America’s Failure to Support Troops…Economically

“Support our troops.” People in the United States frequently hear and see this phrase in a variety of settings: on cars, from politicians, and from friends posting on social media, to name a few. We hear it especially on days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

And I agree. We should support our troops. While my personal opinion is that we should avoid war except in the most extreme of circumstances (example: if our own nation is attacked, like with Pearl Harbor), people who risk their own lives on behalf of the entire country should be supported. Since people in the military serve our country, our country should in return serve our military veterans. It’s the least we can do in the United States.

And yet, economically, we don’t support our troops.

There are numerous damning statistics on this fact. As of 2014, 25% of military families sought some sort of assistance with food.[1] There are nearly 38,000 homeless veterans; it’s a slight decrease from where it was, but there are still way too many homeless veterans.[2] There were nearly 1.5 million veterans in the United States living below the poverty line as of 2012.[3]

And we haven’t even gotten to wages, which are abysmal. For example, a starting salary for someone starting in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier, according to the Houston Chronicle, is $1,414 a month (a little over $18,000 a year). While that number goes up after several years of experience, an enlisted soldier with several years of experience can still earn under $30,000 a year.[4] Some of these salaries are below the minimum wage of some states, and they are certainly not living wages.

These are just a few statistics that show how this nation literally does not put its money where its mouth is. This nation talks a big game about supporting troops, yet fails to do so by paying living wages to troops and making sure that veterans aren’t homeless or in poverty. Shame on the United States for not giving back to people who have given so much to this country. Many of our troops have risked their lives to protect this country, and yet the government is risking the livelihoods of troops and their families through providing many of them with inadequate pay. This country does not truly support its troops.

However, we, as individuals, could raise our voices on this issue. We, as individuals, could contact our representatives in the House and Senate and ask them to make sure that all members of the military earn a living wage. Oh, and it would help if this problem gained national attention.


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/hungry-heroes-25-percent-military-families-seek-food-aid-n180236

[2] https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/pit_count.asp

[3] https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/specialreports/veteran_poverty_trends.pdf

[4] http://work.chron.com/salaries-us-army-soldiers-6496.html

44 Replies to “America’s Failure to Support Troops…Economically”

  1. Okay, just for the sake of discussion (and I have military family members so this post means a lot to me), since we the tax payers are the real employers, at least the money behind government, and people don’t want a tax increase, where should we shift money from so we can properly compensate the military? What budget item could use a cut?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Emily-My apologies for a delayed response here! It’s been a crazy few days with computer issues and the like (thank goodness for WP allowing me to schedule).

      I think that some of the shifting of money is actually subtraction from addition. Namely, since we’d spend money to make sure military people have adequate pay, the government wouldn’t need to spend money for military families to be on food stamps etc.

      The issue of military contracts would also need to be addressed. There’s significant waste in military contracts and if that’s addressed we could save billions a year in all likelihood. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but if it’s done it could help pay for properly compensating the military.

      There are other potential solutions but those were two that came to my mind.

      This issue means a lot to me too. Both of my grandfathers served in the military, and run into homeless veterans way too frequently (I’m in NYC).

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      1. Great thoughts! My brother used to work for a company that handled military contracts, and I’m sure he would agree with you! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yikes. Yeah I’ve heard tales about military contracts. As I mentioned it’s in some ways easier said than done, but if it’s done it can not only pay for what I discuss here, but also reduce military spending in general.

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  2. We have the highest paid armed forces in the world, the most extensive family housing and services and the greatest array of veteran services.

    This statement is ridiculous on its face.

    We might think about not sending kids off to everywhere to fight in commercial wars if we really were concerned with their welfare.

    Like

    1. The thing though is that in many (Most?) cases, the kids often do so against the wishes of their parents. A neighbor’s kid did that, for example. He was close to graduating college, at which point his floor would be a Second Lieutenant. Second Lieutenant base pay isn’t great (around $36,000 a year or so) but that’s better than what many enlisted soldiers earn.

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  3. Hello Brendan. Grand information. When I first entered the military I made about $540 a month. I remember when I left military service my first civilian paycheck seemed huge. There is plenty of money going to the armed services, it just is not getting to the troops. The thing about buying high end expensive tech toys is if you do not have the troops to operate them they are rather useless. Also the VA system in the US is horribly underfunded which has been deliberate in an attempt to push it in to the private sector. Your point about not sending our people to engage in hostilities or influence everywhere in the world would allow us to scale back from the largest most expecive military in the world , more than the next 7 countries combined. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Scottie. I assume $540 a month when you served is not the same as $540 a month now. Nevertheless, I doubt it was a whole lot, even back then.

      We buy high and get expensive tech toys, but I think we’ve also had issues with expensive private contractors, if I recall correctly. So much for the private sector “working” for us–something that should be cautionary, especially in regards to talk of privatizing the VA at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. hubby was army nurse corps…..and we were on food stamps until he made captain….then we had about 3 dollars too much a month to qualify anymore for assistance. we had on post housing, which pulled 540 dollars a month from his payroll..my and the kids medical cost us 10 a month (not much but still, we were living poor). Lemme tell ya, the VA while trying to help is so massively underfunded some states (like ours) has zero specialty medical personnel…no cardiologists, no cancer specialists…so they tell us to find a doc willing to take the va payments. now, how many docs do you know that will take 1/4 of their bill as total payment? Not many. Then WE have to pay 1/4 of their payment which we can’t afford because the retirement sucks. so much for taking care of our soldiers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, and I thank your husband for his service to the United States. I really wish that this rhetoric was backed up with actual action from our country.

      The fact that a story like this exists is appalling, albeit not surprising. Especially at lower levels of the military, pay is quite poor, and it sounds like such was the case when your husband was in the Army.

      As for the VA, honestly, the health care system for veterans could be the subject for its own blog post, but yes, I have heard horror stories of how massively underfunded it is in a lot of cases. And then we wonder why the VA is so dysfunctional? Hmmm…

      I could go on and on, but it is just so irksome that so many of us say “support our troops” yet we don’t provide our current soldiers and veterans with even the resources for them and their families to have a living wage or decent health care.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s like the way that you have to pay income tax on unemployment benefits. Many don’t realize that on each of your paychecks, one of the federal taxes deducted from your gross earnings is a payroll tax. The employer pays 50% of your payroll tax and you pay the other 50%. That money goes into a fund in the employers name. So say I work for Company A for 5 years. Over time, I have contributed lots of money into my employers account. They lay me off. Then the unemployment “benefit” I receive while I’m out of work is actually my money they took out of my many paychecks. So I’m paying myself back. My point? You have to count unemployment benefit money as income on your taxes. So I’m gonna pay a tax, on my money, that was taken from me, as a tax. Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t. Also, it pisses me off that they call it a benefit. How bout you call it “my money” and send me a statement every month so I know how much is in there…and how bout you pay ME interest? Who do you think is earning the interest off that money? Uncle Sam of course! It thievery!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am all for lower taxes but I would vote for an increased tax to pay military salaries. Here is the thing about taxes. I live in Texas (no state income tax). Well that’s great except that it means our highways are crumbling, we have almost no benefits for the poor (only federally funded benefits which are terrible), our police and public hospitals are in bad shape…I just spent a week in Orange County CA. It is clean. Every median is landscaped. You don’t see road construction everywhere, there is no crime, there were no deserted buildings, no ghettos. I googled to find state services. CA has state Medicaid so nobody is without healthcare. If you lose your job you get real benefits for much longer (in Texas it’s a joke). There are state funded agencies for mental health (non existent in TX) and the aging. They take care of their people. Did I mention how clean and nice everything is? So which is better?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, there is a saying that you “get what you pay for.” The same thing applies to taxes. Tax rates were astronomical for the wealthy in particular during the 1950s, but in that era, the country built a lot of interstate infrastructure that is still in use today. Tax rates are lower now, but a lot of infrastructure is falling apart.

      On the topic of military salaries, though, I don’t know whether a tax increase is needed for those salaries to also increase. That’s a policy question worth analyzing. But the status quo, which is that the families of many people who serve their countries with honor end up on food stamps and in poverty, is unacceptable.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It seems beyond ridiculous that the United States has by far the largest military budget on the planet, yet our soldiers income puts them below the poverty level. There should not be one single homeless veteran in this country! Instead of taking care of the biggest asset the military has, its people, they spend money on more war toys that we have no need for. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Good post, Brendan … thanks for getting the word out. May I re-blog this tomorrow?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, feel free to reblog this! And my apologies for the slow response–I have spent most of today away from my computer.

      The military has a large budget, but it’s worth thinking about how a lot of that money is spent. A lot of it is spent on contracts, not even on salaries or anything else. Defense contracts in particular have gone absolutely out of control in recent years. And not enough of that money is spent making sure our troops and veterans are taken care of.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Brendan! I’ve been away from my computer most of the day today as well, so I will re-blog this tomorrow. I think our military, like the rest of our federal government, often has misguided priorities. Sigh. Thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Brendan, living in a state with a huge Army base in Fort Bragg and Marine base in Camp Lejuene, another concern I have is the decades old dereliction of the water resources to the families and soldiers who have lived on these bases. Also, there is a report over the higher increase in cancers, including bladder cancer, for our soldiers. On the water, it took two senators years after earlier failures to address the contaminated water issue (kudos to Senators Richard Burr and Senator Kay Hagan).

    As for the recently reported cancers, the uptick needs to be investigated. Is it battle related with chemicals used to fight or is it environmental where these folks trained. Bladder cancer is a bell weather cancer for environmental causes. It is rarely hereditary and is usually the result to exposure. We owe our soldiers and families to get to the bottom of this.

    Yet, on the subject of support. Before the Phoenix VA problems a few years back, two months before a bipartisan request for $64 billion in funding was pushed by Senator John McCain. It was voted down. Then, Phoenix happened. Later in the summer, a package of $16 billion (or so) was passed, 1/4 of what was requested and supported in the earlier failed bill.

    I think this is an exemplar of what is thought of vets when they return home. We will support the fighting, but watch our dollars more when we address outcomes.

    What also concerns me is what General James Mattis said when the diplomats were being hollowed out before he resigned as Sec. of Defense. If you do not fund diplomats, then you will need to increase my budget. I think of this as our well-thought, honorable and decent public servants are being criticized unfairly.

    The troops have a term when people in leadership don’t serve the mission very well. The word begins with “cliuster.” Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for bringing to light other examples where we don’t seem to “support our troops.”

      I had no idea about the issues at Fort Bragg, though it’s a pity that it took so long to address water issues there. It shouldn’t. Not with the amount of resources our military, and country has. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about with the Phoenix VA problems–could you maybe bring me up to speed on that? (Maybe that story broke while I was at college, when I wasn’t able to follow the news as closely as I do now.)

      I think you hit the nail on the head, though–we support the fighting, most of all. “Support our troops” maybe just means supporting the fighting, and not necessarily supporting them once they come home.

      Like

      1. Brendan, thanks. The Phoenix VA had a huge backlog and extended waits for service that impacted people’s health and lives. McCain worked to understand what the VA needed, so the $64 billion was based on such analysis. The Phoenix debacle hit about two months following the failure of McCain’s bill.

        By the way, this is a common problem at all levels of government. After denying funding, the you-know-what hits the fan, and the legislators ask how could you let that happen.

        Social workers should ideally serve about 16 to 20 clients. When funding gets cut, social workers are asked to serve 150 clients, which means service suffers. Same thing happens at the VA, among other concerns.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks for bringing me up to speed. I must’ve either forgotten that story or had not heard it for some reason.

        From the sound of things, it sounds like McCain (a veteran himself, I should add) was trying to get out in front of things and be proactive in making sure that the Phoenix VA got what it needed. Unfortunately, many governments tend to not be proactive and mostly be reactive. I have experience in government (at a local level), so I’ve seen things like this happen on a smaller scale.

        Like

  8. I think your government knows exactly what it is doing, and they certainly are not doing it for the armed service personnel. I don’t know a lot of the facts, but I know how to infer.
    1) Unemployment rates-Governments love when unemployment rates are low, it makes them look like they are doing something for their citizens. I’m betting the armed services are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, employer in the USA. Put that together with the poverty-style wages they pay, and we come up with the fact most employees (surely that is what service personnel are) working for the least wages. Were these employees to go on strike, had they the right, or were they to just quit, what would your unemployment rate look like. I’m sure someone there could tell me. Your government is one of the worst employers in the world. Why do people still go into service.
    A friend told me he joined the army as a youngster because no one else would hire him. And he truly appreciated that he had a job, even though his pay rate was barely livable. Is there not something wrong with this picture? People being happy to be able to work for slave wages? Just to make elected officials look good! No, it is downright detestable. But the soldiers keep signing up. That is insanity!
    2) Putting million dollar machinary into the hands of slave-wage earners-Would you ever see a private company do that. NEVER! They respect their investments. They want the people using their toys to respect their investments too. The armed services attittude? So what if we lose a million bucks here or there, there’s more where that came from. There’s a never-ending supply…
    And where does that never-ending supply end up? In the wallets of the friends of politicians! Who donate to those politicians’ war chests. So who is really paying their campaign costs? You the taxpayers!

    Sorry, I’ve gotten a bit off topic, but the best way I can see for your nation to pay a decent living-wage to your service personnel is to stop hiring so many people, and pay those you do hire what they deserve.
    BUT THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN! Politicians’ jobs depend on slave labour…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. About 1.4 million Americans are on active duty. I don’t know what that would mean for unemployment rates exactly, but unemployment would, of course, be higher if none of them were on active duty.

      I do think we can afford to pay a decent wage to our service personnel. For starters, people in higher ranks do get decent wages (it’s an issue confined to lower ranks), so it’s not like the issue is universal. Furthermore, even the slightest of tax increases on millionaires would pay for higher military wages, and many other things as well. But, even the suggestion of doing that gets tepid responses from many.

      Like

      1. Of course the gov’t can pay a better wage, but why should they, I ask sarcstically. If people are willing to work for less than minimum wage, who are they to give them more.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. RG has a good point. The sad fact of the matter: wars are started by rich, powerful, politically connected elite class. Their agenda is power and control, control over the masses, planetary resources, gov’ts etc. Their means of domination over weaker troubled nations are regime change wars, to overthrow the democratically elected official and install a puppet that can be easily controlled. The US soldier is a means to an end, unceremoniously deemed “cannon fodder”, usually poor/ under educated ppl of color who have no other choice but joined to survive. The elite class considers the soldier a liability after they are no longer in service, like a broken toy to be discarded, the trashbin of society’s “useless eaters.”
      This is the reality we are facing today, which is why Washington pays lip service to the heroic veteran, but does nothing significant to help our fallen brothers and sisters who bravely, naively served their country (their psychopathic masters).
      The system is certainly unjust, absolutely criminal, and should be changed. Senator Tulsi Gabbard is the only soldier among Democratic candidates talking about this issue, but the DNC so desperately want to shut her up, hence the dishonorable smear campaign launched against a fellow sitting congress person, a woman of color and a war hero, a member of their own party!
      Can you see now that the problem is not just Donald Trump or Dems vs Repubs, the real enemy are the elite psychopaths whom we elected to run this country maintaining the status quo to protect their interests at the expense of the ppl.
      In ancient Rome, Caesars distracted the public with bread and spectacles, well lookey-here – we have arrived! This current Impeachment is not about justice, more of a distraction to avoid the major issue… when are politicians gonna stop screwing us and actually represent the interests of the ppl? Why are we the only civilized Western nation not to have free universal health care? Why are majority of students upon graduation become debt slaves with tens to hundreds of thousands owed to banks? Why are graduates with Bachelors and Masters degrees working as baristas or fast food slaves for minimum wage? Why is homelessness reaching epidemic proportions in the richest nation on Earth? Why are for-profit-jails incarcerating record number of our citizens for petty crimes like weed, while wall st banksters, death dealing drug companies, greedy insurance companies, corrupt politicians stand to make million/ billions every year while the middle class shrinks and the poor get poorer? These are very real hard hitting questions you’ll never see during our “prime-time” national debates… more bread and spectacles to lull the sleeping masses. Just pick a side… too bad, what ever our choice, we lose!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re correct. Wars are started by the politically connected and are left to fight mostly by people who are “cannon fodder” and poor. Then, we give lip service to “support our troops” and don’t actually back it up.

        I agree that it’s not Trump or Democrats vs Republicans in this case. These problems with military pay have spanned many generations, with many people in power, on both sides. Just as attempts to treat soldiers better (see Keith’s comment about McCain’s efforts with the VA; it turns out he worked with Bernie Sanders on the issue) can be bipartisan, poor pay of soldiers has also been bipartisan.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome.

      It is quite terrible that the rhetoric of “support our troops” doesn’t extend to the salaries troops get paid. And, as you can see, it also doesn’t extend to things like health care benefits (the VA), among other things.

      Like

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