By Representative Ron Paul
America cannot remain strong if our servicemen and women have reason to doubt that our nation will not honor the promises it made to them when they enlisted.
My campaign is holding a Salute Our Veterans Rally today in Des Moines. I hope this rally will help drive that point home.
Of all our government's shortcomings, few issues are more distressing than the inadequate treatment our veterans receive. I'm a veteran myself, having served as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force during the turbulent 1960s. So, unlike some of my "armchair general" opponents, I have a firsthand understanding of our veterans' needs.
I have supported numerous pieces of legislation in Congress to better look out for our veterans, and I am proud to have helped many veterans in my district finally receive the medals and benefits they fought hard to earn. I intend to use the bully pulpit as president to advocate even more strongly for their issues. Our veterans fought hard for us, so we should fight hard for them.
For instance, I have always supported giving employers tax credits for hiring veterans, narrowing the gap in pay that exists between private and military sector pay scales, and finally reversing the trend of disproportionately high veterans unemployment, which is a sky-high 27 percent for vets ages 18 to 24, according to a recent New York Times article.
I also support curbing the cost to military retirees for VA inpatient care while expanding coverage to include chiropractic care. Our government should also fully acknowledge the adverse effects of Gulf War syndrome and Agent Orange-related illness.
Perhaps one of the most disheartening examples of injustice toward the disabled is the so-called "disabled veterans tax." This is a federal rule mandating that disabled veterans forfeit military retirement pay dollar-for-dollar if they choose to receive disability payments. Veterans are the only federal employees who are forced to make this choice.
Another problem is sadly becoming prevalent among our veterans. Currently, reports say we are losing 18 veterans each day to suicide. If this alarming trend continues, we will lose almost twice the number of veterans by July 2012 than the number of troops we've lost during the entire war in Afghanistan. This tragic problem will be addressed during my administration.
Unfortunately, instead of recognizing that more must be done for our veterans, especially during wartime, the Obama administration is doing just the opposite.
President Obama has proposed dramatically increasing copays and imposing an additional $200 annual fee for retired military families who want to continue Tricare. The claim is that these combined changes would "save" $27.3 billion over 10 years. In other words, the proposed savings on the backs of veterans are equal to what we spend in only a few months to finance seemingly endless nation-building in Afghanistan. It should go without saying that this is wrong.
Why don't we take care of our military, instead of letting our politicians get away with mouthing support for our troops while spreading them thin to police the world and nation-build?
Why don't we finally put a stop to these interventions and concentrate on securing our borders -- instead of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan?
The American taxpayers and our troops deserve better.
And since my campaign has received more money from active duty military than all other candidates combined, our troops seem to agree.
I hope you'll come see what my campaign is all about and help me honor our veterans at my rally at 7 p.m. today at the Knapp Learning Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
I've scheduled it expressly to salute our veterans and welcome the troops home from Iraq. Please join me in making a statement to these men and women that we will honor our commitments to them.