Budget cuts should not affect veteran care
Published: Thursday, June 14th, 2012
The battle over budget cuts, debt ceilings and tax cuts is about to get nasty in Washington.
The fight on the Hill over tax cuts and extended benefits is on the horizon and may be a source of embarrassment for this country. We may feel more ashamed of our lawmakers in the near future than we have in the last four years.
This is not the only source of the shame we should feel with those who make the laws and pass the budgets on Capitol Hill. With the need for cutting the budget and working toward a more sensible spending plan, the Obama Administration is proposing massive cuts to the military budget.
Now in a perfect world, those cuts would mean an end to paying outrageous prices for products that can be purchased for less than $20. It would mean no more paying for the assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the secretary. It would mean less pomp and circumstance and more common sense operations.
But in reality, what it will mean is less money for those who sacrificed years of their lives to teach the Afghan military how to actually fight the Taliban, rebuilding that country’s infrastructure and putting children back into schools.
While those who manage the Armed Services will take a hit with budget cuts, those who will be hurt the most will be those whose boots are on the ground.
It will be our soldiers and our veterans who will suffer under these budget cuts. While the Pentagon continues to spend hundreds of dollars for a $20 hammer, soldiers will see less pay and veterans less benefits.
The reality of the more sophisticated military gear and advanced medical training is that soldiers who might have lost their lives on the battlefield in earlier wars are making it home. They may be mangled and broken, but they are alive.
This means we are bringing home soldiers who need more help than ever from this 10-year war in the Middle East.
According to military statistics, more than 500,000 military personnel have returned with disabling conditions since 2001. These soldiers are returning with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and other special needs medical conditions.
These are men and women who may never be able to function normally again.
These soldiers are considered near or 100 percent disabled, according to the military. Is that not enough for this country to pay them back for the sacrifices they have made?
Soldiers who are discharged on disability are just beginning their lives of struggle. It is a burden on their families and can destroy relationships. Their pay is reduced to a fraction of what it was, while the cost of living a life with a disability proves more than they can bring home. There is no more military housing, no help or other benefits of life on a military base. When they need the most help, it is pulled from them because they have ended their service to this country.
In essence, have they not given up their lives for this country? Yet we watch as spouses make choices no average family will ever have to face. Do they stay with their broken soldier to spend years taking care of a special needs spouse and struggle financially, or make the heartbreaking decision to do what they feel is best for the children and leave that life?
How can we as a nation justify leaving our veterans with special medical needs in situations where these are the kind of decisions they must make?
The lack of oversight in all branches of our government is why we are in this mess. For far too long no one has had to answer why funding is spent on unimportant excess rather than where it is truly needed.
As we watch the upcoming election and the budget battles, we may feel shame in the actions of our lawmakers.
What we should really feel shame about is the manner in which we are treating those wounded warriors and their families who have sacrificed everything for this country.
—Guest Editorial by Katie Zerr, Mobridge Tribune
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