Vets - Co-payment 'collected in blood'
James P. Ret
Vets - Co-payment 'collected in blood'
Sun Jan 11 16:52:54 2004

James P. Ret
  US Army, Retired
  Vets Voting Bloc -
  Health Care Swindle:
  BEGIN: Letter to Ed:
  Focus: Co-payment 'collected in blood'
  San Antonio Express-News
  Web Posted : 01/11/2004 12:00 AM
  Paid in full in Vietnam

  The White House is testing the waters to
  see if there is much opposition to charging retired
  military a few dollars for their prescription drugs.
  If not many oppose such an erosion of retired
  military benefits, it will become a reality.
  When I enlisted in the Air Force in
  1951, retirement had no place in my mind. I was
  thinking the Air Force would teach me to be a pilot
  and would be exciting.
  Along the way, after I decided that
  rockets, bombs and guns were more thrilling than
  driving a "busload" of people through the skies as
  an airline pilot, I remained in the Air Force.
  Every government benefit I will ever
  receive I earned north of Hanoi on Oct. 5, 1965. I
  accomplished my mission even though my aircraft was
  so badly damaged from three heavy "hits" that it
  never again flew.
  Many other veterans have accomplished so
  much more than I. To cut their pay by making them
  pay a for their drugs is a low blow. And this is
  only the beginning.
  Our veterans did their duty. Let's not
  nickel-and-dime them to death with financial
  — Tony Weissgarber
  Oath erased any debt
  For those who would say that the co-pay
  charges for prescriptions are nominal, let me remind
  you that all military personnel already paid a huge
  co-pay when they pledged to defend this country to
  the death, a co-pay, far too often collected, in
  blood on the field of battle.
  — Arnold W. Douthit
  Benefits? All lies
  I spent 21 years in the military, and
  more than half of that was spent in recruiting. Back
  in the '70s and '80s one of our best recruiting
  tools when talking to prospects was advertising
  brochures on the benefits of enlisting and making
  the military a career.
  "Where else can you get a job at the age
  of 17 and retire at 37 with full medical benefits
  for the rest of your life?"
  I know now it was just propaganda, bait
  and outright lies used by elected officials to lure
  unsuspecting high school and college graduates to
  enlist (they should have kept the draft).
  I want to personally apologize to all
  those young men and women I recruited for all the
  lies I told them. Where does it stop? Our government
  (elected officials) keeps taking away from the ones
  who served them only to give themselves another pay
  raise they haven't earned.
  — Retired Master Sgt. Curt Barlow
  Have to fight, then pay
  The Republicans must feel confident they
  have the next election locked up to think military
  retirees (or their organizations) will sit by and
  watch such a drastic change in the free-prescription
  policy that has been in existence as long as anyone
  can remember.
  I have grown weary of people who are
  elected to office for only a few short years then
  feel the need to change everything about the
  benefits we have earned. We not only have to fight
  the wars but pay for them, too.
  — Howard W. Dix
Who Stands Against George W. Bush?

Offensive Interference
How war distracts from outlandish Bush policies
By Robert Kuttner
Web Exclusive: 3.27.03

Print Friendly | Email Article

The war in Iraq might not be going quite as smoothly as the Bush administration hoped, but the war at home is going just swimmingly. War is silencing debate not just on the wisdom of Bush's foreign policy but on a host of other issues that would normally be front-page news.

You might have missed it, but this is budget season. Thanks to the distractions of war, bizarre budget resolutions are swiftly moving through Congress and will be law by mid-April. For the first time ever in the United States, we are rushing through an immense tax cut in the midst of a war that the president admits will cost at least $74.7 billion just in its first phase. The consequence of this, not surprisingly, is massive cuts in popular outlays.

The budget enacted by the Republican House on a straight-line party vote (with just 12 GOP dissenters) is astonishing. It not only gives Bush his entire tax cut but proposes to balance the budget within six years. The casualties of that process would be monumentally unpopular if the public were not distracted by war.

For starters, the House Republicans are cutting, of all things, veterans benefits. The message, evidently, is God bless our troops when they are dodging bullets but God help them when they come home.

Once, a grateful nation offered vets free medical care. Now, the Republicans want to charge premiums to "well-to-do" vets -- with well-to-do defined as earning $26,000 a year. All told, the House budget cuts an amazing $14.6 billion in vets' programs, including money for disabilities caused by war wounds, rehabilitation and health care, pensions for low income veterans, education and housing benefits, and even -- nice touch -- burial benefits.

After World War II, we welcomed back vets with a huge program of education, health and housing -- the justly celebrated GI Bill of Rights. This time, returning military personnel will not only face cuts in their own benefits as veterans; their kids will face cuts in education and health aid as well.

One of Bush's signature programs was "No Child Left Behind." The House Republican budget cuts education funding by 10.2 percent below the reduced level proposed by President Bush, which had proposed to cut several billion previously approved by Congress.

The Bush administration claims that the war is being fought to make sure weapons of mass destruction will not rain down on Americans. Incredibly, the Republicans are shortchanging the Nunn-Lugar program, the bipartisan effort to dismantle the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union. Which is the bigger threat: Russia's thousands of loose nukes or Saddam's hypothetical ones?

There's more: $93 billion in Medicaid cuts; a skimpy prescription drug program financed by other massive cuts in Medicare; huge environmental cuts.

As astonishing as the slap to veterans is a slight cut in real outlays for homeland security -- at a time when threats will increase. There is no new money for port security. Even the administration's "first-responder" initiative comes from cuts in other law enforcement aid.

Though the war serves as a handy distraction, these budget assaults are not mainly the result of war. Mainly they go to pay for the cost of tax cuts. The final cost of the war, occupation and rebuilding may reach $200 billion. The cost of the two Bush tax cuts is over $3 trillion. (In a preliminary vote, the Senate voted yesterday to trim Bush's latest tax cut by $350 billion, but this still would have to be reconciled with the House.)

This administration's slogan might as well be, "Sacrifice is for suckers." While young men and women risk their lives in a war whose rationale remains to be proven, the larger Bush program diverts money from services to ordinary Americans, even our homeland security -- to give tax breaks to multimillionaires.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, stands to make a pile of money as a military contractor in Iraq, while Richard Perle, one of the architects of the Iraq war, is to receive $725,000 as a consultant to a telecom company seeking regulatory approval from the Pentagon.

War is never good for democratic deliberation. That's why it's so good for this administration, whose policies would otherwise not withstand public scrutiny.

One final issue lost in the fog of war is the effort by tax reformers to close the loophole that allows unpatriotic U.S. companies to move to offshore tax havens. The IRS puts the cost to the U.S. Treasury at around $70 billion a year -- about the direct cost of the Iraq war. It's an instructive contrast: ordinary American soldiers slogging through the sands of Iraq while Bush's corporate cronies relax on a sandy, tax-free beach.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of the Prospect.


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