The Washington Post’s portrayal of disabled veterans as a national burden to be cut is disgraceful.
This morning, the editorial board of the Washington Post (owned by the third richest man in the world) decided to use its national platform to shine a spotlight on where it believed our real fiscal problems lie: disability payments to Veterans.
The irresponsibility of the Post to print such an inflammatory article deeply challenges the judgment of the paper. The Post’s contempt for those who have served and sacrificed is seething, offering a trite “We owe the greatest debt to those who risked their lives to keep us free.” followed by 700 words of nonsensical drivel about how our fiscal house needs to be kept in order, as if Veterans are issued golden parachutes upon leaving the military.
The Post treats the budget for Veterans Affairs like it’s some nebulous, needless construct separate from the reason we’re paying the bill to begin with. How precisely then did these veterans become disabled? There’s little to no mention of the Eight-Trillion Dollar war that we spent the last 20 years fighting, less than 6% of which has been spent on Veterans Care. The Post does, however, sickeningly point out that part of the increase in cost of care is due to advances in battlefield medicine. As one Twitter poster succinctly replied, “I’m sorry more of us didn’t die.”
Where were the calls for fiscal responsibility when the Washington Post printed 27 opinion pieces fanning the flames of war? There’s no mention of cutting funding to the military industrial complex, only benefits for those who often have no choice but to fight for the country in hopes of a college education. That education had a high likelihood of coming from the for-profit school industry that defrauded millions of veterans, which The Post’s editorial board decided to defend. This education will pale in comparison to the near universal attendance of the Post’s Editorial Board’s at exclusionary Ivy League universities.
The Post goes on to cherrypick a statistic that employment is the same as their non-veteran civilian counterparts without sharing that this is largely due to increases in creation of skills bridging programs ensuring job transferability. Not mentioned is that there is an enormous gulf between what information and service jobs are paid and vets often have little choice as to what job they received upon enlisting. Conveniently absent was any of the multitudes of externalities of service, such as Veterans 40% more likely to experience chronic pain, 100% more likely to die from a drug overdose, and 57% more likely to commit suicide
So how precisely does the Post justify these cuts to benefits? The benefits themselves last for too long, too generous, and information economy of today does not demand the same physical labor as when the rules were written. Giving their best Marie-Antoinette impression, the Post descends from their ivory towers to tell veterans with mobility injuries, “Let them learn to code.”
The second grim cost cutting measure that the Post proposes is means-testing disability payments based on income. Nevermind that means-testing is expensive, hard to sell politically and less effective than universal programs. It’s flat out immoral. An IED in Fallujah that left a soldier permanently paralyzed does not care what your future income is. The Post also blithely ignores that the disability rates awarded to Veterans can be nonsensically low. Senator Duckworth’s (D-IL) current disability percentage for losing both legs in the line of duty by surviving a helicopter crash is only 20%. Her income as a sitting Senator would completely eliminate this meager stipend. The Post’s argument that the richest nation in the history of the world can no longer afford to pay double amputees is absurd.
Luckily, none of the Post’s perverse proposals are likely to pass. The past year has seen victories for veteran advocates and allies in the passage of the PACT ACT which ensures health coverage to those exposed to toxic chemicals from Burn Pits and Agent Orange, a fight that took 20 years. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough swatted away the idea of means testing as, “a bad idea.” The only thing this article serves to do is paint Veterans as a national burden, malingerers, and that they should be ashamed.
The federal government has exactly one covenant it must keep with veterans, “If we send you to fight and you come back changed, we will care for you.” If you want to pay less for injured veterans, stop engaging in expeditionary forever wars that unnecessarily put US military personnel in harm’s way.
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Jack Inacker, a graduate of the master of public policy program at Temple University, is a veteran, father, chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Veterans Caucus and a committeeperson in the 18th Ward. @jackinacker