There’s been plenty of reaction across the political spectrum on President Donald Trump’s tweets about banning transgender troops. Vox put together a roundup of people and politicians who were angry about the decision, while The Daily Wire wrote only 12% of active duty military supported transgender troops and also claimed gender transitioning was self-mutilation. From a personal standpoint, I don’t care if someone is gay, straight, trans, sheep-lover, into BDSM, whatever, if they want to serve in the military and pass the appropriate tests, I think they should be able to serve their country.
The problem is people aren’t willing to look at why this is even an issue to begin with. It may be easy to sit there and say, “Oh, it’s about trans-freedom,” or, “oh, it costs too much to help with the transitioning,” but the fact is this debate wouldn’t be going on if the government didn’t hand out so many “freebies” to military members. This includes the VA system and the GI Bill.
Let’s face it, the government has never gotten the military health care system right. The first Veterans’ Bureau director spent time in prison for fraud after it was discovered he didn’t give disability insurance to wounded vets. The VA scandal from the last few years showed hundreds of thousand of vets may have died while waiting for care, and the so-called reforms haven’t worked. There was the report of the North Carolina veteran lying on the floor of a VA hospital in February in hopes of getting attention. The VA system is more shattered than a dropped Faberge egg, yet the government won’t stop throwing money at it. The 2018 budget request is $72.3B, and the 2019 request is expected to be $74B. That’s insane, and tossing more cash at the problem won’t solve it.
The more controversial opinion is ending the GI Bill. It’s a key tool in recruitment of teens wanting to join the military, but also something which has broad support from Republicans, Democrats, and probably most Americans. But there are still plenty of concerns about the cost of the measure, and it’s possible it contributes to the rising cost of tuition for everyone. I’ve already written about how Pell Grants increase college tuition, and it’s possible the same could be said about the GI Bill.
The Department of Veterans Affairs requested over $13B in education benefits in 2018, down from $16B in 2017. The cuts appear to mostly be towards education benefits, but there is an increase in vocational loans for job training. One thing which should be pointed out is how media outlets started raising cane about “for-profit” colleges. Los Angeles Times wrote about some of the issues in 2012.
Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill took effect in 2009, eight of the 10 colleges collecting the most money from the program have been for-profit schools.
The companies earned 86% of their revenue from taxpayer dollars in 2009, mostly GI Bill payments, according to Congress, with the top 20 for-profit education companies receiving $521 million in veterans’ education funds in 2010.
Yet taxpayers spend more than twice as much to educate a veteran at a for-profit school than at a public university. Congressional investigators say for-profit schools have far higher drop-out rates and loan interest and default rates than public universities, and credits earned at many for-profit schools don’t always transfer to public schools.
It prompted the Obama Administration to start a crackdown on the schools, something the Trump Administration has defended. But there are also questions about whether or not there’s enough oversight on the GI Bill program. Via The Center For Public Integrity from 2013:
The VA has not released a 2011 breakdown of payments to individual schools, because of inaccurate entries into its system, VA spokesman Randal Noller said in an email. The VA did release the number of veterans trained at each school through January 2013, but that list includes duplication among students who transfer schools. The department also released a report of funding to each county under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, but not total benefits paid to each school.
VA officials replied to auditors in a May 2013 Government Accountability Office report that the primary VA job is to provide benefits, “not to be responsible for veterans’ individual academic performance or goals.”
The GAO report, however, called it “critical” for the VA “to not only collect outcome data, but also plan how it will use such data to improve management of its education benefits performance.”
Without that, auditors concluded, it’s difficult for the VA to help students and “inform policymakers about the value veterans are receiving for the government’s substantial investment.”
This is what happens when the government starts throwing money at a “problem,” in hopes of “solving” it. There are people who are willing to abuse the government to make sure the cash teat doesn’t turn off. This isn’t saying “for profit” colleges shouldn’t exist, or that the government should enact massive regulations on them. If a student goes to a “for profit” college, it should be with their own money, not cash from the government aka taxpayers. It doesn’t matter if the student is a former, or current, military member or just your Average Joe or Jane. They shouldn’t get cash from the government to further their education. The solution is gradually cutting down these benefits over a ten to 20 year period, so adjustments can be made by colleges and students.
Now, this doesn’t mean Americans should just ignore vet issues. There are so many groups out there which look to help veterans, and it’s a great thing to see the free market take the lead. The Texas Medical Association published a list of doctors who would see vets in 2014, and passed the information out at community centers and to VA health system officials. Military.com has a list of discounts for active duty and veterans. Gary Sinese is involved with military charities, as is the band Five Fingered Death Punch. There are schools which offer a military discount. The free market works, and the government doesn’t.
I don’t really care about a soldier’s sexuality, and have no problem with transgendered soldiers in the military. But I do care about how much of yours and my tax dollars is spent by the government, especially when I don’t have a say in where the cash goes. Cutting these programs is a tough solution, but one which needs to be done. The same could be say about cutting back other programs and departments, which have outlived their usefulness.