Chapter 11 – Public Writings: Poverty & Social Welfare

VA being misused? (3-2-06)

As someone who has depended on the VA Healthcare System for the last 35 years, I have followed the recent local controversy concerning veterans and what they are entitled to with some interest. Although I think I know most of the issues, some background information about the VA might lead to a more balanced understanding about what is at stake.

The VA hospitals were originally intended for those of us who have “service connected” disabilities, or veterans who have ended up destitute and have no other means of getting healthcare. It was not until 1996 that, because the Democratic Clinton Administration had built up enough of a federal surplus, the VA opened up its healthcare to anyone who had served in the military, regardless of whether in war or not. Even then, there have always been many levels of care that these other veterans fit in to because of their own circumstances, financial and otherwise.

This Republican Bush Administration through tax cuts for the rich, starting two wars, etcetera, has built up the biggest deficit in our country’s history. They now need to balance the budget and part of that balancing involves charging veterans who are not “service connected” disabled, but are some other category, for their VA healthcare.

Our local County Veterans office needs to fill out more forms now than before because since 1996 more veterans are allowed to apply for VA care. And, since private healthcare costs have soared, more veterans want to take advantage of the VA’s low costs. Even though these veterans were not guaranteed totally free healthcare simply by having been members of the military, and even though this huge increase in people using the VA system makes it more difficult for those of us who are “service connected” disabled to receive treatment, I do not begrudge them receiving treatment. I just think people need to understand that “whether people are entitled to healthcare”, and “whether people are entitled to VA healthcare” are two different conversations.

I would agree with the proposition that all people are entitled to healthcare. The VA system and Social Security work so well because they are American socialism in its purest sense. If you think that all people are entitled to healthcare, for whatever reason, I suggest you think about a national “one payer system” and quit trying to get the VA to do what it was never intended to do in the first place.


Opposes making ADC parents work to save benefits.  (11-27-84)

It’s true the economic recovery hasn’t come to Iowa or Winneshiek County, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least share in the new ‘moral majority’ attitudes sweeping the country.  Consider the proposal put to the county supervisors, namely that ADC parents, or parent, be required to do community work to continue receiving their welfare benefits.  County relief thought it so good an idea it should be adopted immediately and not even wait for consideration till next fiscal year.

Because of Iowa’s economic recession, many people today find themselves in very difficult financial situations regardless of education or economic background.  There simply aren’t enough jobs to go around.  To add to these people’s unasked for plight, the additional baggage of a morally degrading “mandatory” work program is in my opinion highly objectionable, although, it seems, in vogue in light of Reagan’s re-election and his administration’s 25 percent cut in Federal programs designed to aid the poor.

What might be some assumptions held by people towards those who receive ADC or welfare which allow proposals like these to be put forth?  Could some be: 1. They need prodding to go to work, i.e., they’re lazy; 2. They aren’t actively seeking employment; 3. They, or she, would have no problem finding and affording a babysitter while working; 4. They have adequate transportation to and from assigned work; 5. There is something morally wrong with these people or they wouldn’t be on welfare; 6. People would rather spend time doing mandatory work than seek permanent employment; 7. It’s more important for a woman (one parent situation) to pay another woman to raise her children than to be allowed to raise them herself.  And many other similar statements heard much too often.

Yes, the work may be needed and directed towards the public good.  And yes, ADC parents have been “willing” to work (faced with a virtual cut-off of benefits who wouldn’t?).  But why can’t we take that seven-county budget of $58,514 and develop an effective public works program where anyone out of work can be guaranteed a real job?  It’s in our history isn’t it?  Multiplied statewide we would already have a $900,000 budget available.  Is it beyond our intellectual capacities to create and coordinate a program like this, or is it just easier and more “moral majority” to dump on those who already find themselves in very tough situations.

I challenge the Winneshiek County supervisors, the Northeast Iowa Community Action Corp., and the citizens of Winneshiek County to be “Christian” instead of “vogue” and tackle these problems with some meaningful and uplifting solutions, and not simply cover them up by using the backs of temporarily unfortunate people.