Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room reports on a press release from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who want to remind us about all of the benefits that the Republicans will be denying the service members of the US armed forces, because it's more important to the Repubs that homosexuals and lesbians be denied the opportunity to serve their country than to pass a responsible defense budget.
The bill as a whole contains numerous other military priorities that the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman are all hoping Congress will pass before the end of the year. They include:
-Expanding the number of DoD mental health providers. There is a chronic shortage of mental health providers in the military. With rates of mental health injuries and suicide rising higher every month, the DoD is in desperate need of providers to help service members identify and combat invisible wounds. (Senate §703)
-Eradicating Military Sexual Trauma. NDAA contains 29 recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military, including modernizing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the creation of a sexual assault reporting hot line. (House §1601-1664)
-DoD/VA record sharing. NDAA would change HIPAA to allow records to migrate between the DoD and the VA. (Senate §715, House §532)
-Military pay raise and bonuses. NDAA provides a 1.9% pay increase for all service members and the extension of a host of recruitment and retention bonuses set to expire. (House §601)
-Improving military health. Authorizes $30.9 billion for the Defense Health Program and TRICARE coverage for eligible dependents up to age 26. [Added by me]
What’s happening here is that the very same Republicans who were blasting Democrats for voting against military funding to protest the Iraq war are now using their objection to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — which the majority of the military actually supports — to obstruct and delay the above benefits and pay increases. In fact, they’re even prioritizing extending tax cuts for the richest Americans to the provisions in the defense bill. And, they’re somehow getting away with it all.
Now I know it doesn't surprise any C&L viewer that Republicans would cynically ignore what's best for our national defense in order to impose their own socially conservative views on the majority of Americans. But it's important to let the greater public know that the Republicans really don't care about national security as much as they say they do. And yes, this defense budget is bloated and needs to be trimmed, ideally by pulling our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011, but highjacking the appropriations process is only going to make it harder to do that. But then again, the Repubs will be happy if our troops continue to die in the Middle East for the next five, ten, twenty years, just as long as there are no iccky gays in the military.