Congress had agreed to make certain across-the-board cuts in order to reach an agreement and finally pass a Federal Budget, which it did just a few months ago. Every department and agency was to be treated the same–to include Defense. Generally, the Republican Party doesn’t like to appear soft on Defense. No one does!
More recently, some Members of Congress have begun using the term “Security-Critical”, to differentiate between Budget Items that provide actual Personnel and Equipment, as compared to other, more extraneous items. Unfortunately, those other items seem to be the Funding for the Veterans’ Administration. So, it appears that, although Defense Items are being reduced, those cuts are directed primarily at the VA, rather than upset Congress’s “Apple Cart”. (Read further.)
Now, historically, the Department of Defense has seen its Budget build-up during the run-up to a War, and deflate as each War draws-down. This happened, both before and after, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Likewise, the Pentagon Budget mushroomed in the early 2000s, as our Country invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Barack Obama has ended the Military Action in Iraq and has promised to bring all of the Troops, except for a small contingent, home from Afghanistan before the End of 2014. So, why hasn’t the Defense Budget been starting to decrease this time?
The so-called “Pacific Pivot”, which is a build-up of Personnel and Equipment in the Pacific Rim, to counter the Chinese Military Expansion, is part of the reason. But, so far, Congress doesn’t want to cut-off the spigot for Hardware Orders that are flowing to the Defense Industry. Those corporations are the “Golden Goose”: they make substantial campaign contributions to Members of Congress, and gives assurances that it will locate part of the production in the Districts of key Legislators, especially those on the various Defense Committees.
As noted in the linked article from REUTERS, the Senate blocked a Bill that would have, among other things, added 27 new VA health facilities and increased benefits available to some 22 Million Veterans. Current VA Health Facilities are stretched beyond their capacity due to all of the VETs retuning from the two Wars in the Middle East. That article is
linked as follows: http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBREA1Q26O20140227.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the sponsor of the Bill, was disappointed that it didn’t receive sufficient support from the GOP to pass. Previously, the same Bill had passed 99-0, on a Procedural Vote. Senate Republicans, however, had tried to amend the actual Legislation, basically with “poison pills”, which they knew would provoke a Veto from President Obama. Perhaps that was more of a political ploy than an honest attempt to improve the Legislation, to better fund the VA. Once again, Congress fiddles, while the Little Guys lose.
The VA Funding of today cannot be compared to the funding that was available during, let’s say, the Vietnam Era– previously the Longest American War. During that War, more than 58,000 Men and, perhaps some Women, lost their lives, as compared to roughly 6,700 combined, between Iraq and Afghanistan–so far. So, the returning wounded from Vietnam had been much less, and hardly anyone had heard of PTSD at that time. Nowadays, due to better Medical Capabilities, which are often located much closer to the Fields of Battle, the number of Military War Deaths has decreased substantially.
With more lives saved, however, that means that there will be many more Veterans requiring the Medical, Psychological and Counseling services that the VA provides. Also, as the returning Vets are also younger, somewhat due to their enlisting as compared to being drafted, these Men and Women will be in the VA System far longer than for previous Wars.
Just like we are seeing Health Care and Social Security expenses increasing as a portion of the Federal Budget, the same will occur to the needs for greater funding of the VA. Perhaps some of the Non-Injured Retirees can merely be included in Medicare somehow or other. But, the inflating Health Career Expense is mostly based on actuarial tables as people live longer.
NOTE: The reason that I pointed-out Vets coming back from the Persian Gulf being younger is; because, during a Weak Economy, when suitable jobs may be scarce, Younger Men tend to enlist, just to delay their job search until, hopefully, things turn around. When there is a Military Draft, however, Men are Drafted from across the applicable age range–even those who do have employment. Also, in Vietnam, Troops were limited to no more than one year “In Country” unless these extended their tour. Currently, however, many Soldiers and Marines have faced numerous deployments, either to Afghanistan, Iraq or both.