Why Military Benefits Need Reform, not Reduction

Loyalty. Duty. Selfless Service. Courage. Respect. Devotion to Duty. Sound familiar? Those are just some of the core values that help shape and drive the service members who defend freedom and fight in the name of liberty daily. The very foundation of what they do is rooted in protecting and serving this great nation and its people.

Knowing this information, it is extremely hard to believe that in a country where professional athletes can make tens of millions of dollars, veterans are struggling right under the nose of the people whose lives they swore to protect.  In order to save them, we must answer the bigger question:  In what ways are America’s veterans suffering?

Starting from the beginning of the military journey until its completion, military members are the victims of a massive wage discrepancy in our country. Whether for the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, or the Marines, every person who wants to serve their country is prepared to do so at Basic Military Training. Along with their service, that is where the life struggle not befitting a service member begins.

While in basic they receive an hourly wage of approximately $8 hourly (U.S. Army). To give a comparative perspective, more than 50% of the states in the United States pay higher than the Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25 an hour. As soldiers enter a life of service to their country they make an abysmal $.75 more than the Federal Minimum Wage. On a monthly basis, an E-1 (E for enlisted, 1 for their pay grade) the starting military rank would walk out of Basic Military Training with approximately $3062 ($4473 for Marines due to their extended training period).

In addition, those wage number are not even calculated for the work our Veterans truly do. Veterans are often paid on a 24 hour schedule. Most veterans work much more than 40 hours a week. Some veterans serving in combat positions can work anywhere from 80 hours a week to even as much as 120 hours a week. With that being said. Veterans just having entered the military can make as little as $2.66 hourly.

For clarification, between two to three months of some of the most grueling military training on the planet, the service member is rewarded for starting their service journey with a wage barely above minimum wage and a check for their time. Once boot camp is complete; Soldiers, Seamen, Airmen, Marines, and Coasties go on to learn the specific skills they need to serve their country with an extra $200 monthly and that extra money is on an ever-increasing scale.

Normally people would say “What an improvement! How do people complain the military isn’t paid enough?” Instead, ask this:  “Are members of the military paid enough for what they do?” By researching this question or merely talking to a veteran, what can be learned is beyond dissatisfying. 

Starting this point off with a question: How does it feel to be an expendable force? To be sent miles from home and family into nations with unpronounceable names? To spend the rest of your working life in perilous danger without the guarantee of seeing tomorrow? Well, that’s a Barney talk (simple) definition of the military.

The average deployment for soldiers can range anywhere from 6-18 months (dependent on branch and Military Occupational Specialty, of M.O.S.). Military occupations like infantry, cavalry, artillery, special forces, and other hazardous occupations make up 20% of the military’s direct combat occupations. As of 2015, almost 7,000 Americans had lost their lives in the Global War on Terror.

Speaking of the war on terror, veterans whose service called them there experienced some incredibly horrific things as they fought for their country. The damage sustained in combat is forever life altering.

Injuries can range from smaller injuries like sprains or cuts in combat, to even more severe injuries such as being shot, losing a limb, or even flesh wounds sustained in hand to hand combat. Soldiers with considerable and debilitating injuries are forced into early retirement, with the possibility of promotion and rising beyond their level in rank and economics squandered.

To go along with the damages done to a soldier’s body, war can can greatly injure the soldier’s soul. The constant lack of security and safety. The never-ending imminent danger. The psychological damage that taking a life, or losing someone who they trained and fought beside. All of those things create unspeakable pain that changes veterans forever. While everyone has heard of “P.T.S.D.”, some don’t realize what sufferers endure because of it. Survivor’s guilt, anxiety, depression and a loss of purpose are but a small portion of what the nation’s heroes experience as a result of war.

A more troubling figure to grasp is how many veterans take their own life as a result of what happened to them in combat, both physically and mentally. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that a combat veteran commits suicide once every 65 minutes. That’s 22 of the bravest men and women in this country taking their own life DAILY because of how their service affected them.

Considering all of the things service members endure, it would be believed that the systems in place to care for them. While one exists, it is far more inadequate than any would imagine.

The systems in place to take care of the service members of the United States is in a sense not enough as to what they deserve. Firstly, the V.A. or Veteran’s Affairs is inefficient. They’re too busy for their own good. The V.A. is so backlogged, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan noted in his article “PTSD and Me: True Stories From Military Veterans” that veterans can wait 125 days before their assistance arrives.

To make matters more complicated, the filing process is absolutely ridiculous. Despite the only requirement for receiving benefits being that you’re discharge was honorable, the process for filing a claim is 23 pages long. While this is only conjecture, this would probably explain their backlogging issues.

At the end of the day, the VA reports that “Last year, $30 billion dollars – one-third of the VA’s total budget – was paid in disability compensation to nearly three million veterans.” (CBS). All these things add up to three bad situations: Wasted money, mass confusion, and suffering veterans.

It is impossible to refute that service is within the very foundation of the United States Armed Forces. From their actions to their values, serving their country and the citizens of it. From the weeks they train to the years of service that follow, they endure hardship that is far too severe for any civilian to understand.

By not understanding, the civilian sector is under the impression that the combination of pay and benefits the military receives is comparable to those of other occupations. Unfortunately, the pay is not fair because of the difference of the work. Those benefits have their own drawbacks which are absolutely undeserved. For these reasons, the conclusion can be drawn that the military is significantly underpaid.

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