In reality, the solution to most problems is simple. It is the reluctance of those in control to enact the necessary steps that make it either difficult or impossible.

Recently I wrote about the growing problem of healthcare for our veterans and the history of our nation in dealing with the issue. As we would expect, this problem is one largely caused by our government who then tries in vain to solve the problem with the same thinking process. Einstein did not quantify this as insanity, but rather as impossible.

I have written in the past of “good intentions,” how it plays in national politics, and where the road paved by them leads. Frequently, our military efforts have been well-intended but not well thought out. In many ways I believe our feelings of duty to veterans is to ease the psychological burden of our conscience. For instance, if our child is injured doing something foolish, we feel bad, but also tend to think they are suffering from the consequences of a poor choice and hope they learn a lesson. However, if our child is hurt or injured while doing something under our direction, we feel much more responsible.

The Only Civil War Vet from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Kolin ToneyFlickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

From colonial times until 1862, we operated as the founders intended. We did not have a National Army to the extent we do now.  Each state had a militia. Most states had laws requiring able bodied men to be armed, trained, and ready to assist in the defense of the state or union. However, this was done on a volunteer basis, and I found no evidence that men were forced to serve. In fact, the British had a system of conscription that was hated and the new nation was not open to many of its “Master’s” practices.

Both the north and the south enacted a draft. However, it was not very successful. Only two percent of the Union force were draftees, and six percent were substitutes paid by draftees. Yes, both sides allowed draftees to pay someone to fight for them, in fact, some states and cities paid a bounty or bonus to join up.

In 1917 under Woodrow Wilson, a draft was initiated when after the first weeks of WWI and only 73,000 of the one million target number had joined voluntarily. The Selective Service Act of 1917 tried to avoid some of the issues encountered during the Civil War. Exemptions were allowed for dependency, essential occupations, and religious objections. Also gone were the bounties, substitutions, and buying of exemptions.

With the buildup of tensions and war in Europe, the US enacted its first peacetime draft. A large percentage of people believed a victory in Europe by Italy and Germany would directly endanger the US, so a compulsory draft was popular. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 used the 1917 Act as a model and required the registration of all men 21-35 to serve one year by national lottery. The time of service was extended to two years in 1941, and after Pearl Harbor, it was indefinite to the end of the war plus six months.

After Korea and Vietnam, the nation’s stomach for sending conscripted men to fight when no direct threat was sensed waned dramatically. The last draft was held in 1972 for males born in 1953. I remember it well because that was my draft. My number was high, and several of my friends received their notices. Luckily, the draft was ended soon, and we transitioned to an all-volunteer Army.

Veterans Memorial from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Robert Anthony ProvostFlickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

My look into the history of the draft was essential to help us understand why we feel such an obligation to veterans. We ripped them away from their families and lives, forcing many to sacrifice their lives, and even more to sacrifice their physical and mental health. There is no doubt we collectively owe these men. Since the end of WWII, however, wars have been vaguer in their goals. The military’s intended job was to kill and destroy.

When we use it for any reason, but to protect the liberties and rights of the nation…when we “nation build” or try to execute a “regime change,” I believe we violate the true intent of our nation.

Name one thing the government does and manages well. Every single agency is plagued by fraud and abuse. Estimates are that the federal government loses nearly $1 trillion a year to waste, fraud and abuse. The government creates problems it cannot solve, and in fact, only makes things worse in its futile attempt to assuage its collective conscience.

Thomas Sowell, speaking of a national healthcare system said, “If we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical drugs now, how can we afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical drugs, in addition to a new federal bureaucracy to administer a government-run medical system?”

What is the VA but a government-run medical system?

If we really cared about our veterans, adding the expense of a bureaucracy makes no sense. It may not be a popular thing for me to say, but we have an all volunteer military. Everyone who goes into one of the branches to serve does so willingly, knowing the risks. While the nation has a duty, no one is “owed” anything. If you separate from the military before retirement age and do not have a disability related to your service, then you need to move on with your life. You are not owed free medical care for life. If you suffer an injury due to your service, then, of course, there is an obligation. Obligations in relationships go both ways. While we are obligated to care for injured and disabled vets, we also have an obligation to not misuse them in political conflicts.

Retired military and active duty have TRICARE. If we, as a nation, feel an obligation to our veterans, then give them TRICARE.  I might suggest that if a veteran is not retired that a nominal co-pay would be appropriate. Certainly, things cannot continue as they are. If our vets are given a free choice of provider, and we don’t have the expense of a government run VA medical system, then the service given to the vets will improve, and the cost to the taxpayer will go down. A true win-win.

Photo Credit: “Veterans Day Parade,” © 2000 Branson Convention and Visitors BureauFlickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio


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