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May 30, 2014

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Incisive commentary, as always.

You're absolutely correct, Jon. Mr Shinseki deserves better.
Ironic that he resigned on "Memorial Day."

I applied for a VA disability a few years ago on account of hearing loss. I assumed I might at least get a hearing aid if nothing else. There was a guy in a running group I belonged to who served in the Air Force for five years. He retired and got a 70% disability for sleep apnea, a sore back, depression, and social anxiety. I figured my chances were pretty good. But despite excellent documentation, it was turned down. I didn't really care since I'm relatively well off but all this took a couple of years of endless paperwork and multiple interviews. Had I known....

I did get to see the Phoenix VA system up close, however, and it struck me as an event - Boomers gone old!. Everyone was well treated, the facility was clean and well-staffed, and nobody seemed upset. Still, my experience gnawed at me. If this system would deny my claim even with irrefutable evidence, there must be others with worse situations really getting the shaft.

We're spending a lot of money on VA health care mostly because Boomer vets are at that age where they're starting to break down. The Vietnam war was a huge effort in terms of manpower, much more intensive than the more recent debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. PTSD and Agent Orange got a lot of claims, and once you're in the system, you get free health care for life. You can't blame me for wanting some of that myself.

The scandal here, apparently, was one of mid-level managers hiding wait lists so they could be eligible for bonuses. I'm not sure that's a national scandal. If a Republican were president, I doubt there would be much if any publicity about it. All bureaucracies have these failures, and this one, while not pretty, was hardly epic. What it does point out is that health care is very expensive and that wars cost a lot of money after they're over.

Shinseki resigned because Obama had to get this behind him. The sharks were circling, and if there's no hungrier creature alive than a Republican waiting to get on Fox News and fulminate about the chum they conveniently helped create.

Still, I wish the party of perpetual outrage (when a Democrat is president) might at least take some moral responsibility for the wars it loves. LBJ gets most of the blame, as he ought, for Vietnam, but Republicans kept loving that war long after the last helicopter left the embassy roof in Saigon. By the 1980s, Hollywood in the person of Republican Sylvester Stallone, was spreading a Dolchstoss theory about liberals abandoning POWs in North Vietnam. Rambo had to get them out and expose the perfidy. Many Americans regarded this as fact. After 9/11, Americans rallied around George Bush and he repaid the favor by using it as a Rovian wedge issue in the 2002 election. Vietnam vet (and amputee) Senator Max Cleland was slimed as a terrorist sympathizer. It worked. Bush and the Neocons then created a fabric of lies in order to divert attention from the Taliban to Saddam Hussein. Again, toxic patriotism ruled the day, as the Dixie Chicks soon discovered.

These wars are costly, and you're wise to suspect the hawks aren't done. Obama just gave a great speech at West Point that tackled the issue about reflexively militarizing conflicts overseas. The Neocons, John McCain, Fox News, and the usual suspects went nuts.

If we're really concerned about veterans, let's stop making so many. We can do that by standing up to hawks like Dick Cheney (Five military deferments during Vietnam) who called Obama "weak". The mind-fuck that the right uses to insinuate softness and even complicity with the "enemy" is much worse than weak. It's evil. And it distorts the real cost that the party of endless tax cuts for the rich seems oblivious to. If you want war, pay for it. Don't skimp on the vets just because you promised the chickenhawks at the The Club for Growth, or Mitt Romney, or AIPAC that their ideological fetishes wouldn't cost them anything personally, especially the well-being of their sons. If I sound bitter, it's because I'm nauseated at seeing these people wrap themselves in the flag, pretending they own it, and then walking away from the human waste they caused without even a tear.

John McCain just gave a speech here at work. The highlights:

1) VA mess - healthcare cards for veterans so that they can get service from any provider, Shinseki is a good man and soldier and its sad to see his career end like this, don't take more vets until the system is more efficient (fact check: he says the VA budget doubled over the last five years?!);

2) fire and water - 13-year-drought (my count is 20+), CA is going to want its water and by law we have to give it to them, remove salt cedars from CO river basin as they suck up too much water, there's not enough money to thin the combustibles out of our Nat'l forests;

3) the terrorists are still trying to kill us and now Americans, Europeans are joining them in Syria, Snowden is a traitor, stop defense contractor overruns.

Speaking of Chickenhawk Cheney, Ventura does a thorough takedown:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3Gm-JFmjQQ

eclecticdog, McCain's "doubled" doesn't quite compute but it has definitely increased. VA budget in billions:

2008: 91
2009: 97.7
2010: 127.2
2011: 125.5
2012: 126.8
2013: 139.1
2014: 153.8
2015: 163.9

What happened? A lot more people are accessing the VA since Obama became president and relaxed admission requirements. Instead of paying through the nose for private insurance, these vets are getting care that costs 40% less than private sector health care (something Republicans would like to see happen to the VA health care system) but with health-care outcomes 30% superior to the private sector. This socialist outrage has been inflicted on millions of veterans, which means billionaires might have to pay more taxes. (Ha ha! Just kidding!) Republicans are angry that a) Obama is ending a couple of their never-ending wars and b) giving veterans health care. Needless to say, they can't quite come out and put it in those terms so they crank up the Outrage Machine and untold millions of American robots respond accordingly.


Are the budget numbers inflation-adjusted or chained -- or just nominal dollars?

From WSJ:

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/05/29/explaining-the-vas-size-and-scope-in-five-charts/

From LibertyWorks (not sure about this site as being fair and balanced, but this chart looked good):

http://libertyworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/spending-per-patient.jpg

Rogue, I'll assume those numbers are nominal. Health care costs overall have increased about 25% since 2008. If you factor in the 40% lower overall cost of care at the VA along with the significantly older population being served and the increased client base, the shrieking about VA being a money pit is not only overstated, it's essentially false.

And, how about all those bonuses? Were they factored into the increased budgets as well?

We should privatize the VA so veterans will get less care at a greater cost but CEOs will be making million dollar bonues. Anyone on the right care that Rick Scott, governor of Florida, made hundreds of millions in profits from defrauding Medicare?

Of course not. Outrage is a cheap thrill on the right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_scott


Mr. Talton wrote:

"Bush and the Neocons then created a fabric of lies in order to divert attention from the Taliban to Saddam Hussein."

This segues into the current uproar about whether President Obama has violated the U.S. doctrine against "negotiating with terrorists" in trading Bowe Bergdhal for five aged Taliban commanders.

First, as the conservative National Review notes, neither the Bush nor the Obama State Departments designated the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist organization. They're insurgents.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/379265/obama-replenishes-taliban-or-how-wars-end-21st-century-andrew-c-mccarthy

This contrasts with the Reagan administration: after the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine peacekeepers in Lebanon, which produced the largest loss of U.S. military life in a single incident since World War II, the Reagan administration declared Iran a sponsor of international terrorism. Then came the hostage crisis in Lebanon, in which U.S. military personnel were held. It is widely agreed that The Islamic Republic of Iran played a major role in the kidnappings, if in fact it was not the instigator of them. The U.S. subsequently traded arms for hostages.

Handwritten notes by Defense Secretary Weinberger indicate that the President was aware of potential hostages transfers with Iran, as well as the sale of Hawk and TOW missiles to what he was told were "moderate elements" within Iran. Notes taken on December 7, 1985, by Weinberger record that Reagan said that "he could answer charges of illegality but he couldn't answer charge [sic] that 'big strong President Reagan passed up a chance to free hostages'".

Per Wikipedia, the following arms were supplied to Iran:

August 20, 1985 – 96 TOW anti-tank missiles
September 14, 1985 – 408 more TOWs
November 24, 1985 – 18 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles
February 17, 1986 – 500 TOWs
February 27, 1986 – 500 TOWs
May 24, 1986 – 508 TOWs, 240 Hawk spare parts
August 4, 1986 – More Hawk spares
October 28, 1986 – 500 TOWs

Patriotism - War
Draft - Veteran
Draftless - Employee

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