Once you do the math, really crunch the numbers on the American military retirement, it’s really not that great. Especially for Special Ops vets who are used to high compensation that comes with the additional special pays (diving pay, parachute pay, demolition pay, to name a few) that don’t factor in for the retirement multiple.
Canada seems to be dealing with their own issues, and American Veterans may be voicing similar concerns as the US 2016 Presidential election approaches.
Election season is here in Canada, and to a certain extent, south of the border, too, with all the jockeying going on for the Democratic and Republican primaries. It’s a hazardous time of opportunity. In addition to all the political advertising blanketing the broadsheets and the airwaves, it’s hard not to notice special interest groups doing the same. There is no shortage of groups buying up advertising space to push their policies into the political arena. Now is definitely the time when parties and candidates cast around for the right wedge issues that will set them apart from their opponents and get themselves elected.
One of the major issues for veterans here in Canada has been the changes brought on by the New Veteran’s Charter, which was passed in 2006. Previously, wounded veterans would receive a lifetime pension. The new charter changed that to a system of lump-sum payments. Needless to say, very few vets were happy about this. It has become a political issue, and different veterans’ groups have gotten involved.
Politics is a funny subject. There is a real reason it’s one of the topics, along with religion, that you avoid if you’re looking for polite conversation. There’s nothing quite like it to get people to dump their logic modules and start foaming at the mouth like a rabid walker from “The Walking Dead.” There is a coalition of veterans groups here who have started up an “ABC”—”Anybody But Conservative”—movement in response to the problems with the New Veteran’s Charter. They have a certain appeal; their tough talk and no-nonsense approach standing up for veterans’ rights can hit the right notes when you feel like you’ve been shafted compared to the old vets from WWII, Korea, or the peacekeeping era.
The Conservative Party (equivalent to the Republican Party down south) has not done itself any favors with former Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, a former police chief, being particularly brusque and even rude to veterans and their spouses at hearings protesting the changes. So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see these groups banding together against the Conservatives in this election. But is it the right move?
Anger, as any combat veteran knows well, is only good if it’s focused and directed to achieve a specific goal. As obstinate as the Conservatives have been on this file, it should be noted that the New Veteran’s Charter was passed by all three parties in Canada’s House of Commons. If the goal is to get it changed, the anger and protests should be specific, and directed at those changes.
What incentive is there for the Conservatives to acquiesce to the “ABC” movement? They have moved past advocating policy to advocating for political parties. It’s no different than when you see unions doing the same. They pretend to be neutral, but are obviously anything but. To get the changes you want, it’s best not to make enemies. If the Conservatives retain power, how much influence will these veterans’ groups have?
The other issue is their insinuation that they represent all or most veterans, and even those currently serving. While lots of stereotypes are there for a reason, the truth is we’re a diverse lot. And veterans have a much different set of priorities than those serving. Although the controversy has been successful in pushing the Liberal Party (Canada’s Democrats) to pledge to return to lifetime disability pensions, nothing is ever free.
The foreign policy and defense stances of the competing parties may be of much greater importance for those still serving. It should also be noted that serving in the military is not like working in the civil service. Warriors don’t sign up for the benefits; we signed up to test ourselves and ply our trade overseas. The Conservatives have been adamant in pushing back against Russian aggression in Ukraine and ISIL barbarity in Iraq and Syria. The other parties talk about returning to peacekeeping and humanitarian aid. The Conservatives have been rightly pilloried for the many problems with procuring much-needed defense equipment, but that certainly is no better than the track record of previous Liberal governments.
The fact of the matter is that not one of the political parties is a true friend of serving or former soldiers. They are only interested in furthering their chances of election. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just a fact of democracy. If we stick to advocating on the issues, and avoid making enemies, we’ll be better off. The case for any policy has to be made to the public. Once it gets traction, it will get the attention of the politicians.
Becoming a shill for any of the political parties will get us written off. That means any of them. Stereotypes are usually true, and in this case that might be what led us to the point. Most of us are Conservative or Republican, and that means our votes and support may have been taken for granted. Focus on the issues. They need to earn our votes based on their actions and policies, not the nostalgia from the past.
(Featured image courtesy of theguardian.com)