TCS Daily

Forgotten Vets?

By Jerry Bowyer - June 9, 2003 12:00 AM

It is those who are least willing to serve their country in the military that are most willing to advocate that others do the same. It is the rich, white members of Congress who themselves were unwilling to don the uniform who are most likely to send the children of the poor and minorities to die. In fact, the "Chicken Hawks" (those who do not serve) are not even willing to support their country's soldiers financially. This is demonstrated by George W. Bush's proposal to slash veterans' benefits...

So reads the litany of anti-war gripes in America. But has anyone actually tested these claims empirically? Not until now. ChartWell looked at the data to see whether members of Congress who are veterans were more or less likely to vote in favor of military action than those who are not. Is it the children of minorities who are most likely to die in conflicts such as Operation: Iraqi Freedom? Do more hawkish administrations, such as the Bush administration, possess fewer veterans in high-ranking positions, than more dovish ones? And are those states (the "red" states) that voted for George W. Bush under-represented on the battlefield, and in the graveyard?

This first column in our series, "The Myth of the Chicken Hawk," will look at the question of funding veterans' benefits.

As the chart above demonstrates, far from cutting veterans' benefits, President Bush has raised them. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi summed things up rather nicely:

"...there is no truth to any suggestion or assertion that VA's budget will be 'cut' or 'slashed' next year. In fact, funding for veterans programs will increase in fiscal year 2004, probably by record levels."
He's right. Bush's proposed 2004 budget for the Department is $63.6 billion. He also presents a potential explanation as to where this rumor came from: an obscure House resolution requesting that the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reduce most federal agencies' funding by 1% for the fiscal year of 2004. This reduction was proposed with the assumption that the cut would be made up by reducing abuse, fraud, and overall waste within each department.

Had this measure passed, it would have done little more than give Bush's proposed record budget for the department a slight shave. Even so, lawmakers quickly realized that the resolution would apply to VA, and exempted it from the reductions.

In addition to record funding and an exemption from a minor decrease, VA funding under this administration has been raised at a much faster rate than it did under the previous administration. Under Clinton, funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs averaged a 3.8% annual increase from 1995 to 2000. The Bush administration, on the other hand, has averaged an 11.3% increase from 2001 to 2004. Furthermore, Bush's first two increases, which together totaled just under $13 billion, nearly doubled the increase in Clinton's last five years combined ($7.3 billion).

By no stretch of the imagination is this administration abandoning its veterans. If anything, it may be the first to give them the kind of support they deserve.

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