Trump’s Policies Make Veterans into Losers

My partner Steve Early and I just published the piece in The American Prospect

Under Trump’s Presidency, Military Veterans and Service Members Have Been ‘Losers’

Putting Trump’s words aside, his actions have shown a disregard for the health and welfare of military families.

by ,

September 9, 2020

For the last few days, Donald Trump has been furiously denying conversations reported in The Atlantic in which he referred to veterans, active-duty soldiers, and World War II fighters interred in a military cemetery as “suckers” and “losers.” In one rebuttal to this “fake news,” the president insisted that he has “never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES.”

Trump’s opposition has worked itself into righteous indignation over his comments. VoteVets, the Democratic Party–backed advocacy group, denounced “Traitor Trump’s” disdain for those “making the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our democracy.” Presidential candidate Joe Biden took it as further confirmation of his opponent’s unfitness “to be the commander in chief,” and a personal insult to his late son, Beau, a Bronze Star winner in Iraq. Democrat M.J. Hegar, the Afghan War veteran seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, found Trump’s remarks “sickening” and issued “a call to action to every patriot across the country … to stand up for the next generation putting on the uniform.”

What none of these or other critics have dared to address is the fact that, under Trump, too many veterans and service members have, in fact, been “losers.” In short, a better target for Democratic outrage than Trump’s words would be his administration’s actions.

For example, largely out of sight, millions of Americans suffering from wounds of war have had their health care coverage eroded on Trump’s watch. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is attempting to reduce Pentagon spending in the one place where more is actually needed—the Military Health System (MHS). Esper’s budget includes over $2 billion in cuts to care for 9.5 million active-duty personnel, military retirees, and dependents. More service members and their families will be forced to go off base, using their Tricare insurance for reimbursement of private doctors and hospitals currently flooded with COVID-19 patients.

“If enacted,” one expert told me, “these cuts will seriously jeopardize the ability of the MHS to fulfill its mission to provide the health care to which the DOD family is entitled … the MHS is in a ‘death spiral’ during a time of national COVID-19 pandemic emergency.” Two programs at risk are the DOD’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) and Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP), both based at the Uniformed Services University (USU) in Maryland, which functions as the nation’s federal health professions academy. At these research centers, clinicians study how to develop more effective ways of treating military trauma.


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