Suppose you’ve just joined the army and expect to serve for, oh, say, four years before returning to civilian life.
Which would you rather have when you get out: a lifetime-guaranteed annual check for $7500 (adjusted each year for inflation) or a package of VA benefits?
To help you decide: The VA benefits include payments of anywhere from about $100 a month to almost $3000 a month in the unlikely event that you are partially or fully disabled, a pension on the order of $15,000 a year in the more unlikely event that you are both disabled and poverty-stricken (rising to more like $20,000 a year if you need regular aid and attendance), educational benefits under the GI bill, and health care of whatever quality the government chooses to provide.
Me, I’d take the guaranteed $7500-a-year in a heartbeat. If that’s the typical response, then it’s hard to see why we have a Veteran’s Administration in the first place, seeing as how the VA’s annual budget would just about cover those payments.
Under a system of guaranteed payments, there will surely be some veterans who end up poor, disabled, and wishing we still had a VA. But insofar as these veterans preferred upfront to take the payments and risk a bad outcome, it’s hard to see that as a failure of the system.
Of course, impoverished disabled veterans might make the rest of us feel a little squeamish. But if that’s why we have a VA, let’s at least admit upfront that the VA is there not for the benefit of veterans, but rather to make non-veterans feel good at veterans’ expense.
Of course, it’s possible that many or most enlistees do prefer the current system. I think it would be interesting to find out.