Clubbing The Veterans

Defending a nation has always required the service of strong people who often traded their health, limbs, and sometimes their lives so that the other citizens could sleep safely in their beds at night. In first century Rome it was not much different leaving substantial numbers of disabled veterans depended on the state for small pensions that sustained their modest lifestyles.

Then there was Caligula, the infamous Roman Emperor noted for his unquenchable desires, who decided to entertain the people by clubbing hundreds of disabled veterans to death in the Coliseum.  His joy was two-fold, while pretending to be a warrior the spindly sovereign helped balance his national budget by eliminating some fixed costs. Such behavior is repugnant to any observer of history who possesses even a modicum of humanity.

Today, the United States is fighting a global war, another way of saying world war, against an enemy who wants to disrupt the sleep of our citizens. The strong people who stand watch and do violence as required on this enemy often trade their health, limbs, and sometimes their lives for us.  Caring for those that survive the ordeal of service requires a cost.  Modern health care is more expensive than it was in 1st century Rome, but our longevity and quality of life is greater too.

So far, no one has suggested murdering our veterans to balance the defense budget, but other things are being done to them that endanger their health.  Just a few years ago a system called Tricare replaced a system without an annual fee.  At the time, some argued that it reneged on the promises of the past, but the argument was brushed aside because the fees were smaller than most civilian plans.  Those fees were designed to offset some of the cost of health care by collecting money from the veterans.  The resistance faded and the system went into effect.

Soon it was argued that having smaller fees for Tricare than for plans like Blue Cross, encouraged retirees to actually use the program resulting in a high cost to the defense budget.  Some proposed modifications to Tricare appeared to be designed to force retirees to abandon Tricare altogether and to seek healthcare elsewhere.  While it is not quite as horrible as Caligula’s clubbing of Rome’s veterans in the Coliseum, it is still a shame that the past service of our 20 to 30+ year veterans is not being held in high esteem.

The bean-counters in the Pentagon aren’t completely to blame.  All of us who served during the 80s and 90s experienced shrinking or eliminated entitlements.  Self-help was the mantra of how to get things done.  Costs were “transferred” from the budget to money acquired through fund-raisers or squadron dues.  And now when the budget spinners talk about “increasing revenues” they really mean collecting money from retirees’ pensions.

Balancing the defense budget on the wallets of retirees is repugnant.  Congress should fully fund military health care to stop the Pentagon budget planners from continually searching for ways to loot retirees of their hard-earned pensions.

It just makes sense.

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