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The Numbers Game
By RU Contributor Antonio Aguilar
I ran across a Washington Post article, contributed to by the Associated Press, regarding veterans, injuries, and the benefits that are due to be paid out. First I was staggered by the numbers. 54% of veterans are getting health care through the VA. 1,600 have lost a limb in Iraq or Afghanistan. 200 have serious facial disfigurement. There are 217,000 cases of PTSD and 165,000 cases of depression linked to it. These are just the problems that have been diagnosed. The article went on to explain that in future years, the payouts to veterans will peak. Vietnam veteran payouts have not yet peaked, and apparently people are concerned that the government will not be able to afford the peak in healthcare costs for Vietnam veterans, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Not one to take a newspaper article at its word, I went onto the VA website to do my own research. The current veteran population (all veterans combined) is 22.7 million and it is projected to steadily decline over the course of the next several years. By 2035 the projection shows it to be below 15 million. The US population, by comparison, has a 2012 estimate of over 313,000,000 according to Wikipedia. That makes the current veteran population about 7.25%, but only 8.34 million were enrolled in the VA healthcare system as of FY2010. Even if that number went up by a million each year, it would still be only 3.3% of the current estimated U.S. population.
By comparison, according to the 2010 SSA report, there were 56.9 million people receiving Medicaid, or 18.18% of the total U.S. population. That’s more than double the total number of total veterans in the U.S. population, and about six times the total percentage of veterans receiving VA healthcare.
Now, maybe I just don’t get it, but how is it that we can pour out benefits to one group of people but have an issue paying for the healthcare of those who gave almost everything for this country? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which group gave more for America, and yet a decent number of people in Washington put them pretty low on the priority list, even suggesting that they should have to pay for part of their health care. There is very little mention of asking the other group to pay anything, and suggesting that their benefits be cut raises outrage and accusations of inhumanity. Then again, when you’re after votes, do you want to please 3.3% or 18.18% of people?
It’s all about the numbers after all, not what’s right.