By: Karl Zinsmeister – wsj.com –
Draw a military paycheck for a few years, and you’re entitled to cradle-to-grave support for you and family members. Health care at any of more than 1,200 sites. Housing guarantees. Up to 100% of college costs. Special unemployment checks. Life insurance. Nursing-home care. Uncle Sam will literally bury you. This is the socialist dream.
But there’s trouble in VA paradise. In fact, there’s been a steady drumbeat of scandal—from 40 vets in Phoenix dying while waiting for doctor’s appointments, to an inspector general’s investigation of employees hiding treatment delays at 26 VA facilities, to thousands of patient contaminations, to veterans buried in the wrong plots at VA cemeteries.
The VA has been plagued by negligence, falsified records and gross mismanagement. Every new president and VA secretary promise to clean up the mess. We’ve burned through seven permanent secretaries and six acting heads since 2001. New gushes of public resources have zoomed the annual departmental budget from $45 billion in 2001 to $209 billion this year. The VA now has 366,000 employees—nearly twice what any other civilian government agency can muster. Yet somehow the problems never go away.
Certainly veterans aren’t doing so well. Despite starting with higher levels of education and training, plus lower rates of criminality, family decay, and illness compared to non-VA-assisted peers, vets now have inexplicably high rates of substance abuse, suicide and withdrawal from the labor force.
Are these “invisible wounds of war”? Only a small fraction of post-9/11 vets experienced fighting. The more plausible diagnosis for most veterans is that they suffer from the invisible wounds of government dependency.
After World War II, 11% of veterans were granted disability compensation. Today close to half of people leaving the U.S. military request lifelong disability benefits, and the payments are much larger than they were then. Fifty percent of a large, talented, young population settling onto government entitlements is a calamity.
America has already entered our next presidential campaign, and ambitious slogans are ringing: Medicare for All! Universal Basic Income! Green New Deal! Free College! But there is an obvious battle cry waiting to be trotted out by socialists: VA Benefits for All!
Though it might not have quite the intended effect.
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