For a little under a hundred years Americans have been honoring the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces on what is known as Veterans Day. For some Americans Veterans Day is an extra day off from work and little else, and for others it is the one day a year they are reminded of the sacrifice of those who served and prodded to “thank a Vet for their service.” For Republicans in Congress, not only do they disregard Veterans’ service and sacrifice, they openly dishonor them on a regular basis while encouraging other Americans to “thank a Vet.”
A Veteran of the Iraq War who was disabled while serving on orders of President George W. Bush echoed a common refrain often heard among those who served when people “thank them for their service.” The disabled combat Veteran does not want to be thanked for doing the job he signed up for. He wants Americans to show their gratitude by doing something that will really help Veterans instead of just saying thanks; writing their congressional representative and plead with them to fully fund the Veterans Administration.
What the Veteran should have said is write to Republicans in Congress and insist that they stop dishonoring America’s Veterans. Although President Obama has not come out and accused Republicans of dishonoring those who served, he has taken a hard line against a serious attempt by Republicans to cut Veterans’ benefits. Last April President Obama had to, once again, threaten to use his veto pen when House Republicans expressed their conservative gratitude to those who wore the uniform by attempting to cut benefits for 70,000 Veterans; it is the GOP way of honoring those they sent to fight, die, or return home broken and maimed.
The GOP’s bill would have cut health benefits for roughly 70,000 veterans as well as cut out funding for medical research like better prosthetics, education and veterans’ cemeteries. In fact, it was not only a piece of legislation President Obama opposed for punishing Veterans for being alive while Republicans control spending, the Veterans Administration Secretary said, “Please don’t let this funding bill become law if you care about our veterans. We must do better for them.” However, Republicans have demonstrated time and again they do not care about Veterans; particularly since they gained control of Congress.
For example, In 2014, Senate Republicans blocked a Veterans’ benefits bill that would have expanded Federal healthcare and education programs for veterans; Republicans claimed the Veterans were not worth the cost to the federal budget. The legislation’s supporters said the measure would bring the most significant changes in decades to Veterans’ programs, but Republicans are conservatives who despise “significant change” nearly as much as they do America’s Veterans.. For example, the legislation called for 27 new medical facilities to help augment an underfunded healthcare system that is being strained by Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Republicans love sending American soldiers off to wars, any wars they can start, but when the soldiers’ enlistments are up, or they come home disabled, Republicans have as much contempt for Vets as they do every other American not part of the one-percent or corporate world.
Barely two years earlier, it was House Republicans attempting to slash Veterans’ benefits and seriously began pushing a scam to privatize Veterans’ healthcare. According to Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, the Republican privatization scam was typical of conservative schemes in that it would “be grossly inadequate, and become more so over time. Veterans would fail to receive essential care.” It is the GOP’s way of telling Veterans “thank you for your service” while crusading to start another war to create another generation of underserved Veterans.
In fact, it was also in 2012 that, while Willard Romney pledged to give Veterans a coupon instead of healthcare, his running mate and current House Speaker Paul Ryan was touting a Heritage Foundation austerity budget that slashed funding for those who served their country. Ryan’s “Path To Prosperity” perennial budget proposal would have cut $11 billion from spending on Veteran’s benefits; an amount that was significantly less than the President proposed in his budget.
Two years ago House Republicans despicably attempted to cut food assistance for 170,000 Veterans and their families. All while crusading to give greater tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy using funds cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, food stamps). The cuts would have immediately impacted over 170,000 Veterans and their families, and that figure is about one-tenth of the 1.7 million Veterans who receive food assistance through the SNAP program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), SNAP “provides essential support that enables low-income Veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled” from senseless Middle East wars to purchase nutritious food for their families.
It is difficult to conclude anything other than Republicans dishonor Veterans as a matter of course. First by happily sending them off to war and then doing every and anything to cut their benefits after they served. Although it is typical of Republicans, the man most responsible for current combat Veterans, George W. Bush, demonstrated his disregard for Veterans after he lied and cheated to send American soldiers to fight, die, or be disabled in Iraq.
It was revealed a couple of months ago that George W. Bush charged a charity for Veterans who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan for the pleasure of hearing him talk. It is typical for former presidents and politicians to receive speaking fees, but not from a charity created to help the very Veterans they sent off to war for oil and profits. Only a Republican would dishonor Veterans by charging $100,000 to speak to a group of wounded, and likely, limbless veterans who were in wars he started while in office.
One former Marine, Eddie Wright, who lost both of his hands in a rocket attack in Fallujah in 2004 said, “For him to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders is not right.” The charity’s board members really summed up what Bush, and all Republicans think of Veterans whether they came home intact or otherwise; “it’s a slap in the face for wounded Veterans.”
Whether it is a “slap in the face” or simply dishonoring their service, Republicans have demonstrated that they have about as much use for America’s fighting men and women after they served as they do America’s poor, women, people of color and the elderly. If not for President Obama and Democrats in Congress, America’s Veterans would feel the wrath of Republicans who are as willing and anxious to cut their benefits and they are to send them into harm’s way. On this Veteran’s Day, take the advice of this author’s son and instead of thanking a Veteran for their service, write or call any Republican in Congress and tell them to start supporting Veterans with the same urgency as they want to send them to war.