Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vets not victims, part 4

Al Franken repeats a promise made last week to Veterans if he gets elected-free health care for life.

Now most WWII and Korea vets will no doubt be happy with this, as many of them were promised free health care and the government has made an annual spectacle of putting off that promise until next year. For about 30 years now, Congress decides to figure out how to pay for it next year. And the next. And the next year. And so on. Most WWII vets will give you a stern lecture with lots of four letter words when it comes to government promises of free health care for life.

But when we are talking about today's generation, the premise of free health care is absurd. You need to understand the facts on the ground before you start talking about billion dollar entitlements. So here are the facts.

Fact #1) Lifers, or soldiers that serve at least 20 years and then retire, do get what amounts to free health care for life. Anyone who serves 20 years is eligible for Tricare, the military health care program, on the same day they are eligible for Medicare. Tricare and Medicare work basically in tandem, so that whatever bills Medicare doesn't pay, Tricare picks up. But you don't get it until you are at retirement age, which seems fair to me. These days most any job you work offers some form of health insurance, so as long as you are gainfully employed you will probably have insurance.

Fact #2) Combat vets are given free health care for life for any medical condition that started while on active duty. If you were wounded on active duty, or even if you developed arthritis, those conditions are related to your time on active duty and thus are covered by the VA. Additionally, combat vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are now given 5 years free medical care at the VA for any condition. This was just increased by Congress from the previous 2 years.

Fact #3) Today's soldiers enlisted with no promise of free lifetime health care. We knew the deal coming in, and we raised our right hands with our eyes open. The WWII, Korea and Vietnam vets were drafted into the military mostly involuntarily. They were promised free health care for life as a repayment for being taken from their homes and families for up to 4 straight years. Let's put that into context. The longest deployment of the war to date has been the 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry division from the MN National Guard. Yep, yours truly. Our deployment lasted 22 months from start to finish, which is impressive until your stack that up against 48 months, over twice as long, for the longest WWII deployment. They also, by the way, kept half the world from falling under a dictator's boot. Today's vets have no expectation of free health care for life, and as such Al Franken is wrong when he asserts that it is what we are entitled to.

I strongly support free health care for all of those vets who were promised it. The government should stop dicking around with the WWII and Korea guys before they are all dead, and give them what they were promised. But anyone who joined the volunteer military has no expectation of free health care. And so Al Franken saying he will give me free health care is just Al Franken trying to buy my vote.

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