Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Selling Out Our Veterans

by Pa Rock

I am a fan of the G.I. Bill, and moreover, I am even a product of the G.I. Bill. After serving four years in the United States Army in the early 1970s, I got out and went back to school. For the next forty-eight months the government gave me a check every month to help with my school expenses. That money provided me with the opportunity to earn two additional degrees and also put a lot of food on the table for my family. I didn't look on those monthly payments as a gift from my government, rather I saw them as deferred income. When I entered the service I did so for a complete package of benefits that included things like salary. medical and dental benefits, 30 days vacation a year, and assistance with college expenses. I gave the military four years of my time, and in return I had an expectation of collecting all that they promised me.

Congress cut back drastically on the G.I. Bill after the Vietnam debacle was over, and new enlistees were offered a much more meager package of college benefits. Congress and the President usually forget the veterans quickly once the crisis has passed.

Over the past few years the Bush administration has appeared to be absolutely inhumane in their treatment of veterans returning from the Oil War in the middle east. Many tried to get out after their enlistments were over, only to learn that they were being drafted into continued service through the back door with a program called "stop loss." Stop Loss allowed the military to keep individuals from leaving service because they were still needed for the war effort. That way Dear Leader could prance around bragging that we didn't need a draft (drafts are messy affairs that attract public demonstrations and outrage) while keeping the military ranks full by holding veterans against their will.

And when they got out, veterans were routinely hit with poor medical care in inferior facilities (Walter Reed Army Hospital, Ft. Sill - to name a couple). And then the news media began finding veterans of Dear Leader's wars living under overpasses and out on the streets. If our government had been treating dogs and cats the way it managed the needs of our brave veterans, the public outcry would have closed the capitol!

So some in Congress, seeing that the current administration was too dumb and uncaring to do right by our veterans, decided that Congress would take the lead in changing things. One idea that turned into legislation was to fund an effective G.I. Bill. Oddly enough, the hawks, those who are always ready to send other people's children into war, fought the plan. George Bush (who didn't go to Vietnam even though he let his government train him to be a fighter pilot - and who can't remember where he was in 1972) opposed it. Prick Cheney (who used five or six student deferments to stay out of Vietnam - and then managed to get Lynn pregnant so that he could also use a family deferment) opposed it. Even John McBush (who did go to Vietnam and whose son did fight in the Oil War) opposed the new G.I. Bill. And the Veteran's Administration, the agency that is supposed to look after the needs of our veterans, opposed it. (VA honchos are appointed by the President - see how that works!)

So why did these public servants oppose legislation that would be of enormous benefit to people who had actually put their lives on the line for their country (unlike Bush and Cheney)? Their stated reason was that the new G.I. Bill was too good and would cause people to get out of the service so they could go to college. (If somebody could get that load of crap trucked to the Midwest, I would like to have it spread over the pasture at my little farm in the Ozarks!)

Long story short (sort of): The bill passed and has been enacted into law. So our veterans can all rest easy knowing that they are in for some quality schooling. Well, don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen! Yesterday, in a stupefying case of passive aggressive behavior, the VA announced that it would be privatizing the implementation of the new program. They are hiring private companies to manage the G.I. Bill. (And we all know what a stellar job private companies did in managing the Oil War!)

So troops, when you are safely out of harm's way and out of uniform, and you think that you have bent over for Halliburton and Black Water for the last time - think again! They're back!

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