Nel's New Day

November 11, 2019

DDT’s Record about Veterans Belies Speech about Them

In a normal world, the United States would be honoring the veterans on the day set aside to commemorate their service, and the commander-in-chief would join in the appreciation for their service. We no longer have a “normal world”: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is sitting in the Oval Office.

DDT abused veterans even during his campaign. In January 2016, DDT boycotted a debate other GOP presidential candidates over a feud with Fox’s Megyn Kelly and held his own rally at the same time, ostensibly to raise money for veterans. According to DDT, it was wildly successful, and he claimed he got $6 million. He promised the money to 20 different groups, but a little less than half the money was donated to veterans’ charities, much of it directly from donors to the groups instead of funneled through DDT. The other $3 million apparently stayed with DDT. 

Almost four years later, a few days before Veterans Day, a judge in New York ordered DDT to pay $2 million for misuse of his “charitable” foundation after DDT admitted that his fundraiser for veterans was designed “to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign,” according to Judge Saliann Scarpulla. DDT, however, issued a statement that he was not sorry or wrong after tweeting in June 2018, “I won’t settle this case!” DDT also confessed that he used the charity’s donated money to settle $100,000 in legal claims over an 80-foot flagpole at Mar-a-Lago, $158,000 to resolve a lawsuit over a contest at his golf course, $5,000 for ads promoting his hotels, and more money buying sports memorabilia and his portrait for his personal use. Eight organizations receiving DDT’s fine and the disbanded charity’s funds include Citymeals on Wheels, the United Negro College Fund, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The veterans are still missing their $3 million.

Any other president of the United States would have been pilloried for this fraud, especially targeting veterans. For DDT and his supporters, it’s just another day.

DDT is also trying to undermine the Uniform Code of Military Justice that details non-judicial punishment, Article 15. After Navy Chief Edward Gallagher was charged on ten criminal counts with fellow Navy SEALS as witnesses, DDT took up his cause, claiming that he should be exonerated. In the end, one witness changed his story after not being charged for a crime, and Gallagher lost his trial on one minor charge. For that, he was reduced in grade to E-1. Chief of Naval Operations has now reduced his grade but not his pay grade by keeping him a petty officer first class. In other cases which also either convicted or charged soldiers for violating the military’s rules of engagement and war crimes, DDT plans to “take action” for two convicted war criminals. He has been asked to disapprove findings in one case and dismiss the charges in the other. Any action from DDT will undermine the chain of command and the military justice system. Law-abiding veterans will be insulted if DDT dismisses charges, restores rank, and pardons war criminals.

During his campaign, DDT continued to denigrate honored veterans. He slammed then Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), repeatedly saying, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Gold Star family Khizr and Ghazala Khan were frequent objects of DDT’s attacks after Khizr Khan spoke at the Democratic convention. Their son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 while he served in Iraq.

Two years ago, he called Myeshia, wife of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson with condolences after Johnson was killed in an ambush in Niger following his being missing for 48 hours. Myeshia said that DDT didn’t even know her husband’s name.

Last year on Veterans Day, DDT traveled to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. He was a no-show at a key ceremony because he didn’t want to go in the rain. He has visited the troops overseas only once in almost three years, finding it not “overly necessary,” according to his statement. After Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified to the House about DDT’s July 25 phone call to the Ukrainian president, DDT tried to smear Vindman and called him a “Never Trumper.”  

DDT promised to improve the VA, but he made decisions that hurt the agency. One of them was his vaunted whistleblower protection office that deliberately put whistleblowers at risk. The agency’s inspector general reported that the office not only outed whistleblowers but also kept poorly performing senior officials and didn’t investigate issues in an accurate or unbiased manner. DDT’s political appointments have scorned career employees, according to the report, and acted in ways that demonstrated a lack of respect for people they considered “career” whistleblowers.

In 2017, DDT put three of his Mar-a-Lago buddies as shadow rulers for the VA who threatened health care of veterans: a Palm Beach doctor who provides “concierge” medical care for the wealthy, the chair of Marvel Entertainment, and a lawyer. None of the three has ever served in the U.S. military or the government, and they operated in private with no transparency, accountability, or oversight. Taxpayers provided for the cost of officials’ travel to visit with the triumvirate at Mar-a-Lago. One of the beliefs of the “Mar-a-Lago crowd” was privatization of health care, known to be dangerous for veterans’ wellbeing. They were responsible for the appointment of David Shulkin as VA director and then told him what to do.

Once Shulkin was fired in 2018, DDT wanted to appoint Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the military doctor who gave him the glowing report including the possibility that DDT could live to be 200 years old.  for another 200 years. Any appointment disappeared after allegations that Jackson provided an excessive amount of an opioid to a White House staff member, wrote himself prescriptions for the same medication, distributed the sleep aid Ambien to White House and media members on overseas trips followed by prescriptions for wakefulness, got drunk and “wrecked a government vehicle” after a Secret Service going away party, and demonstrated workplace misconduct. After investigations into his behavior, including an issue with VP Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, and her doctor, Jackson faded away. Now Jackson is back, thinking about a run for the U.S. House after DDT-supporter Texan Mac Thornberry declared it quits for the 2020 election.

Another DDT attack on veterans is to end the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program (FWVP) that helps reunited Filipino veterans and their families while they wait for federal decisions about their visas. These elderly veterans from World War II need support from family members. Over 250,000 Filipino soldiers enlisted in the U.S. army, but fewer were permitted to move to the U.S. and become citizens. Despite their service and sacrifice in World War II, they lack full benefits afforded to military veterans and their families in the states. Japan occupied Manila after they attacked the Philippines on December 7, 1941. The U.S. and Filipino resistance lasted for months, and the Bataan Death March of 60,000-100,000 U.S. and Filipino prisoners of war, leading to death of thousands, was decried as a war crime. During Japan’s occupation of Japan for the entire war, the Philippines suffered almost 60,000 casualties.

Thus far this year, the U.S. House passed 56 bills for veterans, 25 of them bipartisan, after 32 hearings. These include VA mental health funding and suicide prevention, inequitable taxes on military families, and “expanded benefits for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange,” according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not allowed any of these bills to move through the Senate.

Today, DDT went back to the state he rejected in favor of Florida and gave his first speech in New York City. He had wanted to be Grand Marshall for the Veterans Day parade there for almost 25 years, but that honor goes only to people who served in the military. This Veterans Day is the third one in which he did not follow the presidential tradition of going to Arlington Cemetery.

According to news reports, DDT put on his pretend-president hat and sounded presentable. He listed specific American military victories, recounted stories of individual veterans, and told Gold Star families that he will “stand by your side forever.” The event included a moment of silence and a wreath-laying ceremony honoring fallen soldiers.

DDT’s speech was not uneventful. Like sporting events that he attended, he was greeted with chants of “lock him up” and “impeach and remove.” Signs in the buildings surrounding him in Madison Square including “Convict” and “Impeach” in a Murdoch building. Several dozen people holding banners reading “Traitor, criminal, lock him up!”, “Sexist in chief” and “Impeach Trump” gathered close to Madison Square Park in downtown Manhattan ahead of his speech.

Now that DDT has had the attention he craves, he can continue to send soldiers into places around the world to protect other authoritarians and create more disabled veterans.

November 10, 2015

The Tragedy of Veterans Day

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, a designated time to honor U.S. veterans for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. For many years, being a vet meant moving toward the middle class, a benefit for struggling citizens. Yet today’s United States is a very sad place for many veterans.

One serious problem is health care for veterans who were sexually assaulted while in the military, ten times the rate for women as for men. Reporting these assaults while in the military is frequently ignored which impacts the lack of care later on, especially when military officials warn television stations to not air these stories.

Col. (Ret.) Kathy Platoni, a U.S. Army psychologist for more than three decades, cited problems such as hostile physicians and violations of HIPAA privacy regulations in the VA. Susan Avila Smith, advocate for raped and sexual abused women in the military, told about a woman placed on a VA co-ed psych ward who was forced to watch a New Year’s Day football game with a group of male patients. They cheered their team, and she screamed in fear, remembering her rape by a serviceman. She was strapped to a gurney, legs spread, and left alone in a quiet room instead of receiving appropriate care and support. Only 55 percent of the 150 major VA hospitals have women’s clinics.

Female service members account for about 15 percent of the armed forces, but 46 percent of military sexual assault victims. Of the victims who reported attacks, 62 percent said they received retaliation both professionally and socially because of their reports. According to an estimation, fewer than three out of every 100 sexual assaults in 2012 were prosecuted.

Among the homeless, veterans represent 8.6 percent, down from five years earlier because of efforts to end veterans’ homelessness. Overrepresented are black veterans who comprise 39 percent of the homeless veteran population but only 11 percent of the total veteran population. Feeding America reports that “20 percent of families served by its food banks and pantries include someone who has served in the U.S. military.”

At least ten percent of people on death row today—over 300 inmates—are military veterans although only seven percent of the population has ever served in the military. Many more veterans have been executed, according to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center. Researcher Richard C. Dieter reports that this disturbing statistic may be related to the serious traumas that veterans have suffered, receiving poor treatment or none at all. One-third of homicide victims killed by veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan were family members or girlfriends. Another 25 percent were fellow service members.

Jeffrey Toobin points out the difference between recent and past veterans:

“Earlier generations of veterans came home from war to ticker-tape parades, a generous G.I. Bill, and a growing economy that offered them a chance at upward mobility. Younger veterans returned to P.T.S.D., a relatively stagnant economy, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, and an epidemic of drug abuse. And they came home to a society where widening income inequality suggested the futility of their engagement with the contemporary world.”

Veterans also have a suicide rate 50 percent higher than those who didn’t serve in the military. Because the suicide rate is higher among veterans who didn’t deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq, the causes of suicide for the veteran population may not be limited to the trauma of war. Suicide among women veterans is much higher than men, almost six times the rate of other women. Suicide for women veterans ages 18 to 29 is 12 times the rate of nonveterans, and every other age group of women veterans is between four and eight times higher. In the general population, women tend to attempt suicide more often than men but use pills or methods other than guns. Female veterans, however, are more likely to have guns; 40% of female veterans use guns to commit suicide.

Veterans, like the elderly, disabled, and others on Social Security, won’t receive a cost of living this coming year, for the third time since 1975. In introducing the Seniors and Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act—a one-time increase of 3.9 percent or about $581—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) selected that percentage because it’s equal to the average annual increase in CEO pay at the top 350 U.S. companies. Taxpayers subsidize CEO pay packages because they are considered a business expense. Closing that loophole would pay for this increase veterans and Social Security payments while still leaving funding for the Social Security Trust Fund.

Tonight the GOP presidential candidates met to debate issues. Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) supports privatizing the VA health care system, removing government-connecting negotiating power for prices. He also “advocated for leniency in the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of Corinthian Colleges and its job placement claims” although Corinthian Colleges illegally used official military seals “in its advertising in an effort to recruit recently discharged service men and women” before abruptly shutting down “under the weight of regulatory and legal pressure.” The company was also accused of advertising programs that it didn’t offer and misrepresenting job placement rates to students and investors.

While governor of Florida, Jeb Bush tried to privatize health care for veterans, but the private company providing nursing and food services—a company that donated to Bush’s campaign—went into bankruptcy two years later. The facilities using the private companies provided substandard care and were ranked in the bottom 20 percent of facilities in the county. Records showed that nine out of ten patients did not receive proper care.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson wants to do away with the VA and put their care into facilities for the general population. Although not all VA-enrolled veterans seek health care during a given year, the U.S. had 9,111,955 VA-enrolled Veterans in 2014, a number equivalent to the combined populations of Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and both Dakotas.

Back in 1998, Sen.Lindsey Graham (SC) lied about seeing action while in the military when he claimed to be “an Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran although he never got closer to the war than McEntire Air National Guard Base near Columbia where he was a military lawyer.” Later he said that he “didn’t mean to mislead people.” His job while in South Carolina was to make wills for soldiers sent to the Gulf War.

Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), and Rubio voted against spousal benefits for legally married same-gender spouses of veterans. The amendment would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to ensuring all legally married same-sex spouses have equal access to the Social Security and veterans benefits they have earned and receive equal treatment under the law pursuant to the Constitution of the United States.” It passed without the votes from the GOP presidential candidates.

In opposing giving veterans access to affordable housing, Paul was also one of 11 senators who voted against considering a bill that would “provide $142 billion in fiscal 2012 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction, military housing and related operations. The bill also includes $52.5 billion in advance fiscal 2013 appropriations for VA medical programs.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill to set aside 3 percent of all state contracts for veteran-owned businesses. President Obama signed the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act this past summer, but Christie refused to hire them for state projects. During the debate, Christie said, “Hillary Clinton doesn’t respect [veterans] service.

Candidates in the debate were eager to create more crisis situations in the Middle East which would force more death and disaster for military members, but they did not go beyond empty words in helping them. Last spring, 41 Senate Republicans voted against a measure that would have expanded education and health care, including 27 new medical facilities, for veterans. The bill proposed the guarantee of in-state tuition rates at all public universities for post-9/11 veterans. Conservatives are ready to cause wars but reluctant to care for the “collateral damage” of their decisions.

In a recent poll, two-thirds of the surveyed veterans opposed privatization of VA health care. In addition, 57 percent of them said that this issue would determine the presidential candidate that they choose. The GOP presidential candidates might want to take notice.

November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014: Plight of Vets, Drumbeats of War

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 7:48 PM
Tags: , , ,

On Veterans Day 2014 in the United States:

The U.S. has approximately 22 million veterans. In 2013, 11.6 percent of them were female.

About 2.6 million veterans are from the post-9/11 time.

In October 4.5 percent of veterans were unemployed with Iraq and Afghanistan male veterans having a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, compared to the national rate of 5.4 percent. For women, the unemployment rate was 11.2 percent, five points higher than it was for men.

About 14 percent of service members previously deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan reported symptoms of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

An estimated 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010, but this number may be underreported. The suicide rate of male veterans younger than age 30 increased by 44 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Last January about 49,933 veterans were homeless with young homeless veterans double the number of non-veterans of the same age. In 2013, veterans made up 12 percent of all homeless adults.

In 2010, about 788,000 veterans were diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder at a VA medical center.

In fiscal 2013, 4,113 service members reported experiencing sexual assault during their service, but this number is seriously underreported. In FY 2012, the number of service members experiencing sexual assault was approximately 26,000. In 2012, 1 in 5 female veterans told the VA they had experienced sexual abuse in the military.

In 2013, 3.6 veterans had a disability because of disease or injury incurred or aggravated during their military service.

Of the 1.4 million active military members, 14.5 percent are women. One-third of VA medical centers have no gynecologist or staff to provide treatment for female veterans who have experienced sexual trauma in the military.

For a few days, it appeared that there would be more veterans added to the above statistics after President Obama announced he would put another 3,000 boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan—1,500 people to fill these boots who bring the total to 3,200. The president then announced that these people won’t be heading to the Middle East until Congress approves the $5.6 billion to pay for the deployment. With 15 days left in the Congressional year, they may decide that there is no time to vote on this request. Congressional members are definitely dragging their heels.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) said that he thought the president’s strategy for defeating ISIL was insufficient. The GOP has been pushing for the president to do something, but they won’t give him money to do anything because it’s not enough.  The funding would be targeted to work with training Iraqi forces in Anbar, Diyala, Erbil and Baghdad provinces.

“Sufficient” mostly likely means bombing countries. People who talk about the violence in Islamic countries fail to follow the violence of the United States toward the countries and their residents. Those who think that we can defeat ISIL with bombing and a few boots on the ground should consider the countries that the United States has invaded, occupied, bombed, or all three and where U.S. soldiers have killed or been killed. This chronology goes back less than 35 years.

Iran (1980, 1987-1988); Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011); Lebanon (1983); Kuwait (1991); Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-); Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-); Bosnia (1995); Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996); Afghanistan (1998, 2001-); Sudan (1998); Kosovo (1999); Yemen (2000, 2002-); Pakistan (2004-); and Syria (2014-).

The initiation of bombing Syria two months ago makes the seventh predominantly Muslim country that the U.S. bombed during President Obama’s term. These figures include the bombing of the Muslim minority in the Philippines. President Obama was the fourth consecutive U.S. president to order bombings in Iraq. All this happens while conservatives debate impeaching the president or have hysterics after one person dies of a disease in the United States. The term “collateral damage”—meaning that bombs killed lots of civilians—has desensitized almost everyone in this nation.

The above count of bombings was provided in a Washington Post op-ed by military historian and former U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich. He left out bombings and occupations of still other predominantly Muslim countries by key U.S. allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia that received crucial U.S. support. It also omits coups against democratically elected governments, torture, and imprisonment of people with no charges as well all the other bombing and invading and occupying that the U.S. has carried out during these 35 years in other parts of the world, including Central America and the Caribbean, as well as various proxy wars in Africa.

The Pentagon foresees the current campaign as lasting for years. It’s already lasted for almost 35 years after the U.S. went into “east of Suez” when the British withdrew at the same time as the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. At that time, the U.S. admitted that oil was the reason. Attempts to assist stability in the area led to the opposite result, and in the name of freedom, democracy, and human rights, the U.S. has produced chaos betting that the end result will be order.

As Bacevich wrote:

“Back in Vietnam, this was known as burning down the village to save it. In the Greater Middle East, it has meant dismantling a country with the aim of erecting something more preferable—‘regime change’ as a prelude to ‘nation building.’ Unfortunately, the United States has proved considerably more adept at the former than the latter.

“Mostly, coercive regime change has produced power vacuums. Iraq offers a glaring example. Although studiously ignored by Washington, post-Gaddafi Libya offers a second. And unless the gods are in an exceptionally generous mood, Afghanistan will probably become a third whenever U.S. and NATO combat troops finally depart.”

ISIL wants the same caliphate that Osama bin Laden planned. There is no opposition from within the country because the Iraqi army that the U.S. put into power won’t fight and the Iraqi government the U.S. put into power doesn’t govern (much like the present situation in the United States today.)

 

President Obama did not create the current situation, but he’s caught in the aftermath of the ongoing U.S. violence. Trying to continue the Middle East misadventure will not solve anything. After driving out a militant group in Iraq over a decade ago, the country failed to achieve harmony. Suppressing the problems led to other manifestations because another Islamic state was waiting, just as it is now. The president has learned that invading and occupying doesn’t work; he will teach his successor that bombing and commando raids won’t work either. There’s always Jordan or a return to another country such as Libya or Yemen.

 

All we’ve ever wanted in the Middle East was oil, and the United States is now producing its own. Unfortunately, the U.S. has begun to send oil to other countries after a 40-year ban on oil exports. The claim that the U.S. needs the Keystone XL pipeline for more oil in the country is false; Koch brothers, the largest U.S. lease holder of the tar sands in Alberta (Canada), wants to use the United States as a conduit to refineries before sending the product off to other countries such as China.

 

We don’t need to create more disasters in the Middle East, but huge corporations that control members of Congress will make sure that we do so that they can control the countries with oil regardless of the fatalities. At the same time, war-mongering Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will lead the new GOP senate majority into more war.  Six years ago, when asked about leaving troops in Iraq for 50 years, he responded, “Make it a hundred.”

The GOP hawks are also getting support from George W. Bush as he tries to build sales for his new book, 41. In an interview with Bob Schieffer, George W. Bush said something that he will repeat like a drum beat within the next months:

 

“I think it was the right decision [to go into Iraq]. My regret is that…a violent group of people have risen up again. This is ‘Al Qaeda plus’…they need to be defeated. And I hope we do…I hope the strategy works.”

 

That’s Veterans Day on 2014 as the United States heads back into war.

November 11, 2013

Help Veterans, Cut Defense

Most people know today is Veterans Day because the post office doesn’t deliver mail, and the television is inundated with war movies. There are also a few ceremonies and newspaper articles about old men who survived World War II. Most people have forgotten that the day was originally called Armistice Day with the intent to celebrate peace—not war. It commemorated the ceasefire of World War I at 11:00 am on 11/11/18.

Since the draft ended over four decades ago, people in the United States have become more and more detached from the people who fight the frivolous wars declared largely on the need for oil. Without the draft, most decision-makers have no military experience, and the diplomatic process is losing to declaration of war on a whim. The military is also becoming more and more divided by social classes: those who can afford to attend college and can get jobs largely avoid enlisting. When the U.S. had a draft, almost all young men face the possibility of military involvement, possibly during a conflict.

With people’s detachment from veterans has come the country’s ignoring the needs of veterans:

 Housing: 13 percent of the homeless population in this country is composed of veterans, and more than half of them have a disability. Despite some veteran housing programs, more than 60,000 veterans become homeless each year, and another 120,000 are in danger of losing their housing. Veterans aren’t even exempt from home foreclosures. 

Jobs: The unemployment rate for veterans since 9/11 is 10 percent, almost 50 percent higher than the 7.2 percent rate for everyone else. Much of this unemployment is long-term: 34 percent have been unemployed for a year, and 17 percent have not had a job for more than 2 years.

Reliable Health Care: Nearly 250,000 veterans wait for longer than a year to even have claims processed, and the situation got much worse after the Department of Veterans Affairs had to shut down for over two weeks because of the GOP blackmail in October. Soldiers with mental health issues are also ignored, and PTSD is on the rise.

Suicide Prevention: The suicide rate for veterans is increasing at twice the rate as the rate for the general population, and almost 20 percent of suicides nationwide is among veterans although they comprise only 10 percent of the population.

Drug Counseling: Veterans are at greater risk after stresses in the military and subsequent return to civilian life. According to one study, 39 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had “probably alcohol abuse.” One in eight troops are referred to counseling for alcohol problems when they leave the military. At the same time, the military ignores excessive drug and alcohol use during active duty.

Incarceration: Almost ten percent of prison inmates are veterans. That’s one million of the ten million people incarcerated in the United States.

Food Stamps: 900,000 veterans rely on food stamps to feed their families. These are the people who will be taken off if the House of Representatives gets its way to move this money over to wealthy farmers. Last week, benefits were cut by an average of almost 8 percent to $133 per person per month. These are the people who Repubilcans describe as “lazy moochers” who need to learn independence.

Social Security: The government plan to establish a “chained CIP” would decrease the disability benefits for almost 4 million veterans as well as pension payments to another 500,000 low-income veterans and surviving families . Currently the Consumer Price Index measures changes in retail prices; chained CPI would use changes in consumer behavior by using the quantity of goods purchased as well as the retail prices. Some people think that those who spend less, for example going without meat, should receive less benefits because they don’t spend as much as when they had more money. The chained CPI method would decrease a raise of 1.7 percent in disability and pension payments by over 17 percent.

In 1944, Congress passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, nicknamed the G.I. Bill. It gave benefits to the 16 million World War II veterans including low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start businesses, tuition and living expenses for education, and one year of unemployment compensation. Every veteran on active duty during the war years for at least 90 days and not dishonorably discharged got these benefits. By 1956, about 2.2 million veterans benefited from the G.I. Bill to go to college, and another 6.6 million participated in training programs. Even more Vietnam veterans used education benefits.

As time went on, the G.I. Bill got watered down. For example, Korean War veterans didn’t get unemployment compensation. After 1985, members of the military had to contribute $100 monthly for their first year in order to have education benefits. If they didn’t use any benefits, they still didn’t get the money back. Now, veterans can get health care—although they may sometimes have to wait a few years for it—and burial benefits. Gone, however, are the days when they got other help.

Ten percent of veterans are in prison, ten percent are unemployed, 13 percent are homeless, and almost one million need food stamps. These veterans don’t have anything to celebrate today.

The GOP says that there’s not enough money to help them. If corporations that provide oil and useless defense equipment didn’t get welfare, there might be enough money to help veterans. And if the government controlled its defense funding, veterans could have the services that they need, and the deficit could be cut. For example, the following could be left out of the budget with no problem for the country’s defense.

Chronically-failing anti-missile rockets keep getting more funding. In exchange for millions of dollars in campaign funds, GOP politicians consistently give welfare funds to contractors such as Lockheed, Martin, Boeing, TRW, and Raytheon. Independent analysts like MIT Professor of Science, Technology and International Security Theodore Postol maintain that “ballistic missile defense” (BMD) can’t work, that interceptor missiles can never distinguish real incoming weapons from swarms of decoys, and should be cancelled. In March 2000, Postol wrote President Clinton, charging that the program’s officers were “most likely attempting to illegally use the security and classification system to hide waste, fraud and abuse” through faked test results. The GOP has paid $200 billion during the past three decades for the faked tests.

The GOP provides welfare to corporations for weapons programs that the Pentagon doesn’t want. Military leaders assert that the new Joint-Strike fighter jet bomber (or F-35) and additional upgrades to the M1 Abrams tank are unnecessary because the 6,000 completed M1 upgrades are enough.  Dumping the Abrams rehab program would save $3.5 billion. Pentagon chiefs have proposed savings of at least $487 billion over a decade including the following cancellations:

  • The Global Hawk drone, whose purpose is served by the U2: savings, $2.5 billion by 2017;
  • The C-27J Spartan transport aircraft: savings, $400 million by 2017;
  • 5,000 jobs in the Air National Guard: savings, $300 million a year;
  • Plans for an East Coast missile defense battery that Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called unnecessary: savings, $3.6 billion by 2017.

The U.S. approved $645.7 billion in defense funding for 2012, the most recent year with available complete data. That’s 41 percent of total global military spending.

US military spending global

The U.S. budgets six times more than China, eleven times more than Russia, 27 times more than Iran, and 33 times more than Israel.

Military spending five countries

Military spending in this country is double that of all Asian countries. The U.S. is in the top highest spending countries as a percentage of GDP.

Veterans deserve to be saved from homelessness, hunger, prison, mental and physical illness, and joblessness. Changing the United States’ priorities from declaring war to helping veterans could accomplish this task.

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