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Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin)
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost us between $4 and $6 trillion dollars, but that is not the true cost of war. The true cost of war is counted by the dead and wounded, 6,640 U.S. service members who were killed and 50,540 who were wounded through Feb. 5, 2013. Of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines deployed, 103,792 were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 253,330 service members were diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) of some kind. A total of 1,715 service members received wounds that required amputations and 1,493 lost an arm or leg.

The cost of war includes those whose lives will never be the same whether they have visible wounds or not. Horrific scenes will haunt the dreams of the young men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of their lives. Suicides, alcoholism and drug abuse will take even more of those who served. The costs of war are counted in broken marriages, domestic abuse, and homelessness. The costs of war will be counted for more than just the generation that served.

On December 8, 2004, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, was asked this question by Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard:

We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? .... Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years.  A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon.  Our vehicles are not armored.  We’re digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat.  We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.
To which Rumsfeld responded, as you can read below the fold:

It isn’t a matter of money.  It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire.  It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have.  They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.  
Today, I imagine that if recently discharged soldier asked why he or she could not get the care he or she needed at the VA, the answer would be very similar to the answer Rumsfeld gave 10 years ago. With one exception: "It isn't a matter of money."

The war on terror started on September 11, 2001. Congressional leadership has had almost 13 years to build up the VA with enough staff and facilities to care for the wounded from two wars. After news broke that the VA was failing our veterans, the Senate finally began to act. A bill was brought to the Senate floor that would allow the VA to contract with private medical facilities, enabling veterans facing long waits to get quicker treatment. The VA would also be able to use $500 million from its current budget to hire more medical staff. While I do not agree with allowing veterans to go to private medical facilities, this bill was a good start. The organization clearly needs more doctors, more nurses, more staff, more facilities. Only three senators voted against this bill. Of those three, one of them is my senator, Ron Johnson (R-WI).

Sen. Johnson said that he couldn’t support the bill because of its cost—$35 billion the first two years and $50 billion per year after that, according to a preliminary estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

This is the same Sen. Johnson who said in a recent MSNBC interview that the current crisis in Iraq was caused because President Obama was not forceful enough about keeping troops in the country when the war ended. I am sure he would have found the money for that. I wonder if Senator Johnson would whine about the costs of the VA if just one of his three children had spent a year or more in some godforsaken hellhole like Afghanistan or Iraq.

Sen. Johnson married into money and has never worked a day in his life. The only constituents he cares about are the ones who agree with him. He does not and can not understand what our veterans are going through. Veterans need the specialized care the VA provides. The average family practitioner is just not able to deal with a double amputee with PTSD because it's just not something he or she was trained to do. Of course Sen. Johnson just wants to privatize veteran's care and make it a for-profit industry. To him, it isn't about caring for veterans—it's about making a buck for his wealthy donors.

Sen. Johnson is an embarrassment to Wisconsin and to our nation. Veterans deserve the best possible care we can give them. They earned it. It should never come down to cost; these young men and women gave up their youth, gave up their innocence, to serve our country. In many cases, they have given far more than we can ever repay. If our nation could find $4 to $6 trillion dollars to pay for two wars, we sure as hell better come up with the money to care for those wounded in those wars. They earned it, and we owe them.

The costs of war do not end when the troops come home. They continue on. Some of these costs can be accounted for, like medical care. Other costs can not be. We will never know the true cost of war—but our veterans do. We cannot afford to put a price tag on helping those who served. We owe it to them to bring them to as close to a whole as we can. Sen. Johnson does not seem to understand this. He does not understand the sense of service and sacrifice that was required of our veterans. My suggestion for Sen. Johnson? Find a new line of work, since it's obvious that this whole public service thing is a foreign concept to him.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 01:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Democracy Addicts.

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