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Commentary: Support The Veterans, Too

By Tom Dodge, KERA Commentator

Dallas, TX –

I see in the news that our government is attempting to save the failing housing market by subsidizing hundreds of thousands of home-buyers who can't afford to pay their overpriced mortgages. This is all right with me, as our fiercely anti-socialist government usually subsidizes only big corporations that go under. But back in the 1930s, when working people and farmers were severely down and out, President Roosevelt tried every government social program he could think of to help them. The only ones who complained were the up and ins. They vowed to vote him out, but the down and outs he helped re-elected him three times.

But the up and ins aren't stupid. They've since managed to demonize social programs to the point that no president can get elected today by advocating what President Roosevelt did. One way they've demonized social programs is by substituting propaganda for education.

And this leads me to wonder if it's just a coincidence that the G.I. Bill was allowed to degenerate into what it is today. The original program paid for a hundred percent of a veteran's education costs. This was one of the most successful social programs in American history. It enabled eight million veterans, including me, to attend college-and possibly learn how the government really works.

But it was diminished after 1956 and replaced in 1984 with a substitute that requires today's veterans to pay one third of the benefits in order to qualify for an amount that pays but 60 to 70 percent of a state college education and 30 percent at a private college.

Soldiers must make payments of a hundred dollars a month during the first twelve or eighteen months of active duty to qualify.

Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, a Vietnam vet, is sponsoring a bill that would reinstate the benefits of World War II era veterans guaranteeing full educational costs to qualifying veterans. It has passed in the Senate by a vote of 77-22. Senator McCain did not support the bill, believing as the Pentagon does, that it will entice soldiers to leave the military in order to get the benefits. But why wouldn't it benefit the military? Would not young people enlist and give four years in trade for college costs?

It's puzzling to me that people can somehow believe they "support the troops" yet ignore such pathetic government treatment of returning veterans. I wonder how many of these supporters fought to save the VA Hospital at Waco three years ago. Could an education at a respectable university have enabled them to see the ruin our Veterans Hospitals have fallen into?

My Uncle Wayne fought the Battle of Guadalcanal where he contracted malaria, which plagued him for 30 years. He said he enlisted to escape the battle of the Great Depression. But the military, he said, reneged on its promise to provide good medical coverage to veterans. Eventually he saw VA services erode to the point where he gave up on them. He said the lesson he learned in fighting the Great Depression, people standing together to help each other, turned out to be more valuable than the lesson he learned from the military - that you're a hero during the war but expendable afterwards.

Tom Dodge is a writer from Midlothian.

If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.