have ringing in your ears?!”
“Well, uh, no, not really…”
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) yields 10% disability rating and is impossible to verify or refute. Stiffness in your neck? Those night-vision goggles sure must’ve been heavy. Sore back? Those ruck-sacks do take a toll. “Check your pride at the door,” a retiring friend advised me as I prepared for my VA physicals. “Let them walk you through it.”
Over twenty years ago, the government signed a promissory note guaranteeing me retirement pay should I serve a minimum of 20 years. I upheld my end of the bargain, so they should uphold theirs. I’m just a little uneasy with the accompanying disability. Perhaps you could reassure me a bit.
The Spirit of the Law
The intent is righteous, take care of our veterans and soldiers and again, please don’t hear me say that our wounded veterans and those who legitimately suffer with PTSD don’t need and deserve support. They do.
The issue is that the notion that each of us should get a piece of the pie, that the government ought to be in the business of taking care of us, this notion will inevitably dilute the resources that can be applied to those who do need it.
How long can our fiscally and morally bankrupt government fund so many otherwise able-bodied men? At some point, something must give.
As Jesse Owens was deciding which college to attend in the 1930’s, his coach offered him some poignant advice. In light of scholarship offers and other deals his coach gave him this.
You ought to pay your own way through.
And this is exactly what Jesse Owens did. Oh yeah, he still ran track full time and managed to defeat the Nazi great Luz Long in the 1936 Olympics, defying the Fuhrer. Our willing readiness, as men, to be cared for in some ways epitomizes a loss of this grit.
I am guilty as charged.
Now, send me my check, please.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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