I’m preparing myself for some flack on this one, but I gotta ask – Why the hell is one person’s trauma more important than someone else’s trauma?
If your trauma was obtained by being involved in combat, is it more important than the trauma that occurred in a stateside shooting at a military installation?
If you lost your leg when a tank rolled over it during maintenance in Iraq, is that loss greater than losing your leg from a tank rolling over it during pre-deployment training stateside?
If you were sexually assaulted in Afghanistan, is that more traumatic than being sexually assaulted at your home station stateside?
If you are forced to “medically retire” due to injuries sustained in combat or a terrorist attack, are they any higher priority than the same injuries sustained by someone at a home duty station from work place violence or a training accident?
This isn’t about taking anything away from anyone else. This is simply about the bigger question “Is anyone’s service less or more valuable than anyone else’s based on the type, location, or length of service?”
Here’s a football analogy that a friend of mine came up with: Equate this to the pro football player who breaks a leg in preseason training versus Joe Theisman who broke his in a game. Because Joe’s leg was broken in the heat of “combat” Joe’s injury had a greater emotional impact on the spectators. Even though both players have career ending injuries, Joe is who we remember. And if a bill were going to be passed that would authorize federal compensation – Joe’s would be the remembered and the bill authorizing compensation would state “while in a game.”
Not every infantryman will make it into combat any more than every football player will take the field during a game. But they all train for the same event at the same time and in the same way. Just as not everyone will make it into the theater of operations even if they volunteer, many of them will not make it to twenty years no matter how much they want to.
Why ask? Because it’s all about money – whether monthly income or tax breaks – it’s about equal and fair compensation.
Those who served in certain theaters of operation and for specific lengths of time are eligible for different compensation either through the VA or through their branch of service, or in some cases, through their states. I’ll just stick with the feds for now and only military retirement and VA compensation. [Don’t send mail about service connection priority and care – those are for another day.]
Here’s an example:
10 years ago, John and Bob both had 16 years in service and were both preparing to deploy for the first time to Iraq.
John loses his leg due to an on-duty accident during pre-deployment training. The military deems him medically unfit for service, and he is medically retired with 16 years of service and receives an 80% disability [just a number for an example – don’t get excited.] The VA takes the 80% out of John’s military retirement pay and gives that to him tax free. The remaining 20% is paid out as a standard military retirement and is subject to federal and state taxes. Bing, bang, boom – John’s done.
Bob deploys to Iraq for six months and comes home to finish 4 more years. He retires with 20 years of service, goes to the VA, and manages to get a 50% disability for a variety of ailments. Because he reached 20 years, Bob keeps his entire military retirement check less taxes – plus he now receives a VA check for 50% of that amount tax free. This is provided through CRDP – Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay.
John didn’t ask to be retired – John was injured in the service of his country and forced to retire before he could get his 20 years in or be deployed to a theater of operations, but he will receive many hundred dollars less per month than Bob even though he was the one who suffered the injures in service.
A May 2016 phone call to DFAS (Defense Finance Accounting Service) confirmed the following. Those who retire early (less than 20 years) do not qualify for CDRP. The current bill for pay and compensation makes NO distinction between those who are forced to retire early due to injuries/illness and those who took a voluntary early retirement.
I’m just asking the question about what we consider equal or fair.
The victims of the attack at Fort Hood have been fighting to have that event classified as a terrorist attack because this would make it combat related and give them a higher priority in getting their VA claims through the system and also (as mentioned above) probably increase the compensation levels received through their branches of service or states.
I’m all for that happening, but at the same time I question how any federal or state agency can place the needs of one service member/veteran above another who sustained injuries/illness while in the line of duty based solely on the type or the location of the event.
Why aren’t claims and disability based on the simple triage method? The guy who has his leg blown off gets taken care of before the guy who has a broken toe. Trust me – no one wants to the blue falcon that bumps the guy in desperate need of compensation and care.
It shouldn’t matter where the guy was when he lost his leg? Nor should how much time the guy had in service matter. If the person is medically retired due to injury or illness received in service, then he should get the retirement check he earned based on his grade and time served, and any VA compensation awarded, should be above and beyond that retirement check. That’s equal and fair.
Trauma is trauma, pain is pain, and sacrifice is sacrifice. The guy who didn’t get chosen to go downrange and the people who get shot at stateside shouldn’t be treated in any way less than the guy who did get sent. We preached every day that the guy sitting in the missile silo is no less important than the man operating the drone or the guy in the field calling for the airstrike. Hazardous duty and combat pay make sense while you are in the theater of operations doing those jobs, but when people retire (whether after their 20 or sooner by order) and turn up on the doorstep of the federal and state governments to be compensated – no one’s elephant is bigger.