Ah, yes. Vet benefits. An icky topic that nobody wants to talk about. Your average citizen would agree that veterans deserve to be taken care of. After all, they sacrificed years of their life, of family time, of vacation, of mental wellbeing, to fight for the obese spoiled brat that is America. But what exactly does being “taken care of” entail?
In my own personal opinion, if you’ve given up a part of your life and potentially endangered the entirety of it to protect the lives of people you don’t know, and even people who spit on your occupation, then you deserve to be rewarded with financial security when you come home. And in my opinion, again, veterans deserve their own “minimum wage”. I haven’t studied finances or economics in depth, so I won’t pretend to be a good candidate for the next Handy Dandy Governmental Financial Adviser (although the way we’re looking now, they could certainly use a fresh pair of eyes??). But here’s some things to consider:
(Prereq: I live in Texas, a reasonably-priced place to settle down, though few places in the US are insanely more expensive.)
In a decent, safe neighborhood, a 1-bedroom starts at about $700, 2-bed at $1,000ish; these stats are based on a family of 4–
-2-bed apt: $1,000
-Car note: $300
-Car insurance: $200
-Groceries for 4: $750
-Phone plan for 4: $150 [assume they’re smart and have one of those Metro-style family plans for mega cheap]
Total basic bills: $2,750/ month
Let’s assume that a decent minimum wage would be $3,300 a month. Nothing to make you incredibly wealthy, but good to keep you safe and healthy, and then some.
As of 2014, there were 573,000 unemployed vets in the labor force.
The cost to “take care” of all 573,000 of them as above would be $22,690,000,000 a year (for now, let’s assume they were all in combat at some point–that’ll be important in a minute) .
Why that’s sorta shocking: did you know that in 2014, officially, the military’s original budget was $498B, but was increased to $520B, while we’re supposed to pulling troops out of Iraq?
-Did you also notice that that’s a $22B difference–about the same amount it would’ve taken to pay our unemployed veterans an average living wage?
-Also, remember that trillion-dollar fighter jet we built for the US army that…didn’t work? (http://fortune.com/2015/08/14/f-35-joint-strike-fighter/)
-Finally, the government spent a grand total of 3 trillion dollars in 2014 overall…3 fighter jets’ worth, but we still have half a million veterans unable to care for themselves.
So, let’s pretend that the government really, truly just doesn’t have $22B to spend on its soldiers (lol). There’s also this:
According to the Bureau of Labor Stats, in 2014, 77.2M people in the US were officially employed.
On a flat-rate basis, if $24 a month were taken out of each monthly paycheck of each working citizen (since it’s too much to ask our multi-billion-dollar corporations to pay taxes), they’d be covered.
So let’s say that corporations aren’t stashing funds overseas to avoid taxes, and aren’t getting billion-dollar tax breaks from our super duper effective and 100% uncorrupted IRS (yet another topic); when the taxes are weighted by income, the average citizen would be paying only pennies, corporations would be paying their fair share–no more, no less–and veteran poverty could go right to the back of our textbooks, alongside slavery and the Trail of Tears and the rest of the classic American tragedies.
The first part of this article is mostly to show that our country does, in fact, have the money necessary to take care of our vets, no matter how expensive that gets. Here’s where I start getting uncomfortable:
Should ALL veterans get automatic salary for the rest of their lives? And what I mean by that is, isn’t it a little insulting to the men and women who were on the ground and in the air, under fire, to give them the same benefits as, say, a reserve or a data analyst?
Currently, there are no statistics on how many of those unemployed vets were ever deployed or overseas, so we’ll shoot high and pretend that 75% of those 573,000 were on the ground at some point, which, if we gave automatic salaries to those qualifying soldiers, puts our vet funding at a measly $17,017,500,000 (flat rate of $4.60 in taxes per week per working person).
Now about the rest, who were serving our country in less immediately dangerous (but still dangerous and no less necessary) ways–how about a very simple set of rules that applies to every soldier (on and off the ground):
·guaranteed job security
This sounds ridiculous because it’s so obvious, but it’s infuriating how many veterans simply can’t find a job (what possible reason could you have to not hire someone who fought for your country?)
·health insurance covered at 100% by the government
Another one that should be obvious..for one, it’s the least we can do; for two, medical care is so criminally overpriced, Big Pharma is making no sacrifices. This should not be a financial issue, period.
Wow. That sounds incredibly expensive and overwhelming and hard and, after gaining independence from a European superpower while being severely out-powered and outnumbered, driving out and slaughtering an entire indigenous people, and, more recently, bailing out Wall Street, quite frankly sounds well out of our reach as the world’s most powerful nation.
In conclusion, it takes tens of billions–minuscule, compared to the rest of the budget–to ensure financial security for our veterans. Between corporate subsidies and tax havens, the money our veterans need (and are legally entitled to, as a country, because that’s what taxes are) is right here, evading us through crooked loopholes and lobbyism. We can do better than this.
Note: this article only takes into account what we could do about the recently/presently jobless veterans with the current budget. Reforming veteran benefits altogether could be quite a different issue, and one I intend to write about soon.
Veterans should be included as mandatory instead of discretionary in our national budget, and the fact that that even needs to be said disgusts me to no end. The wellbeing of those who risked it for us is not an option.