I have been reading The Post for almost 30 years, and, in all that time, no editorial written by the board has been worse than the April 5 editorial “The military gets modernized. So why not veterans benefits?” Its premise is utterly laughable, given how many programs the Editorial Board has pushed for that have added to the national debt in just the past decade. I was in the Army for 10 years. I am not a combat veteran. It was embarrassing to have to apply for disability. It is embarrassing to constantly have to explain to people that I am, for all practical purposes, retired because of the stress that those 10 years in the Army placed on my body and mind. It took almost seven years for my compensation to be fully decided.
And that’s the crux of countering the poorly reasoned argument at the center of the editorial; this is compensation for services rendered. This is what was promised, this is what is owed, and it is morally reprehensible for any group of people who have little or no experience in this area to suggest it be taken away under the guise of “fiscal responsibility.” Thanks for adding to the stigma of disability. Thanks for suggesting that I and people like me do not deserve the compensation we were promised.
Benjamin W. Potter, Remington, Va.
Though I understand the rationale behind targeting benefits more efficiently, I still have concerns about the potential consequences of means-testing for some veterans. Implementing such a policy might inadvertently create challenges for those who are deemed high earners but who still face financial or emotional difficulties because of their service.
As a veteran, I know that the support provided by benefits goes beyond financial assistance. The benefits also offer a sense of security and act as an acknowledgment of the sacrifices made by those who have served. It is crucial to consider the full range of potential effects when proposing changes to veterans’ benefits.
Dennis White, Albuquerque
I, like thousands of other veterans, sacrificed my health in service to this country. The national contract to care for veterans injured in that service is a sacred commitment and should not be subjected to insincere worries about the budget.
The April 5 editorial “The military gets modernized. So why not veterans benefits?” omitted how little veterans receive in disability pay for the damage they have to deal with every day. According to VA Claims Insider, the average disability rating is 10 percent, with that veteran receiving $165.92 per month in 2022. Pay for someone rated as 100 percent disabled was raised to $3,621.95 per month as of December.
So go ahead — tell the soldier who is missing both legs that it’s just too expensive to compensate him for his disability. Tell the Marine with burns over 60 percent of her body that her service-connected disability is hurting the national debt.
Michael Wright, Meridian, Idaho
The writer retired as a master sergeant from the Air Force.
The military health-care and subsequent veteran-care and disability compensation system shortsightedly neglects the front end of the process and puts off the pain (for the government) until later. Active-duty military members are often treated with just enough care to keep them going with the expectation that it will be “made up for” once their service is complete.
I would prefer to not be paid a Veterans Affairs disability benefit. I don’t want to have nightmares, or sleep for only three or four hours a night. I don’t want my elbow pain to wake me up, or to go to bed with a CPAP mask on. Nor do I look forward to the likely open-heart surgery I will have for my now-70 percent calcified and blocked coronary arteries. I would happily forgo my disability compensation to not have to deal with those things. But those things are a direct result of my years of service in defense of our nation.
Our bodies and minds hurt. Our government has decided that a monthly stipend is the right response for that pain. Whether you agree with that system or not, that is the deal our government made with us.
Most veterans witnessed millions of dollars wasted throughout our careers while feeling personally “nickel and dimed” through inconsistent health care, low pay, lowest-bidder moves, etc. — while being culturally pressured to believe that it was somehow a great privilege to be treated this way while serving. Pardon our lack of sympathy for the fiscal responsibility demanded at our cost.
Jon Duffy, San Diego
The writer retired as a captain from the Navy.
The editorial on veterans benefits treated the budget for Veterans Affairs as though it is some nebulous, needless construct separate from the reason we’re paying the bill to begin with. How precisely then did these veterans become disabled? There was little to no mention of the $8 trillion war that we spent the past 20 years fighting, and less than 6 percent of that cost has been spent on veterans’ care. The editorial did, however, sickeningly point out that part of the increase in the cost of care is because of advances in battlefield medicine. As one Twitter poster succinctly replied, “I’m sorry more of us didn’t die.”
There was no mention of cutting funding to the military-industrial complex, only benefits for those who often have no choice but to fight for the country in hopes of a college education.
The editorial cherry-picked a statistic that said employment is the same for veterans as for their non-veteran civilian counterparts without sharing that this is largely because of increases in skills-bridging programs ensuring job transferability. Conveniently absent was any of the multitudes of externalities of service, such as veterans are 40 percent more likely to experience chronic pain, 100 percent more likely to die from a drug overdose and 57 percent more likely to die by suicide.
The federal government has exactly one covenant it must keep with veterans: If we send you to fight and you come back changed, we will care for you.
If the United States wants to pay less for injured veterans, it should stop engaging in expeditionary forever wars that unnecessarily put U.S. military personnel in harm’s way.
Jack Inacker, Philadelphia
Veterans go into the military for many reasons. They might feel a patriotic pull to serve this nation. Others might see it as a steppingstone in their career in public service or leadership roles. And many veterans go into the service because of the promises this country makes for when they come home to have the American Dream. We made a promise to veterans that if we send them into danger and they are injured, we will take care of them.
I agree with the editorial that Veterans Affairs needs to revise its rating schedule, as many ratings do not reflect the severity of a veteran’s disability or symptoms. The VA rating schedule needs to be amended to reflect what we now know about disabilities and how the symptoms impact employment.
As for income restrictions and taxes, it is important to understand that a veteran’s income potential might be diminished by service-connected disabilities that can negatively affect employment opportunities. This can be a shorter career, a shorter life span, missing days of work and income because of illness, or not getting the opportunities they would have gotten but for those disabilities. The National Institutes of Health has found that female and male veterans with 100 percent VA ratings have 22 percent and 11 percent diminished life expectancies, respectively. We are responsible for this.
Saving money on the backs of veterans who sacrificed for this nation is not the answer. Instead, we should consider whether going to war is worth the cost. That cost includes caring for our veterans when they come home.
Yelena Duterte, Chicago