The VA Scandal Is Rooted In the Delusional Republican Belief That Wars Are Free

veterans

Republicans don’t seem to understand relativity, causation, or math.

They claim that the problem at the Veterans Administration (VA) isn’t one of not spending enough, because the budget has gone up. This is cover for Congress giving Obama less than he asked for, and reminiscent of their argument that their refusal to fund embassy security to Hillary Clinton’s request had nothing to do with the failure of security, even though she warned them that such a thing could happen.

When the GOP fingers start pointing, their “responsibility” is negated before it’s even argued. To wit, Hot Air tries to argue that since budgets have gone up, the problem at the VA isn’t a lack of resources (my bold):

Over the last few days, some have suggested that the issue at the VA has been a lack of resources, by which the US has shortchanged the VA in budgets and in patient spending. While one can argue whether resources within the VA have been adequately focused — which is a leadership issue — one cannot argue that the VA has lacked for resources from Congress in the form of budgets or per-patient spending.

OMB historical data on budget outlays by department are easily available at the White House website, and the spreadsheet tells a very interesting story. Since 9/11, the VA budget has increased by 235%, from FY2001-s $45 billion annual budget to FY2014-s $150.7 billion.

Yes, the budget has gone up. Any guesses as to why? Do you suppose two wars started by the Republican President have anything to do with increasing budgets for the Veterans Administration? Aw, shucks. It can’t be, because wars are free. Bush told us so when he left them off of the budget.

Hot Air then tried to blame Obama for the 2009 budget since he “signed” it, but it was Bush’s budget — drafted under Bush before Obama ever took office, and implemented before Obama took office. Bush proposed spending $3.1 trillion (“not including TARP, Other Bailouts, And Other Emergency Spending”) in 2009 and he signed all of the spending bills. Federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. In other words, Bush spent the money. Not Obama.

Naturally, Bush did not request funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. He left that task to Obama, and Republicans blamed Obama for it.

Furthermore, even Bush knew that with the rise in wars, there would be a rise in veterans, thus he requested $38.7 billion for veteran medical care. Mind you, the wars were still ongoing and not in drawdown phase at this point, and injuries sustained during active duty are handled by TRICARE, not the VA.

So when PolitiFact begrudgingly admitted that yes, Congress has spent less money on the VA than Obama requested, on average about $2 billion a year less, they thought it a mere drop in the bucket. Not relevant.

But also, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to increase VA funding by $21 billion this February. “The bill contained provisions that would restore the COLA for vets, and protect them from losing their benefits in the event of another government shutdown. It also would have authorized the construction of 27 new clinics and medical facilities, and it would have provided tuition assistance to post-9/11 vets.”

Oh, sure, that’s nothing – just protecting vets from Republican obstruction via another temper tantrum shutdown and new clinics. Nothing.

It’s nothing until one recalls that Bush started two wars and wars make veterans. Yes, the VA was already struggling to meet the new demands resulting from the “War on Terror”. In December of 2004, the VA faced a funding crisis that kept it from providing disability ratings to veterans. Funding matters.

And it’s not like Republicans were unaware that there was a problem when they blocked funding. In March of 2013, some vets were waiting up to 506 days for benefits. It was found then that “As the population of new veterans has swelled in recent years, the annual number of claims received by VBA has gone up. Compared to the past, these claims have a higher number of disabling conditions, and some of these conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries, make their assessment complex.”

I’ll make this simple: New wars made new veterans which resulted in more claims, additionally, more than in the past, these new claims presented with a higher number of disabling conditions.

In addition to over 4,000 American lives, the “War on Terror” costs will keep rising for the next 30-40 years and medical and disability costs will total between $600 billion and $1 trillion, according to a Brown University 20111 Costs of War report.

And most importantly, “Finally, although veterans’ care comprises the fourth largest category of government spending, the magnitude of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ costs is grossly understated in government projections.”

So you see, by filibustering veterans benefits and giving the President less funding than he requested for the VA, Republicans are “starving the beast”. To say that funding went up does not equate to the funding was enough.

So no, we can’t run around cutting funding to the VA. If we can’t afford the VA in the long term, then this conflict needs to be resolved before we invade a country based on a lie. Not after. A responsible party would have raised revenues to pay for this, instead of cutting taxes and giving corporations government subsidies.

Dr. Michael F. Roizen, who trained at a VA hospital, opined that the VA problems were related to funds, “And my guess is that is the VA’s problem as well – when these wars were started, our government didn’t plan for the VA budget to treat the soldier victims. And Congress still hasn’t allocated enough funds to adequately do so.” Bingo.

The truth of the matter is that both parties are to blame for the failures of the VA (as is our culture of ignoring veterans while flag waving for war), but at this specific time in history, the biggest fault lay in the fact that we had 2 wars that were not planned for or paid for in any way prior to entering them, nor were any efforts made to fund their costs during the entire Bush years. Instead, Republicans cut taxes and found no alternative method of providing revenue for their “deficits don’t matter” spending.

Wars cost money. They continue to cost money long after they are over, only these costs do not go to contractors so they are ignored. Pretending that this isn’t the case is the real scandal. The most distasteful thing about the Republican attacks right now is for years liberals have been trying to get Republicans to pay attention to our nation’s veterans. Who knew it would take a Democratic president that they could blame in order for them to see.

But now that they have, there’s no excuse for turning away.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct “Senate Republicans blocked a bill to increase VA funding by $21 million” to “billion”.

17 Replies to “The VA Scandal Is Rooted In the Delusional Republican Belief That Wars Are Free”

  1. The Bush Admin. spent the surplus from Clintons time on two wars that should have only been one. They handed billions to KBR Haliburton and Blackhawk. They never put the wars on the books as a debt and ignored it as non existent then Obama become POTUS and IMMEDIATELY the debt was ALL his and HE was responsible! The Reich Wing is responsible for all of this debt but as usual have not one iota of courage or responsibility. They are cowards all.

  2. A good movie you should see is Matt Damon’s Green Zone. I know it’s fictional but has lots of truth in it, and it’s another movie about the sheer debacle that was the war in Iraq, especially about the false intelligence that got us in the war, the complete misunderstanding of the ethnic groups that were at each other’s throats but were actually contained by Saddam Hussein (yes he was a horrible person) and how it all disintegrated into Balkanization once Hussein was gone. And how it’s been civil war there since. Daily people get blown up there, a third of the country wants to join Iran, a third of the country wants to form Kurdistan and the rest are in perpetual tribal wars

  3. The Something For Nothing Party would rather hand the credit card to China. And require “sacrifice” means cutting taxes to the rich while making sure the middle class and poor sacrifice.

  4. This is what austerity means. Pain for the 99.9%. This is why the rich are so afraid. Because they know the gravy train is going to crash some day.

  5. Good heavens we can’t ask the rich to pay more in taxes, or send their children to war. That privilege, is for poor folk. Those who can’t send their children to college, or on spring breaks. Those who are the real back bone of our country, but get abused by the powerful. The rich are not powerful in courage and only have their money to give a false sense of courage. All we need to do is take a look at Congress, and ask how many of their children went to war. I can think of only one. He wore his son’s boots to the congressional floor every day. How many of the present Congress have them selves ever, spent time in service to his country? Not many. Yet, if this congress happens fall under rethug control, watch how fast we will be in another war. wars make money for the rich!

  6. It’s a shame that not all Vets get the care my dad received from the doctor he referred to, affectionately, as “that young fellow.” Dad was dying, we knew it, he knew it, the doctor knew it – didn’t matter to the doctor, he treated the man and not just the symptoms of his disease.

    He made things easier – not just on my dad, but on us. My dad’s last months would have been a lot harder on him without the VA. I don’t know if he’d get that care today and it’s a shame, not just for the Vets but for the doctors who really do want to help.

  7. The evil GOP/Teabaggers don’t give a crap about others relatives dying in the wars that they support, but let their love ones become the victims and see how fast they improve VA benefits and care. It’s easy to be a naysayer when it’s not your love ones.

  8. What makes me mad is how conservatives will use this tragedy as a political weapon against socialized medicine. Never mind that VA socialized healthcare is rated by veterans including myself very highly. They will use a broad brush to paint socialized medicine as bad for America. Sadly knowing how easily modern Americans can be propagandized it might work.

  9. How many of these aging veterans, now being abused by the VA, are from WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam, all orchestrated by Democrats?

  10. You are correct. Protect the wealthy and make them more money at the cost of everyday Americans. After serving in war zones the least the country could do is exempt them from paying back student loans and better medical care. I have a son who was an Officer and all he gets is a paltry 20%. We actually went to a Congressman whose staffer was shredding Veterans claims. When we confronted the ex congressman his stupid answer was “why did he do that?” If he doesn’t know how would we. We found out he was shredding most of them so he wouldn’t have to do them. Didn’t do my son and the rest of the Vets any good.

  11. I would just like to point at one fact that sums it all up.

    The VERY DAY we marched into Iraq, the House Republicans (while R’s controlled Senate and White House, to be sure) voted to reduce VA funding.

    House Republicans voted in their budget to cut $14 billion from veterans’ health care. The GOP budget also included the President’s proposal to impose a $250 fee for enrollment in VA health care for low and moderate income veterans, along with a doubling of the drug co-payment for those veterans. [H Con. Res 95, Vote #82, 3/21/03]

  12. Just spend time on this site and your propagandized.. End of story. Socialized medicine doesn’t work, and the VA system is a good example. Just listen to some of the vets speak about their experiences, and although varied, they tell a bleak tale of long waits which have even caused deaths. Sounds like a winner to me. You want to revise your opinion?

  13. Well this disabled vet has been in the system for over 25 years. My nurse and doctor calls me to find how I am doing, my appointments are always met of course you may have a little waiting time but in my case I never waited more than 40 minutes, my meds are mailed to me on time and most importantly they have saved my life when I went into respiratory distress 4 times. In case you don’t know what that means I stopped breathing. So take your teabaggiung ass back to your Koch sucking whores and leave my VA alone. You damn vulture who never had the balls to serve his country coward

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