In 2012, Will Romney Leave Veterans On Their Own?
Today marks a little-known anniversary in the history of the U.S. military. In the thick of World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower distributed a report to his combat units that highlighted the dangers of “shell shock” and psychological trauma.
The timing is telling. In October 1944, General Eisenhower had plenty on his mind. Four months after D-Day, two months from the Battle of the Bulge, it’s hard to believe he would spend time and energy on anything except the most deadly serious of issues. As the bloodiest war in modern history raged on, he could have treated mental health as a problem to tackle after vanquishing the Nazis. But he didn’t. General Eisenhower recognized the seriousness of the challenges faced by military personnel, and he did something about it.
One could say the same for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the same year, just days after the beginning of the D-Day invasion, President Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill. While General Eisenhower paid heed to the health and well-being of troops on the front line, President Roosevelt worked to create a future where those who served America in war would have the opportunity to lead America in peace.
Today’s service men and women deserve the same level of care and the same commitment to opportunity. Nearly two-and-a-half million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as willing members of America’s all-volunteer armed forces. That’s why President Obama has gone to great lengths to make General Eisenhower and President Roosevelt’s twentieth-century accomplishments into twenty-first century realities.
During the last four years, President Obama has hired more mental health professionals to take care of returning servicemembers, while expanding healthcare for veterans. He also pushed a “returning heroes tax credit,” to encourage companies to hire returning veterans. As Senator, he was an outspoken supporter of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and as President he expanded the Post 9/11 GI Bill to provide tens of billions of dollars so that veterans could attend colleges of their choice.
This stands in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and today’s Republican Party. It’s well-known that Governor Romney failed to mention the 60,000 men and women in uniform during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, a colossal oversight on the part of his campaign and the Republican Party as a whole. Given his record on veterans’ issues – which include cuts to veterans services during his time as Governor of Massachusetts, as well as his support for $11 billion in cuts in veterans benefits proposed by House Republicans – you’d think he could at least offer lip service. Not so.
This points to an alarming trend within the Republican Party in which veterans are treated more as drivers of government spending rather than national treasures worthy of investment. When the debate over the Post 9/11 GI Bill picked up in 2008, President Bush and Senator John McCain opposed the legislation. While they eventually came around, one cannot say the same for today’s Republican leaders. Just last month, forty Senate Republicans united to reject the Veterans Job Corps bill, which aimed to put returning veterans to work preserving and restoring national parks.
As former President Clinton put it during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Democrats believe “We’re all in this together” is a better philosophy than “You’re on your own.” Sadly, Mitt Romney and today’s Republican Party have chosen to take the “You’re on your own” approach one step further by applying it to veterans and military families. It’s an approach that General Eisenhower – later President Eisenhower, a Republican no less – would never have countenanced. Neither should we.
Justin Ford is the Veterans Director at The Truman National Security Project and the President of VetPAC.