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Supporting Veterans as a Moral and Practical Duty

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Providing adequate services to America’s veterans is not only a moral obligation, but also a critical step in ensuring the future vitality of the military, Alexander Nicholson argues. In an article in The Atlantic, Nicholson makes the case for improving veterans services to ensure that the benefits promised by the VA are actually delivered to veterans in an efficient manner.

The social contract to care for our nation’s veterans is longstanding, with President Lincoln describing the agreement, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.” In recent years, the VA has failed to live up to its commitment to veterans, Nicholson argues. For instance, Nicholson details the difficulties veterans have had in receiving education benefits promised by the post-9/11 GI Bill, technical glitches in the VA’s new Veterans Benefits Management System, and massive delays in responding to disability claims.

The effect of this failure goes far beyond a moral breach of contract, Nicholson suggests. Widely-publicized inefficiencies in the VA may negatively affect the Department of Defense by deterring young Americans from enlisting in the armed forces:

Living up to this commitment is not only a moral obligation we have as a society, but it is also an imperative for the future readiness of our nation’s armed forces. The all-volunteer nature of our military today means that we rely entirely on the willingness of mostly young men and women to offer themselves up in service for what is at best modest compensation to serve for extended periods of time in what are often harsh and dangerous conditions. No other employer could offer such a job description to potential recruits and not be laughed out of business.

While Nicholson acknowledges that the VA has made some recent strides in modernizing, there is still room for improvement. The efficiency of America’s VA system lags behind comparative systems in other nations, particularly with the demand for veterans benefits expected to rise in the coming years. If the problems are not comprehensively addressed, Nicholson believes that young Americans will “question why potential new recruits for the armed forces would voluntarily put their health, their livelihoods and their lives in the hands of government bureaucracies that far too often let warriors and veterans fall through the cracks of their antiquated systems.”