Friday, November 11, 2016

VETERANS: A Debt You Can't Bankrupt Your Way Out Of

"The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have costs
billions of dollars over the last decade, but
the spending won't stop when the fighting
does.Just how much money are we
spending on health care because of war?"
Veterans Day is a good day for everyone to ask about long-term health care costs for veterans. And that includes Donald Trump . . . .

I wrote a Veterans Day post three years ago that focused on long-term health care and other costs for veterans. My point was that the lies we tell ourselves to make it "okay" to engage in war begin with denying the true magnitude of taking care -- over the very long term -- of the people we force to fight.

Three days ago, a new US president was elected. His expertise is in financing big -- huge -- projects.

Here's a huge project: the US has more than 20 million veterans. (See Veterans Administration statistics.) The nation's financial obligation to them continues until they die - in many cases 30, 40, 50 or more years from now. It has been suggested that long-term benefits for veterans are a massively underfunded liability.

(Can you begin to imagine this? It's insurance "enrollment season." Take your own health insurance headaches and multiply by 20 million.)

Admittedly, projecting long-term outcomes and costs is difficult, particularly for such a large population with such a range of experiences. Naturally, some people will "blow things out of proportion," and other people will try to "sweep the problem under the rug." The solution, however, is not to do nothing. The solution is to obtain and analyze data, and come up with the most responsible estimate.

(Example: An Australian study, "Long-term Disability Associated With War-related Experience Among Vietnam Veterans(Retrospective Cohort Study)" by Philip M. Clarke, PhD, Robert Gregory, PhD, and Joshua A. Salomon, PhD, in Medical Care found "The steepest rise in disability incidence was observed among Vietnam veterans starting in the 1990s, around 20–30 years after deployment for most veterans. . . . " and "Long-term effects of deployment into military conflicts are substantial, and likelihood of war-related disability is associated with service history. If similar patterns follow from more recent conflicts, significant additional resources will be needed to prevent and treat long-term health conditions among veterans.")

A modest proposal: US president-elect Donald Trump should devote the time between now and Inauguration Day using his expertise to bring forward a new, honest evaluation of the long-term liabilities that the US has accrued as a result of its wars of recent decades, and of the necessary steps to assure those liabilities can be met.

Certainly, Donald Trump intends to do right by US veterans.

Donald Trump can do the math required to count the cost and make sure those liabilities are funded. It's just finance. As they say in business: "Just give me the number."

And most of all - Donald Trump understands the difference between playing the luxury real estate game -- in which mistakes end with a bankruptcy and a shrug -- and our obligations to our veterans. That underscores the importance of providing ironclad assurances that veterans will be taken care of. Not a "kinda sorta" plan. A platinum guarantee.

So . . . President-elect Trump. What's the number?

Related posts

It's time for us to get honest about the true costs of war, including the long term health consequences for people who serve in the military, and the corresponding long-term costs that our society must commit to bear.

(See How to REALLY Honor Veterans)

"The drone program gives people PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]," says a former operator in the film, against the background of her attempt to get the VA (Veterans Administration) to acknowledge her condition. "What's so surprising about that?"

(See The Truth About Drones (*NOT* APPROVED by the US Air Force))

"A terrible disease has struck the area . . . people call it the "flu" . . . many in our own community have fallen to it . . . including someone very dear to you, someone in your own family . . . I'm talking about your sister, Margaret." (See November 11, 1918: Another Veteran for Peace )

On November 11, 2015, Veterans for Peace had a message about reclaiming Armistice Day that proved itself massively spreadable on social media . . .

(See What will it take to reclaim Armistice Day for peace?