Military friends of mine are voting for Bush because of what his administration has done to help the individuals in the military as far as salaries and benefits go. This got me wondering–what specifically has the administration done, year by year? And how does it compare with how previous administrations, especially Clinton’s, treated the rank and file?
I think they’ve inhaled way too much desert sand…
Oops, sorry, I thought this was IMHO.
I’m a Veteran and use the VA Hospital facilities so your question interests me. I’m going to vote for Kerry because he might be a little bit better for Veteran services.
First time in my life I’ve voted Democratic! (I’m a senior citizen)
Trying to be as factual as possible, I think it’s a pretty mixed record.
During the Clinton Administration, Congress enacted a law in which members of the armed forces would receive an automatic pay increase of 0.5% over the CPI increase. This is because pay raises during the early Clinton years had been pretty small, and the gap between civilian and military pay was getting so large in a tight job market that something had to be done to attract new servicemembers.
The Bush Administration has generally stuck by this formula, which is still in effect, except that it has, in a couple years, proposed somewhat greater pay increases for more experienced service members. Congress basically altered those proposals to make sure that more members of the military (especially junior ranks) got a bigger increase. Congress has also done more to make sure that special pays for those with important technical knowledge are increased more rapidly than the Administration has proposed.
The one area in which the Administration has done a lot is on out-of-pocket housing costs. In 2001, the Administration proposed that all out-of-pocket housing expenses be eliminated. They are not there, but a much larger percentage is now being covered… Sorry I don’t have the numbers handy.
There are two pretty significant black marks on this record, however. In 2002, if my memory serves, Congress took the initiative and increased combat pay and familiy separation pay by roughly 30 to 50 percent. (This increase was not proposed by the Administration.) When the White House proposed it’s $87 billion bill for Iraq, it included a provision to combine those two benefits in a way so that a service member would get a smaller lump sum than the total of the two special pays. This is what Democrats talk about when they say that Bush proposed a pay cut for the troops. (Congress rejected that proposal and made the increased pays permanent. Congress also doubled the death benefit for widows who lost a service member.)
The other black mark is that Category 8 veterans – those who have incomes in excess of something like $28,000 and who do not have a service-connected disability – are no longer allowed to begin using the VA health care system. (If they had already been using the system prior to January 2003, they are allowed to continue to do so.) This is basically a cost-saving measure. Because health care costs have been rising so much, fewer vets are seeing private doctors, and more are seeing the VA docs. The budget for VA health care is insufficient to cover everyone eligible by law, which includes these well-off, probably healthy Category 8 veterans, so the White House has said that no more can see VA doctors after January 2003. There do not appear to be any plans on the books to change this policy anytime soon.
I have also heard that the White House has also cut the Veterans’ Administration budget and has proposed closing 11 VA hospitals in the next 2 years, but I have only heard this from one source, Air America, so would be interested in any additional info anyone has.
They’ve been getting great raises, something in the line of 5-10% a year. You know, Bush has got to keep the Empires soldiers happy After all, America is now an Empire.
Speaking as a vet myself, I believe the military is making too much money. I mean, the base pay for privates is well over a thousand per month, plus bennies. Add in food, housing, medical and other bennies and their probably grossing over 3 thousand per month in pay and bennies.
Plus they can retire at 1/2 pay after 20 years.
I bring home approximately $2,300 after taxes per month as an E-4, and that’s with my monthly CEFIP (Career Enlisted Flyer Incentive Pay) of $150. That’s counting the increased allowances for a wife and son. Since the government is its own insurer, it costs them bupkis unless I see a doctor. Food allowance is approximately $2,000 (actually a little less). Housing is less than $500 per month, and that doesn’t pay the rent.
As a Guardsman, I am not permitted to collect any retirement until I am 60 (though that may be down to 55 soon), and my payments will be based on how many points I earn over my career.
I think you would be hard pressed to say that we make too much money. Maybe up in the upper ranks, but certainly not at the bottom. And it gets better, because as a Guardsman in the most active unit in the Guard and a constant volunteer, nobody wants to hire me because I’m gone too much, yet I need to get a job outside of the military if I want to keep my family where they are.
It ain’t all peaches and cream, buddy. Not for some of us.
I should note that the food allowance figure is for the entire year.
The part about the VA budget being cut is completely false. Funding for the VA has gone up quite a lot during Bush’s term. As Factcheck.org says,
The White House has not cut VA budgets. In fact, they have requested some significant increases, but demand for VA health care services is basically on fire, and those increases have not been sufficient to keep up with demand (hence the end on enrollments of Cat 8 veterans, see above). Congress has added funds to the last few VA health care budgets.
While Congress has been adding more money to the VA budget, the Bush Administration has also proposed increasing collections – read, increase the fees for veterans seeking to use the system. Congress has so far refused to increase user fees for veterans.
OTOH, the Bush Administration has done a fairly good job in reducing the backlog of claims for vets. Because so many are using the system now, many have had to wait unconcionable periods before their disability claims could be reviewed. The average waiting time for claims has dropped from roughly 250 days in 2001 to about 150 now, and it continues to decrease.
As far as closure of the hospitals, yes, the VA has proposed closing a number of hospitals and outpatient clinics… but also proposes 100 new construction projects. The problem is that veterans are moving away from places like New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, etc., and moving to Arizona, Florida, and so on. It is a pretty significant demographic shift. The idea is that you realign the hospitals to be where the veterans are. My personal opinion is that I think it’s a bit premature to start closing hospitals and clinic while we are in the middle of a major war, simply in order to better serve the past generations of vets. But in any case, I have a hard time saying that the Bush Administration is being a heartless bastard because of this policy, because there is some sense in it.