Some of you have taken me to task for slamming the GOP for its lack of support for veterans, asking for evidence beyond my distate for George W. Bush. So be it.
As of 2003, there were 26 million veterans, and 1.4 million active-duty soldiers. That means that roughly 1 out of every 10 Americans falls into that category of people who’ve chosen to serve our country.
That year, the Bush Administration chose to cut $14.6 billion from the mandatory Veteran’s Administration budget, and $10.6 billion from the discretionary budget. That’s money that won’t go to rehabilitation and treatment of disabled veterans, or to pensions and education benefits–and it also includes burial benefits.
Those cuts mean that 9,000 doctors and 18,000 nurses working in the VA health care system will lose their positions, and 164,000 vets who are patients will be affected by those cuts.
6.5 million veterans are enrolled in the VA health care system. Bush’s VA budget cuts mean that 1.7 million of those veterans will be left without access to health care. In addition, thanks to the cuts, 7 VA hospitals will close–this at a time, as I’ve said before, when we’re engaging in two wars simultaneously.
To make matters worse, Bush held up funding of the VA for 5 months.
And it’s not limited to retired vets, or folks who’ve left the service. It also includes the active-duty military.
Last year, Bush proposed cutting imminent danger pay (also called hostile fire pay) by $75 and family separation pay (that’s the money that married soldiers get when they’re apart from their spouses) by $150. His cuts would have meant that if I had been married at the time, I would have received $75/month (instead of $150/month) for getting shot at by angry Iraqis and another $75/month (instead of $225/month) for being away from my wife.
As I’ve written before, the lowest three paygrades in the military are at or below the poverty line. These cuts would have catastrophic for military families.
I could go on (there’s the half-billion dollars in cuts for active-duty military housing, for one) but you get the picture. Bush may say he supports the troops, but his actions betray his true feelings.
Someone else said it best:
It is demeaning to the nation that within the administration, a core of the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned, should have the power to fund with your earnings their dubious and self-serving schemes.
Too bad that it was Bob Dole speaking about Bill Clinton, 8 years ago. And it’s too bad that Dole seems to have sold the last shreds of his integrity for a thin gruel of relevance.