A senior fellow at RAND Corporation, Bernard Rostker, spent more than a year researching how veterans and their survivors got treated. As he compiled his research for an upcoming two volume release, historical patterns took shape concerning the treatment of veterans.
Rostker found patterns about increased funds and staff for veteran care, more government support during economic surpluses, funding boosts during wars and improved benefits as veterans got older. Rostker highlights that increases in funding and staffing for veteran care indicates Americans’ gratitude and respect for those who served our country.
Though the U.S. is nowhere near a budget surplus, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget has more than doubled since the war in Afghanistan started in October 2001. The VA budget is now $114 billion, up from the October 2001 figure of $51 billion. This year, the VA might push spending to $125 billion.
More than 230 years ago, the Continental Congress recognized the need to repay soldiers. The congress voted in 1776 to give half pay to anybody who lost a limb or the ability to make a living because of the Revolutionary War. Nineteen years later, Congress approved recompense for veterans who developed disabilities well after their service ended.
Come 1818, the Department of War took surplus money thanks to tariffs and dished out pensions to everybody who served during wartime, disabled or not. Rostker’s research finds that concurrent receipt arose in 1833, meaning Revolutionary War veterans received an “invalid pension” and a service pension.
Three years later, children and widows of Revolutionary War vets became eligible for pensions. Obviously, this was an expensive extension, and Rostker notes that the last eligible spouse to get Revolutionary War pensions died in 1906.
The U.S. passed the Civil War Pension Law in 1862. At the time, it was considered the most generous pension law any government ever passed, according to Rostker. The new law issued disability payments to those who suffered injuries as a direct result of service. Even though the law set up a medical screening system, Rostker found that dependence on hometown doctors led to fraud.
More of Rostker’s research focuses on how care for veterans evolved with more knowledge, the nature of modern day warfare and shifts in attitude. Resources now go toward healing mental and psychological wounds. Rostker delved into 20th century veteran care history as well, documenting how veterans were treated after World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and Gulf War Sydrome.
Read more about Rostker’s research on Military.com.
Photo thanks to hillsborough under creative common license on Flickr.