Memorial Day; Remember Vets & What Bush Has Tried to Do to Them

Monday, May 29, 2006 at 06:09 PM

What better time than Memorial Day to remember what veterans have done for America?  And what better time to remember what America has done to veterans?

In his requisite memorial Day speech today at Arlington Cemetery, the President said:

"In this place where valor sleeps, we find strength in knowing that those who served in freedom's cause have acted with principle and steadfast faith."

If only "those who served in freedom's cause" could say the same about the President.  But instead they have to read headlines like: "Frustrated Veterans Accuse Bush of Breaking Promise."

And last year's "Budget plan cuts veterans' benefits."

And today's Boston Globe column titled "Failing our veterans."  As Cynthia Dickstein, author of that column, says:

Bush, who sends soldiers to risk their lives every day in Iraq, strongly supports rescinding the lifetime healthcare benefits promised to WWII and Korean veterans. His proposed budgets, despite dollar amount increases, don't factor in inflation or the increasing numbers of veterans needing healthcare, and thus have repeatedly failed to fully fund benefits to the men and women who have served our country.

Consequently, VA hospitals and clinics have closed, many veterans' healthcare programs have been cut back or eliminated, entire groups of vets have been denied eligibility for service, and those that are eligible may wait months and even years for appointments and necessary surgeries at the remaining VA facilities.

But the president lectures us about the importance of supporting our troops.

The administration's views on veterans' benefits is no different than their views on any other social program, no matter it's focus and no matter its constituency: it ain't market driven, so it must be a drag.  On the economy, that is.  As some VA official said a couple of years ago.  Or as Pentagon official David Chu put it just last year, these benefits are "hurtful" to our national security.

In short, once soldiers leave military service, they have to count on the president and the congress to keep their word, always a bad bet.  It's one thing to love the military when they're in uniform, fighting a war you chose, applauding loudly when you speechify in their presence.  It's another thing to keep your promise to them when they're no longer serving those purposes, when they're "costing you money" and you want to be known as "the tax cut guy."

So we have relentless pressure on benefits from the free marketeers.

We have budget increases that do not keep pace with inflation, especially in the medical field where price increases are astronomical.

We have budget increases that do not take account of the fact that the budgeted amounts must provide benefits to ever larger numbers of veterans, and, in current times, to ever more seriously injured war veterans.

We have one of the most shameful examples of public pandering to the military and patriotism backed by private perfidy in the annals of American politics (which has no shortage).

Slowly, the military must be starting to realize what the rest of the country picked up over the last couple of years.  These guys only keep promises to the same people they give tax cuts and special legislation.  If you ain't rich, if you ain't a vote-delivering evangelical, you ain't squat.

And if you really want the President's undying appreciation of your military service you better be either lying in Arlington Cemetery or sitting in an audience with the t.v. cameras rolling.