By Charles Bausman
For this survey, we asked some hard questions on the effect of popular support and benefits on the veteran community at large. We wanted to see if these benefits have created a mentality within some vets that they are “entitled” to the what the government and private sector now offers.
This subject has gained some traction from within the veteran community but remains absent from the larger national discussion. It’s unpopular to criticize the actions of veterans who may be taking advantage of the system in place, but it may be gain traction with media and policymakers should it become more prominent. Thank you to those who participated in generating conversation and for your candor.
Survey Responses Snap Shot
- Survey respondents answered with an overwhelming “yes”, some veterans do believe they are entitled to more. It seems that this is a small percentage of veterans, but it may represent the veteran community as a whole should the nation begin to focus on it.
- We received mixed responses on whether the benefits offered to the veteran (GI Bill, VA Home Loan, etc.) are a crutch to self-development. Many stated that the military training doesn’t necessarily set up the individual for a successful professional transition to the civilian world, and those benefits can allow him/her to more easily move into employment and financial security. Others stated that those same benefits can develop the social welfare mentality and may hinder self-development.
- Most had not personally observed veterans openly acting as though they are owed more. It would seem that most are second-hand accounts or via social media. However, multiple respondents did state they had personally seen veterans exaggerate their ailments in order to receive a high VA disability rating.
- The majority did agree that the actions of these few who argue for more benefits and discounts, could bring about a swing of public opinion against the veteran community. Selfish actions which caste the community in a negative light would likely be picked up by media outlets, and cause those benefits enjoyed by veterans to be further scrutinized. Several respondents stated that it is up to the veteran community to ensure that those who might attempt to take advantage of the system are policed accordingly.
Below is a sampling of the responses to each question. They represent the total answers on both sides. We appreciate the responses and look forward to continuing this conversation.
Q1: Do you believe some GWOT veterans have taken advantage of the “Support the Troops” mentality of the nation? Examples?
- Some vets, maybe. But the only examples I can think of a VA Disability benefits. 10% off tickets at the movie theater or tools at the hardware store? That’s not taking advantage of anything… that’s America.
- Seeking any type of “handouts” goes against everything we stood for in service to our country.
- YES. Just as mentioned above a select few have a sense of entitlement at times. I personally believe it stems from the younger generation of service members, but their are obvious exceptions that involve all ages and generations.
- I believe that some GWOT veterans have taken advantage of the “Support the Troops” movement. However, I will have to temper that statement by also saying that I don’t believe that the percentage of veterans doing so as a population is any higher than any other civilian that takes advantage of any other type of program or incentive. I believe that the problem is central to the person, and not so much the fact that they served. I do believe that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that veterans are in the spotlight more often than any other civilian in general society.
- Absolutely. Take a look on Facebook, and you’ll see far many worse examples than good. Being a vet is something to be proud of, being a vet who expects to be thanked and lauded at every moment is something to be ashamed of. We have far too many veterans who feel that their VOLUNTARY act of joining a non-drafted military should be enough in itself to make them get a pass at free gifts, discounts, and being treated better than every other American. It’s shameful.
- Only in a few circumstances. I think most get what they deserve or less than they deserve. The back end cost of going to war is enormous. This is almost never fully considered when making the decision to go to war as a nation. We are buying 60-70 years of taking care of veterans, making them whole again after going to war has taken some of what they were before the war. In many cases, we couldn’t possibly compensate them enough.
- Yes, most definitely they have. It plays right into this Victim Culture that has grown alongside of the entitlement and infects much of American society. Having PTSD has become confused with simple transition issues, with PTSD equating having fought in combat.
- Define GWOT veteran. I have seen soldiers who’ve enlisted in this time of war take full advantage of the support the troops mentality. I’ve seen them beg for discounts, I’ve seen them act offended when they didn’t get a first class upgrade, and I’ve seen them promise to never visit patronize a merchant again because they weren’t treated like a special little snowflake. What I have never seen is someone who actually deployed in support of GWOT show that type of behavior.
- Yes. The Fire Departments, especially, are filled with newer members with “disabilities,” forcing all other incoming vets to get “disabilities” in order to get on the job in the first place.
- Yes. I routinely see GWOT veterans using the “veteran card.” The most common form is asking for a veteran’s discount and then complaining when a store doesn’t have one. One guy even said it would be nice just have it knock off 25¢. While I am all in favor of saving money, that is excessive in my opinion.
Q2: Are the advantages of military service (public adulation, government benefits) a crutch to veteran’s self-development? How?
- They are and I think they have to be for that transition to be easier. The two world’s are so vastly different they need all the help and support they can get.
- I think the public adulation is over-hyped. I avoid talking about my military service because people usually dismiss my service as less meaningful because I’m female or they ask really invasive questions assuming I have PTSD/TBI or was raped. I also don’t have any government benefits. I don’t think they’re a crutch to self-development though. I think they’re useful for preventing homelessness.
- I don’t think the advantages of military service are a crutch to self-development. I would argue that depending on the role, job, or responsibilities that someone had in the military, it would have a significant effect on their development and how well they would react to civilian life afterward. I have seen everything from someone separating and being borderline institutionalized and unable to cope with civilian life due to how military life is structured, and others who seamlessly transition back into civilian life. Again, I believe that this is contingent on the person rather than the fact that they had served their country.
- I think it can be, certainly. I work for the Federal Government and received a “5 point advantage on my first job application.” I see Veterans getting government jobs and them slacking off, not doing their jobs, weak work ethic and taking it easy because they aren’t going to get fired and can still collect a government pension. It takes away from non-vets that are willing to work hard and put in a solid days work. I make it a point to work extra hard as a thank you for the benefit I received on account of my service.
- Vets are taking advantage of the system. Truly needy vets that need help are being denied. While others who don’t need the help and claim PTSD are getting unnecessary help. I personally know of an Air Force Reserve vet who claim PTSD yet never deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and receives funding from the VA.
- I think that the US military is the second worst welfare system we have. It teaches some that simply for being a mediocre government employee, they will be “taken care of” in any way, shape or form. The fact that anyone expects a discount or special treatment is sickening. No one forced you to join the military, so man up and deal with it. Move on.
- I don’t believe the advantages – outside of VA/Disability fraud – are a crutch to a Veteran’s self-development. Like most tools, it’s a matter of how it’s being used. It’s on us, the Veteran’s community, to hold each other accountable and call bullshit when it needs to be called.
- No. I think my benefits have given me the breathing space to focus on self-development. My physical health and mental health are my top priorities.
- I think that the benefits and support themselves are not a problem; it is the way they are provided that is a problem. Take the VA system’s method of handling physical and mental injury. Often, doctors at the VA will prescribe prescription medication for mental and physical injuries without exploring other alternatives. The pills prescribed have a high capacity for addiction and create many more problems within the lives of veterans. Another example is how public support often is tied to certain political ideas. Look at how many people who reacted very negatively and passionately to a few stories of people burning the flag used the sacrifices of veterans to say why they so negatively view the people who burned flags. Most veterans would say they fought for the freedoms which we have in this country rather than for the flag itself yet we are used to make an argument for limiting freedom of speech.
- I don’t think that most government benefits – the GI Bill, VA home loan, Tricare, etc, are harmful to a veteran’s self development. They are just a part of the compensation package that somebody seeking military service is attracted to. Public adulation is, I think, a form of compensation some veterans (and active members) desire. I think that it is a crutch to their self development, but I think it’s something that attracts certain people to join the military. I guess what I’m suggesting is that the clowns who are very public about their need for applause were attracted for that reason, and that the military was not the cause of it.
Q3: Have you observed veterans or active duty troops believing they are entitled to better treatment and/or benefits? Examples?
- No – especially not as a police officer in a big city (I work in Seattle – which is surrounded by Navy / Army / Air Force). Active duty troops that I run into on the street show no sense of entitlement. They party hard and have bad haircuts… but that’s about it.
- I’ve had veterans confess to milking the system, in reference to VA Benefits, like receiving a higher disability rating than they actually deserve.
- I have personally observed some veterans who believe they are entitled to treatment and/or benefits, but I have also seen veterans that refuse to accept treatment and benefits as well. I would say that the spectrum of veterans that fall into the category of someone who does not want treatment or ask for help is greater than those that believe that they deserve more. For instance, I have many friends that have had multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and absolutely refuse to file claims for PTSD and actually hide medical conditions because they don’t believe they need it. Whether or not that is an issue of military culture of staying strong, denying weakness and pushing through the pain, or an issue of pride, or something else, is not for me to determine.
- In my 21 years of active duty service I just cannot recall seeing this type of entitlement.
- Not first hand. But news stories about veterans being taken to sporting events, given things for free and otherwise being babied make me sick. It’s patronization of what should be the backbone of our country. It’s awful that the veteran would even allow such pity.
- Hell yes, walk into any VA center and you are blasted with signs of entitlement (examples you have already shown.) The military in GWOT was a voluntary enterprise, not a single solder was drafted, yet we act shocked that we where subject to war. What did you think was going to happen. 10% of soldiers who deploy see combat, yet 50% of soldiers claim PTSD on release from the military. If that doesn’t scream entitlement I do not know what does.
- Yes. I stopped at a gas station near Ft. Bragg last week and saw a prime example. A corporal from the 82nd Airborne told the cashier that he accidentally left his wallet on base and asked if she could “let him slide.” The cashier asked if anyone in line would be willing to cover the cost of his items (<$10). A captain from my old unit (95th CA BDE) said that he would. I walked outside in time to hear the officer scold the soldier for making the military look bad and abusing the generosity of well-intentioned people. I told the captain how I served in his unit and thanked him for warning the corporal.
Q4: Have you observed veterans overreaching or exaggerating their military experience for civilian employment? Examples?
- I have a hard time believing this really happens. Maybe because I moved to a non-military city. Most interviews I’ve had just assume all military experience is irrelevent.
- No, I would say the complete opposite. The majority of instances many military members do not know what to say, or how to say it. They have a lot of trouble translating what they did in the military to the civilian world. Often times when they explain themselves, no one else can make a comparison or identify with the veteran except, perhaps, another veteran.
- No, but I do know a vet that can’t stop talking about his flesh wound (GSW to arm) to anyone who will listen. One day at a training we were all at I was relating a story of being involved in a criminal shooting (GSW to left lower mandible, while a service member but not on account of my service) and another coworker commented “wow, you were shot in the face and we never knew about it but “Nick” was shot in the arm and he never shuts up about it!”
- Of course! This is not unique to the military though. Everybody looking for a job is exaggerating a bit on their resume. Everybody.
Yes, especially in the Security Industry. At least, claiming they were in charge of operations they were only a part of. At most, total exaggeration of their MOS, roles, and war stories.
Yes. I am trainer at a large police department and I see new hires telling “war stories” about their service to try to give them a leg up on other recruits.
Perhaps, but the better question and discussion should probably be asked the opposite way. In my experience veterans either understate their qualifications or don’t know how to write to them. This is a much, much bigger issue concerning post military employment for veterans.
I’ve seen some veterans who have a hard time realizing that they are starting over in the civilian world and that their laurels mean nothing. Sure, a person may have been a Sergeant or a Captain when they got out, but if they don’t demonstrate skills that are useful to their civilian employer, they are not likely to keep that job much longer. It’s more a symptom of guys who weren’t that useful to the service but who couldn’t admit their faults and fix them.
Q5: Do you believe veterans rely too greatly on their military time as they enter the civilian workforce?
Possibly, but civilian life comes with a steep learning curve. Some companies may benefit from a HOORAH gung-ho Army troop. Some companies may crave the leadership potential a veteran brings. It’s really up to the vet to mold their experience from years of Service to their civilian job.
I believe that may be all the Veteran’s have to leverage when entering the civilian work force. Not every service member continues their education or becomes certified in a specific skill. They often have to use what they know and for a majority, the only experience they have is their military experience.
I would say that it depends on the amount of life experience the veteran had prior to service. If the veteran had some life experience performing jobs before joining the service, then their reliance on their military time would not be that great. I firmly believe that the reliance or emphasis that a veteran will place on their military time is directly proportional to the amount of time they have spent in the military versus how old they are. For instance, if someone is 40 years old and has served in the military for 20 years, then 50% of their life, and virtually 100% of their working age (assuming they started working at 18) is military experience. In that case, you have nothing else to reference unless you were also somehow working a civilian job on the side (which is unlikely with military operational tempo).
Yes. It is sad and is almost like a star high school athlete who cannot move on. The thought that simply being a “combat veteran” (which for the majority, that title is a far stretch) should earn you some type of accelerated position, or one at all for that matter.
Not necessarily. Military service offers a great opportunity to gain skills and experience to be applied to a civilian career. Why not use it? Just be honest about it.
No. I don’t think it confers as much advantage as you think it does. It is certainly an advantage if you live in Washington D.C. but once you leave that bubble, not as much. Besides, it is work experience like any other. Everyone always relies on their experience thinking they are worthy of more. But companies are more picky than you realize.
No because truthfully, military service, articulated, and leverage appropriately, can be of huge benefit to the civilian employer by way of personal discipline, motivation, ability to work in a diverse team and complex setting, as well as ability to multi-task and hand stress. Many of these treats aren’t taught in college are definitely far pressed to be found in today’s youth.
Q6: Have you observed attempted fraudulent claims for disability from the Veterans Administration?
- I don’t know a whole lot of veterans, but on this short list are 2 who collect benefits for injuries sustained on duty, that were either not sustained on duty OR were sustained while doing things on duty that were unrelated to work. For this reason, I believe that the disability regulations should be tightened up. If you are on deployment and are injured in the field, I support compensation. However, if you are state side and roll your ankle playing outside with your kids, it’s nonsense that you should receive any compensation from the government whatsoever.
- I have seen service members inflate the ailments in order to try and retain a disability rating they believe is necessary. Often, service members see non-combat arms members transition from the military with high disability ratings and wonder how they received it understanding their duty positions. Many often feel that if they receive that compensation, then as a combat arms service member, they deserve it also. It’s culture that has been created during the GWOT years.
- I have, in a very few rare instances, seen attempted fraudulent claims for disability from the VA. The type of people that I have seen (which are very few) are the type of person with which I would not associate. Their moral compass is skewed, and their character is flawed. I believe this moral terpitude has a much larger impact on the influence on their decision to attempt fraud from the VA. I absolutely do not think that their veteran status has any effect on their likelihood of committing fraud. I believe that there is no difference between someone who tries to defraud the VA and someone who tries to defraud the government for food stamps or medicare.
- I personally saw droves of people who never left the FOBs in Iraq claiming severe PTSD for VA disability compensation as I was nearing ETS. All the while, guys in my company and platoon who saw sustained combat, were not claiming PTSD… Not sure how that one works. From what I have seen, those who have claimed severe mental issues had them prior to joining the military. They were problems who slipped by due to the need to bolster numbers. They came in broken and will ride the PTSD horse until the end.
- I know of people with high disability ratings that seem exaggerated and I know vets that need real help but have never submitted a claim
- No. I have been to a couple group therapy PTSD sessions with individuals who I felt where abusing the system though. That’s not on the VA though.
- No, in my experience the VA has been good about discerning malingerers from real patients.
- Fraudulent? I would rather say “over exaggerated.” About 30% of the people I know receiving pay could be working manual labor if they tried to do so. (Then again, people with amputations could always find work in call centers and other office jobs.)
Q7: Do you believe the actions of over-entitled veterans could affect the level of support from the American public?
- No because it’s so few and far between. Most vets are honorable and don’t want to mention anything.
- Yes, eventually the American public will eventually get fed up.
- I don’t think it matters. The public doesn’t have much attention span. It’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings and no one gives a shit about military or veterans because it doesn’t impact their life.
- I believe the actions of a few can affect the support from the public, maybe I’m naïve, but I want to believe there are more that carry themselves as professionals after active duty just as they did while in uniform. But one bad apple can spoil the barrel. I also believe we shouldn’t discount the power of those setting a positive example. A select few doing the right thing can also lead change in a positive direction.
- I would agree that the actions of over entitled veterans could affect the level of support from the American public. I believe this is in large part due to the amount of trust with which the military and the veteran community are given. One of the biggest parts of being a veteran is being a representative of all other veterans in a communal sense. Despite separating from the service, one is always an ambassador for proudly serving their country. This is the personal view that I hold.
- I think that it probably won’t, not publicly anyway. Firstly, blind patriotism is popular right now as is military culture (how many people knew what an Army Ranger or Green Beret was in 1998… Not many). It’s big business. Also, due to the current political and social climate, you cannot publicly criticize the wrongdoing former military member much in the way you cannot criticize a person that isn’t white. You’re labeled a bigot.
- I do. One belligerent incident involving false claims or criminal activity gain affect the support for all veterans that successfully serve and transition out of the service.
- Maybe, but not any time soon. Did you not see how much Americans love their guns? Americans like their answers easy. Shooting is easy. Thinking critically is not easy.
- Definitely! I get aggravated when I see some obnoxious bumper sticker that relays some righteous message about military service; it reflects an attitude of entitlement and is the opposite of humble…people get tired of that stuff. My favorite is a dude at a bar told me, “yeah bro, I get paid to jump out of planes and kill people”. My thought, “not out of Ft. Carson, you don’t, jackass”. It was an incredibly distasteful comment that I believe would put-off most reasonable people.
- Yes. At some point, the pendulum will swing the other way when we just get sick and tired of caring. Eventually, the government’s military welfare system (involuntary taxation) will strain the amount of charitable (voluntary) givings.
Q8: Additional comments?
- I served six years in the Marine Corps, best time of my life. I could never imagined of using my time in service to receive anything extra, it goes against everything I stand for.
- It’s mostly Vietnam Vets that have told me that I really need to apply for disability. They struggled a lot more homelessness and unemployment. But homelessness is happening with my GWOT generation. I’ve seen a few at the Homeless Veteran Stand Down trying to get a coat before winter. And I’ve personally had a really difficult time finding steady in employment in the year and a half since I left the military.
- I believe that some of these questions are slightly loaded with the assumption that veterans are committing fraud. Does it exist? Absolutely. Does it get more attention because it involves veterans? Definitely. Is it significantly higher than any other fraud that occurs in day to day life? Probably not.
- When you ask a person to go to a foreign land to risk their life, to kill or possibly be killed, what do you owe them in return? How do you compensate a person for losing a limb, PTSD, broken marriages etc? Less than 1% of Americans will serve in the military. Why? Because serving asks so much, possibly everything you have. The astronomically high back end cost of war (taking care of veterans) should serve as a deterrent to rushing into war. It is right that we pay the full price. Whatever it takes. If not, we should not go to war in the first place.
- The state of the new veteran is pretty sorry in my opinion. Asking for discounts, expecting to be taken care of, being taken to events for free, etc… All cheapen what we did over there. Those who are abusing the title probably aren’t even fit to wear said title. If you never left the FOB, you probably don’t have PTSD. If you’re worrying about getting your fucking ten percent discount, you’re an awful person. If you are searching for free meals on Nov. 11, you’re a piece of shit, simple as that. You should be quietly and pridefully reflecting on your contribution to the nation instead of putting a black eye on those who truly earned the title of veteran.
- I’m so glad you are taking a serious look at this issue. It’s so very important that we, the Veteran Community, police ourselves and help heal ourselves. Only those who “get it” can do that properly. But we need to call bullshit when we see it, not defraud our government or the public, and ensure only the best side of our community is seen by the rest of the Nation’s populace. Thank you for opening this can of worms.
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