The CHIC’s war on veterans

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump blasted Barack Obama for failing to do enough for military veterans and promised “to take care of our veterans like you’ve never been taken care of before.” Another monumental lie as our five-time draft-dodging Chicken-Hawk-In-Chief (CHIC) president is sticking it to military veterans like never before, especially older veterans.

Although the CHIC’s proposed 2018 Veterans Affairs budget includes a near 6 percent increase in discretionary spending, “the devil,” as the saying goes, “is in the details.” According to Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, the proposed budget would end Individual Unemployability benefits to retirement age veterans. Zelizer states “there are almost 225,000 veterans who count on this program to earn 100 percent disabled rate payouts when they can’t find work as a result of military injuries despite not being fully disabled.”

Writing in the military newspaper, “Stars and Stripes,” veterans reporter Nikki Wentling notes that a 60 percent disabled veteran living alone removed from the Unemployability program could see his or her payments decrease from the highest rate of $2,915 a month to $1,062. President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, John Rowan, states this proposed cutback “completely abandons many of the most severely disabled veterans of the Vietnam generation.” In a written statement, AMVETS concluded these reductions would hurt “the most vulnerable segment of the veterans population.”

During the presidential campaign, the CHIC promised veterans a 24-hour hotline “answered by a real person…devoted to answering veterans’ complaints of wrongdoing at the VA and ensure no complaints fall through the cracks …” Writing in the Military Times, reporter Leo Shane III notes the CHIC also promised to create a commission “to investigate fraud, cover-ups, and wrongdoing that have taken place in the VA.” To date no 24-hour hotline and no commission.

Veterans will also be negatively affected by proposed cuts to programs outside the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Sacramento Bee newspaper reports the CHIC’s health care bill could strip 7 million veterans of tax credits and place them in high risk pools when purchasing health insurance by classifying military related post traumatic stress disorder as a pre-existing condition.

While millions of veterans have VA health coverage, not all former members of the military qualify for comprehensive VA benefits. A 2015 survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that almost three in five respondents reported having service related mental health issues. Decreasing mental health coverage via Medicaid would be detrimental for veterans with PTSD who are more likely to commit suicide than members of the general population.

The CHIC’s budget calls for a significant reduction in Meals on Wheels funding. According to Zelizer, approximately 500,000 veterans nationwide depend on these meals. He notes that in San Antonio, Texas (“Military City USA”), approximately one-third of Meals on Wheels recipients are veterans.

The CHIC’s budget also eliminates funding for the Interagency Council on Homelessness, the agency that coordinates the work of 19 federal agencies that deal with this problem. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, veterans are more likely than non-veterans to be without permanent shelter. Veterans can end up on the streets as a consequence of combat-related brain injuries and/or PTSD. Homeless veterans have a high rate of substance abuse, often a form of self-medication in their struggle to cope with physical and/or emotional injuries.

One or more components of the CHIC’s veterans related budget has been criticized by the nation’s leading veterans organizations including: AMVETS, The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The current budget includes an expansion of the Veterans VA’s “Choice Card Program,” which permits veterans to seek medical services outside the VA system with private-sector physicians. While there is certainly merit to a limited adoption of this program (especially to veterans in rural areas who reside a substantial distance from VA hospitals) critics contend that if the CCP is not coupled with ongoing, robust support for programs administered by the VA, the financial well-being of that organization – the primary agency for providing health care to veterans — could be undermined.

Charles Schmidt, National Chairman of the American Legion, stated the CHIC’s 2018 budget proposal is a “stealth privatization attempt which The American Legion fully opposes.” Schmidt is highly critical of the “cannibalization” of existing VA services that would be scaled back or eliminated to fund the CCP. He noted that “the VA should be the health care provider of first resort for all our Nation’s deserving veterans.” According to Schmidt, the CHIC’s proposed budget is an “unacceptable attack” on the nation’s veterans.

Schmidt stated he hopes that “all veterans, families and supporters of veterans call their elected officials and demand a well-functioning, properly-funded, transparent and accountable Department of Veterans Affairs, and a presidential budget that fully supports veterans’ needs.” Excellent advice unless your congressional representative is Elise “no-response” Stefanik.

The CHIC’s war on veterans is hardly surprising given his characterization of John McCain’s military service. Speaking of the Arizona Republican’s over four year captivity and ongoing torture during the Vietnam War the CHIC stated: “I like people who weren’t captured.” A condescending, draft-dodging, chicken-hawk denigrating not only John McCain but POWs in every war this country has fought is one of the most disgusting things I’ve heard in my almost 71 years.

Not only did the CHIC lambaste McCain for being taken prisoner, he called him a “loser.” After listening to the CHIC’s ramblings for almost two years, first as a candidate, now as president, it’s evident he divides people into two groups: winners and losers. I have no doubt the CHIC believes that anyone who served in the military is a sucker – a loser. From his perspective why would a “winner” fight and possibly die – or end up disabled for life – for his or her country when military service can be avoided as he did.

Honor, duty, sacrifice, service to one’s country — these are virtues the CHIC neither understands nor respects. He cares little if at all for the well-being of the nation’s military veterans.

Sources

Adamczyk, A. (2017) “Thousands of Veterans and Their Families Would Lose Insurance

Under the AHDA,” Money CNN, May 15, http://time.com ;

Bergengruen, V. (2017) “Trump promised to work for vets, but they could lose big under

House Health care bill,” Sacramento Bee, May 5, www.sacbee.com ;

“Fact Sheet: Veteran Homelessness” (2015) National Alliance to End Homelessness, April 22,

www.endhomelessness.com ;

Hellman, J. (2016) “Trump: ‘I don’t regret prisoners of war comments'” The Hill, May 11,

http://thehill.com ;

Koronowski, R. (2017) “Trump’s budget breaks a lot of promises,” Think Progress, May 23,

www.thinkprogress.org ;

Hoellwarth, J. (2017) “AMVETS Deeply Concerned by President Trump’s Proposed Cuts

to Veteran Benefits,” AMVETS, May 24, www.amvets.org ;

Otis, G. (2017) “American Legion slams Trump’s VA budget plan to hurt older vets,”

New York Daily News, May 27, www.nydailynews.com ;

Shane, III, L. (2017) “Trump’s promised hotline for veterans remains unfilled,” Military Times,

May 14, www.militarytimes.com ;

Shane III, L. (2017) “American Legion blasts Trump budget as ‘stealth privatization’ of VA,”

Military Times, May 26, www.militarytimes.com ;

“Trump’s budget proposal slashes disability services” (2017) New Mobility, May 31,

www.newmobility.com ;

Wentling, N. (2017) “2018 VA Budget” (2017) Stars and Stripes, May 24, www.stripes.com ;

Zelizer, J. (2017) “Trump budget proposal could hurt many from his base,” CNN, May 26,

www.cnn.com ;

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