Larry Scott (former E-5) served four-plus years in the U.S. Army with overseas tours as a Broadcast Journalist at AFKN HQ, Seoul, Korea and AFN Lajes Field, The Azores, Portugal and a stateside tour as a Broadcast Journalism Instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS). Larry was decorated four times including the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He was awarded DOD's First Place Thomas Jefferson Award for Excellence in Journalism. After the Army, Larry went back to radio news, working in Indianapolis as a News Anchor on WIFE Radio and then in New York City as a News Anchor on WNBC Radio. He receives VA compensation for a service-connected disability and uses the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington VA facilities for healthcare. Today, Larry resides in Southwest Washington and operates the veteran's help website YourVABenefits.org. To contact Larry Scott email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's a disturbing trend - all around us we see the not-so-subtle positioning of the VA as a gigantic welfare program. The VA is not a welfare program! It's just that simple. The idiomatic definition of welfare is: "Receiving regular assistance from the government or private agencies because of need." Veterans receive benefits not because they "need" anything; they receive them because they earned them by their service to our country.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate last year an AMVETS representative said, "As a nation, we owe veterans an enormous debt of gratitude - for their service, their patriotism, and their sacrifices. The benefits to which they are legally entitled are not the product of some social welfare program, as some might argue. Rather they are yet another cost of freedom that unfortunately is too often forgotten."
Disturbing trend #2 is that those in Washington who have been the most vocal defenders of veterans are being removed from their positions of influence. VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi was asked, or forced, to resign after he publicly expressed dismay that the Bush administration cut $1.2 billion from the FY 2005 VA budget request. Arlan Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, moved to the Judiciary Committee and was replaced by Larry Craig (R-ID), who supported the administrationís $1.2 billion cut.
But the biggest blow to veterans came when Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) was removed as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Smith was universally respected as a friend to veterans and a fighter for increased benefits, but strayed from the official Party line one too many times. Not only did he lose the chairmanship, he was removed from the Committee.
Smith has been replaced by Steve Buyer (R-IN). In his first few days as Committee Chair Buyer has managed to offend every veteran's group in the country. At a time when every veteran knows the VA needs more funding, Buyer said, "I want to modernize the system. I am not a defender of bloated bureaucracies." Buyer then went on to paint a perfectly clear picture of the VA of the future: "Some of the veterans service organizations, they are having this belief that everyone should have open access to the VA system, when in fact I believe that the VA system should follow its core constituency and the intent of Congress when we laid out our priorities, and that was in fact to take care of our disabled and indigent veterans first." (emphasis mine)
This was NOT an off-the-cuff remark by Rep. Buyer. He was placed in his position by the Republican Party leadership and speaks for the Party who answers to the White House. Buyer speaks the gospel and gets his sermons right from the Top.
The most important part of Buyer's remarks is his deliberate "welfarizing" of the VA healthcare system. By telling us the priority of the VA is to care for "disabled and indigent" veterans first, he minimizes and denigrates the sacrifices made by ALL veterans. The VA was set up to serve ALL veterans including the "disabled and indigent." This careful positioning of the VA healthcare system creates the impression that the VA is a welfare program and veterans are just looking for a "handout." Also, it's easy to talk about the "intent" of a previous Congress when your goal is to undo what they have done. And the remark about "core constituency" is just plain outlandish. The VA serves ALL veterans.
Buyer's remarks are clever, well-planned, well-delivered and approved at the highest levels. They also point to a dismal future for the VA. The VA healthcare system is about to be changed, and there may never be any going back. Priority Group 8 veterans have now been cut from the system. Outgoing VA Secretary Principi has indicated that Priority Group 7 is the next to go. Under-funding means veterans wait months, and sometimes over a year, for necessary surgeries and other medical procedures. Yet Buyer talks of "bloated bureaucracies." That's code for "more budget cuts." Funny that there was no mention of "bloated" bureaucrats. They always seem to survive.