Friday, April 04, 2008

Veterans Deserve Quality Health Care

Our military veterans have served the nation honorably, and deserve the best treatment we can give them. Regardless of how one feels about the current policy of the Bush administration regarding the war in Iraq, our veterans deserve our respect and gratitude for their service to the country. They chose to serve out of a sense of obligation, duty and often times a desire to improve their circumstances in life. The current war in Iraq has produced a high rate of disabled veterans who have been injured and wounded in the line of duty. This is in large part due to the advancement in treating combat related injuries in the field and the speed at whcih the wounded are moved out of the field of service to hospitals and critical care units.

In the United States, of our nation's 25 million veterans, about ten percent are currently considered disabled. That is about 2.5 million people who have served the country, been wounded either in combat or in the the line of duty and are currently dependent on the care of the TRICARE system for their health care benefits. In addition there are almost ten million retired veterans in this country receiving retirement benefits. We are currently spending about sixty billion dollars a year on veteran's benefits for all of our nation's veterans and twenty billion for our nation's wounded and disabled veterans.

When our servicemembers are recruited to join the military, they are made the promise of health care for life, and benefits for themselves and their families in exchange for answering the call to serve our country. These health care benefits are earned not only through the promise that we have made them as a nation, but also through the suppression in their pay and the intangibles represented by "total military compensation" which is the pormise of retirement benefits being available to the military and their families.

Last year, a task force on the future of military health care began looking at the situation of military retirees, who are increasingly being called upon to pay for more of their benefits. These benefits have been earned through their tours of duty and their service to our country, and it is up to us, as taxpayers, to honor that promise that has been made to our service members. This trust has been broken and veterans are concerned. Perhaps the most outrageous request coming from the Pentagon has been the call for increasing the enrollment fees in both TRICARE and TRICARE FOR LIFE, which is the primary system by which veteran's receive their military health benefits.

This situation needs to be addressed. We cannot leave our nation's veterans hanging on the edge. Many of our veterans are homeless and living in the streets. Others are living on marginal incomes and in poverty. This is not the promise we made our young men and women made when they answered the call to serve our country. These increases in the cost of health care are a burden that many cannot afford to pay, and we cannot afford to betray the trust of those who have served. It is time to bring the troops home from Iraq and stop funnelling hundreds of billions of dollars into an illegal war that is draining our nation's treasury. It is time to remember the promises that were made to those who came to the defense of our country and to give the military health system the funding priority that it needs.

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