On April 3rd, 2023, the editorial board of the Washington Post published an opinion piece regarding veterans’ disability benefits. As one would typically expect, the piece is chock full of misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and downright insults to veterans who have incurred life-altering disabilities in service of our Nation.
So, we here at Stone Rose Law, one of the Nation’s premiere veteran’s benefits advocacy firms, figured we would pen a response to this ridiculous “thought piece”.
Well, in December of 2022, the Congressional Budget Office prepared a proposal to “means-test” VA disability benefits. Simply put, this would reduce a veteran’s disability compensation depending on their household income level and other factors. A few weeks ago, this got leaked to social media where it caused an uproar.
To be clear, VA Secretary McDonough has already flat out stated that the proposal is a terrible idea and will not be implemented. And to be fair, this is something the Congressional Budget Office suggests every couple of years. Their job is not to create or judge policy, it’s to propose suggestions to lower costs in the federal budget.
The crux of the CBO’s argument is that the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities has (in their misinformed opinion) not been revised since 1946. Furthermore, veterans who make high incomes do not “need” their benefits – which are intended to compensate a veteran for a loss of earnings potential – as much as those that do not earn high incomes.
After the policy was denounced by policymakers, veteran’s advocacy groups, and anyone with common sense and basic decency, the Washington Post Editorial Board deigned their opinion – lofted from the ivory towers afforded to those who attend ivy league universities – upon the rest of us. So, we thought we would pen this response to take down their insulting, inflammatory, and misinformed opinions with logic and facts.
But first, a brief detour to ad-hominem land. One does not need to be a veteran to hold an opinion on veteran’s benefits issues. Even here at Stone Rose Law, we have several dedicated staff and attorneys who fight hard for veterans to receive their benefits that are not veterans themselves. However, it is certainly worth noting that the Washington Post Editorial Board appears to have never once served. Moreover, it’s hard to find a single one that attended a public college or university, or that doesn’t have a prestigious ivy-league degree in their resume.
The Editorial Board seems to be comprised of the same types of credentialist-focused self-styled elites that cannot resist rendering an opinion on something they know nothing about. Instead of educating themselves about veteran’s benefits – as one would hope they would learn how to do at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford – or talking to experts in the field – again, as one would hope the editorial board of a journalistic agency would do – they decided to parrot a poorly completed analysis by the CBO as if they thought of it themselves.
While again, one does not need to be a veteran to hold an opinion on veteran’s issues, it is easy to see how different this opinion piece would have been had at least one member of the Board answered the call to service and swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Now that we’ve got our ad-hominem attacks out of the way, let’s address the op-ed piece by piece.
The Washington Post Editorial Board laments Veterans for not having the decency to die in combat
Two paragraphs into the op-ed, the Washington Post Editorial Board notes that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have higher disability rates compared with other wartime veterans as a result of improved battlefield medicine. Indeed, while this may be true, it should be noted that improvements in battlefield medicine reduced the number of Americans killed in combat dramatically. And where most people would view this as a net-positive, the Editorial Board ostensibly laments the reduction in American casualties because it leads to higher disability payments.
In short, it reads as if the Washington Post would rather see veterans die in combat than survive and receive a meager disability check for their injuries.
Comparing the VA keeping its promise to care for disabled veterans to a weed-like plant known for growing out of control, the WaPo Board bravely trudges onwards into the unknown (to them) to render their opinions on a topic they know astonishingly little about.
Explicitly calling for lawmakers to scrutinize disability payments to Veterans, the Editorial Board mischaracterizes how disabilities work, incorrectly stating payments rise on a scale from “1 to 100”. This, of course, is not true. Disability benefits are awarded in increments of 10%, not 1%.
Next, the opinion piece alleges that the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities has not undergone revision since its implementation in 1945. This, yet again, is another demonstrable falsehood. Dozens of times since 1945 has the rating schedule been amended, expanded, or revised. Several times, those revisions have inured to the detriment of veterans, lowering compensable ratings for several conditions. As recently as February of 2022, the VA proposed amending the rating schedule to reduce ratings for sleep apnea and tinnitus to 0% in many instances.
In a single throw-away line, the Board notes that Social Security Disability payments only go to those who cannot work. However, pension income typically isn’t considered when making income threshold assessments. And indeed, disability payments are substantially more similar to pension payments then social security disability payments because they are earned through service in recognition of the sacrifices made by veterans and to compensate them for the damage done to their bodies in service of this nation.
The piece ends by boldly comparing the moral and ethical responsibility we as a Nation have towards our wounded and disabled veterans by saying that we also owe those with life-changing injuries suffered in service of our country a measure of “fiscal responsibility”.
Of all the parts of the op-ed that enraged us at Stone Rose Law the most, it was the notion that Veterans themselves – who have paid the mental, physical, and emotional price for our freedoms – should suffer the consequences of fiscal irresponsibility. Disabled veterans, who have already sacrificed so much for this country, should bear the costs of our federal government’s reckless spending.
Of note, no where in the Editorial piece was there a discussion about ending the 2003 Authorization of Use of Military Force that has caused hundreds of thousands of service members to deploy overseas. There was no discussion about reducing the instances of when we deploy troops to combat. And there was no analysis about enhancing personal protective equipment and safety standards to reduce injuries to our troops.
No, instead, the cost of government’s fiscal irresponsibility must be borne by disabled Veterans.
If the Washington Post Editorial Board is so concerned about fiscal responsibility, perhaps they should take aim at such spending programs like
In fact, if the Washington Post Editorial Board is so concerned about wasteful spending, Senator Rand Paul releases a report every year about the worst ways in which our government spends money. They can find it here: https://www.paul.senate.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Festivus-23-clean-12.22-v2.pdf. He found $482 billion in wasteful spending; a number that dwarfs the mere $192 billion in disability payments that worked the Editorial Board’s undergarments into a bunch.
In conclusion, the Washington Post Editorial Board saw an issue about which they knew nothing and decided to foist their unqualified and factually inaccurate opinion on others as if their ivy league education and years of self-back-patting lent their views any credibility.
It doesn’t. Leave disabled veterans alone and focus on the real issues facing Americans.
Click here to read the editorial from the Washington Post Editorial Board –