It’s Not Just Trump. The Whole System Insults and Exploits Veterans!

Image credit: Don Ryan / AP Photo

Did Trump call the soldiers sent to fight in the U.S.’s endless wars “suckers,” as former Trump associates have claimed? Knowing how “Cadet Bone Spurs” avoided the draft, the charge is certainly believable. Far worse than his despicable language, are the hardships veterans experience when they come back to the U.S. from combat overseas.

In most of the last two decades, under both Democrat and Republican administrations, veterans have experienced higher rates of unemployment and homelessness than the rest of us. At the end of April, as the COVID crisis was peaking, Vietnam vets experienced a 17 percent unemployment rate, higher than the country as a whole.

Many veterans get their health care through the Veterans Administration (VA). By mid-June, the COVID death rate for vets was 8.5 percent. So far COVID has killed 5.5 percent of vets with the virus. Nationally, the fatality rate for all people is about 3.5 percent.

These sobering numbers result from the fact that the VA has been scandalously underfunded for decades by both Democratic and GOP administrations. In 2014, VA officials were caught faking treatment records to hide the fact that thousands of sick veterans were never treated at all for lack of staff, and the scandals continued.

In response, in the last couple of years, funding for the VA has increased. But so has the case load, and right now the VA employs 55,000 fewer people than the government admits it needs. Rather than hire more staff, the Trump administration has increased outsourcing veterans’ medical treatment to privately owned clinics and hospitals. Outsourcing makes profits for the investors, and the extra costs from this form of privatization partly explains why the VA doesn’t meet veterans’ needs. Outsourcing began under the Bush administration and sped up first under Obama and now under Trump.

The ever-growing push to privatize and outsource public services is one way the political system works to support making profit at the expense of human needs. The veterans who are losing the benefits the U.S. government shamefully promised them, had once been the soldiers that it sent to war to defend that same system. The war machine chewed them up and spit them out. Working people in the U.S. have an enemy in that system and not the military personnel of other countries. They too are being used by their bosses and politicians. There’s a lesson in that for us all.