Democracy Arsenal

« Turning the Screws on Bolton | Main | Weekly Top 10 List - Top 10 Myths Progressives Need to Let Go Of to Regain the Upper Hand on Foreign Policy »

April 07, 2005

Pennywise and $250 Foolish
Posted by Michael Signer

Following Lorelei's well-taken question about how much progressives can learn from the military, here's a related issue:  as Ed Rendell recently asked in the  Democrats' weekly radio address, what in God's name is the Administration doing reducing health care benefits for our veterans? 

More importantly, what are progressives going to do about it?

The proposed 2005 Veteran's Administration budget would increase by $250 the annual health care premium for thousands of veterans in the government's TriCare system.  It would also increase the copays for "nonformulary" prescription drugs from $9 to $22 -- a 140% increase.

If it isn't already screamingly obvious, there's a national security dimension here. 

Esprit de corps is the magical ingredient in maintaining an effective fighting force.  If we're going to proceed with what's essentially a forced draft, we damn well better have the soldiers fighting for us happy, well-fed, and healthy -- along with the veterans who inspire them to join the service. 

At Legal Aid clinics, the exhausted and underpaid staff attorneys have a saying about the dollar figures that are involved (a $750 rent payment, say, or a $425 car payment).  "Add a zero," they tell their young student clerks, salivating over six-figure salaries in glassy urban office towers.  "And then you'll understand."

So, add a zero to $250.  For a working-class veteran, to paraphrase Senator Dirksen, now we're talking real money

The Military Officers Association of America projects the changes will drive 203,000 enrolled veterans from the system.  This puts the usually-kindly MOAA into what is, for it, a paroxysm of rage at the Administration: 

MOAA is disappointed that the VA Budget Request proposes to impose an annual $250 usage fee on lowest priority veterans whom it earlier had welcomes into the system to help it meet its transformation goals.  For many of them, the imposition of the fees will be perceived as a "bait and switch" tactic.

(This alludes to the history underlying the proposed policy:  from 1998 to 2002, all honorably discharged veterans were invited to join the VA health system, rather than just those who "shall" be provided care.  In yet another example of Rumsfeld's so-called lean'n'mean "Revolution in Military Affairs", DoD is now trying to push these "extra" folks out of the system.)

But this isn't lean and mean.  It's just plain mean.

And to move from veterans to active duty soldiers and reservists:  close to 40% of young enlisted personnel, and over 20% of the Ready Reserve, currently lack health insurance.

The take-it-for-granted approach of this Administration to these men and women really makes the jaw unhinge.   

Even the head of the American Legion has attacked the $250 as nothing more than a health care tax designed to increase revenue at the expense of veterans who served their country.

It's time for progressives to explode Thomas Frank's economic false consciousness on issues like this.  If this is how compassionate conservatives are going to treat military folks,  it's high time these brave Americans know they've got a better option.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Pennywise and $250 Foolish:

» The Department of Vicious Assmasters from Restless Mania
Democracy Arsenal attempts to blast the Republican party for cutting funding to Veterans Health and Benefits. They rail that this is how one can denigrate the Republicans from their position as the party of the military. I'm sympathetic to what they'... [Read More]


This is such an important issue. For too long the Republicans have been able to sell themselves to the military as their party. And it's not because of the people in the military.

My partner's father joined the Navy as a young man in order to get himself and his family out of poverty in the Phillipines. He is an open-minded and loving man. He supports my partner and my relationship and yet he has always voted Republican. Why? Because it is commonly accepted in the military that Repubs do more for soldiers than Democrats. Within military culture Dems are viewed as anti-military. And that is the fault of our lack of communication.

The issue you raised is perfect example of one of the ways in which we can play one of our strengths (caring about people) against a Repub weakness (using people to achieve their own ends and then discarding them).

Not only should Dems angrily denounce the budget, they should propose an inititative that provides all those who serve in the military for 4 or more years with access to the same medical benefits program enjoyed by congressmen and senators, and at the same cost. These benefits should naturally include service-members' immediate family. After all how can we justify providing health insurance for politicians who start wars and not for the service-men and women who have to fight them.

This approach uses a core Democratic value, accessible health care to repay a debt to a deserving group of Americans. More importantly it begins to shatter the myth created by Repub messaging and the lingering impact of anti-war demonstrations that were too easily framed as ant-military.

Kalil, that sounds like a really good plan that I can agree with whole-heartedly. There's only one problem. That is not a "core Democratic value" and that is about to become painfully obvious in the upcoming debate over the budget.

Dear Sir or Madame:

As much as I appreciate this website and think that it is high time for Democrats to be more serious about the military, I must ABSOLUTELY disagree with your comments on the military raising the health care premiums. I am an analyst for the Navy and worked in the Navy's assessment office for one year. During that time we looked at the Navy/military health benefit. And I can tell you that it is a very rich benefit that most Americans will only DREAM of having. It really is the closest thing to socialized medicine in this country. Throw on top of that the annuity that many of them receive after 20 years and it hardly clear that they are in financial hardship. The idea that raising the a copay from $9 to $22 will somehow bankrupt anybody is patently absurd. My own private insurance rates and premiums have increased more than 50% in just three years and is far greater than what the military pays. The military leadership knows this and is on board with this as it help to create space for more procurement. They also understand thhat the days of large defense budgets will be short lived as other government entitlements will start to swallow large chunks of the government budget. This is why we Democrats are still not serious about military affairs. We have to make tough budget choices and simply offering more goodies to those that are not in any way in financial hardship does the military, and thus the United States, no good. There is more to the military than just the soft side. And that is where the Democrats should put our attention.


Don Birchler, PhD.

As an analyst for the Navy, Dr. Bircher probably is required to work an 8 hour a day, 5 day a week job in a nice, safe office enviornment at a pretty hefty salary. When I served in the Navy and was at sea, I worked 12 to 16 hour days in what cannot, by any means, be declared as a safe work environment. I have since moved on to civilian life with my own civilian salary and benefits and work hazards no greater than my commute home, but I have, on occasion, needed to make use of the VA facilities. My needs were minor compared to many of the WWII, Korea and Viet Nam vets I saw there and I believe that they, as well as current and future vets, deserve more and better care, not less care at more expense.

People who have safe, well paying jobs with reasonable hours and the opportunity to live at home with their families should not begrude the best quality of health care to veterans who have not only devoted their time at low salary, but long hours and much of their time away from home and family.

And on the prescription co-pay, I would note that since the VA buys medication in termendous volume, a $22/month co-pay would mean that hte VA would be charging vets more for some of their prescriptions than they might pay if they ordered them from Canada. That's not just wrong, it's stupid, but it is in keeping with a system that has junior enlisted families in need of food stamps to keep afloat. Let's not point a finger at military retirement and health care without acknowledging the sacrifices members of ther military make throughout their service.

See also Brooke's post at

Don Birchler: I concur, on two levels.

First: the Navy does indeed do an excellent job. My dad's a 20-year Navy retiree; he relies almost entirely on that health care/pension (after Silicon Valley screwed/ate his retirement). What the Navy provides tomorrow is another matter, but today, they do well.

Second: the comments here (and Singer's post) reveal the core problem for the Dems. Rather than making a point FOR the retirees (by focusing on them), they're more interested in Thomas Frank's false consciousness.

A perfect illustration of why the Reps are creaming the Dems: people don't prefer Rep policies, they prefer Rep posturing. Dems busily crunch numbers and score debater's points, while the Reps hire Average (GI) Joes to talk up the party.

Almost 40% of young enlisted personnel do not have health insurance?? That should be your headline.

The effect of the extra $250 is debatable, but 40% is shocking. I checked the source (Sen. Dem Policy Committee), and it looks as if it may just be 40% of young, enlisted Guard or Reserve personnel. That's still too high, and either way the 40% should be your headline.


m490k xanax valium -

Hello fellows Sirs, I'm very sorry for my post
Jenna Jameson [url=]Jenna Jameson[/url] Tera Patrick [url=]Tera Patrick[/url] Briana Banks [url=]Briana Banks[/url] Aria Giovanni [url=]Aria Giovanni[/url] Jenna Haze [url=]Jenna Haze[/url] Nikki Nova [url=]Nikki Nova[/url]

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use