Veterans are an inconvenience for our government. When they have done their duty they don’t go away. Supportive programs and benefits have to be funded and administered, something Washington has trouble with. This is good for both of our political parties. They know opportunity when they see it. It is not good for America’s heroes.
Bipartisan agreement: veterans are political tools.
Our two parties don’t agree on much, but there is bipartisan agreement on one thing: veterans are useful political tools. Democrats claim to be worried they are suffering at the hands of Republicans:
These heroes do not deserve to be used as political pawns by the House Republicans as they look to fulfill their obsession with defunding Obamacare and cutting entitlements.1
Republicans blame Democrats:
Since the Senate won’t negotiate, the House passed eight other measures over the last few days to fund critical services – veterans’ benefits, cancer research, emergency and disaster recovery, paychecks for our National Guard and Reserve, nutrition assistance for low-income women and children, and more.2
The shutdown created a tacit, bipartisan agreement that veterans suddenly matter. Did they matter before the crisis?
How do veterans fare when they aren’t being used as political pawns?
Washington had its fun closing war memorials and laying blame in the headlines, but politicians found even better fodder when benefits for the families of veterans were threatened. Ignoring the obvious question of why the government doesn’t have measures in place to make sure this type of injustice doesn’t happen, did our government care about veterans before they were used as part of Congress’s shutdown antics?
The backlog of disability claims is an old embarrassment that speaks to what we are about to experience with Obamacare. The VA boasts that it will process claims within 125 days by 2015,3 one of those good enough for government goals. 66% of claims were backlogged in August 2012.4 Pending claims averaged 254 days and it took 260 days to finish a claim after a decision was reached.5
Ex-servicemembers find appreciation is short-lived.
Before Americans became jaded over high recessionary unemployment both parties used servicemembers as political tools for their blame game over jobs. Unemployment and homelessness is a problem for veterans and despite the money dumped into education benefits, servicemembers who become students have problems with the government:
Student veterans face multiple challenges pursuing their education, but the problems with the VA’s administration of its education benefit programs create financial challenges that negatively impact academic success.6
Commander-in-Chief distances himself from a national disgrace.
With benefits at risk, the White House put some distance between our Commander-in-Chief and our newest national disgrace. This announcement was slapped up on the Department of Veterans Affairs website:
The President, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the administration strongly believe that a lapse in appropriations should not have occurred on October 1, 2013, and Congress should act to fund critical Government operations.7
A more objective GAO report summed up the real problem:
Collectively, a lack of leadership, oversight, resources, and collaboration has contributed to the departments’ inability to fully resolve problems facing recovering servicemembers and veterans.8
Government doesn’t care about its poster children.
Children are the only group more abused than veterans when politicians go hunting for political tools. By now we should have learned that government doesn’t care about its poster children whether they are veterans, children, or the elderly. Once they have served their purpose they fade into the background until the time comes for them to be useful again.