- Posted March 26, 2014 by
"Veteran" does not equal Pension.
I didn't really understand how prevalent this misconception was until I was denied, yet again, the opportunity to work because I didn't fulfill prevalent preferences of employers hiring for office positions, I'm not female, nor am I a minority.
I am a service connected disabled veteran, and unlike most veterans I do receive a (very small) pension for my service. It covers a car payment and a prepaid cell phone, after which I have a (very) few dollars left over each month. My wife, who served 16 years in the United States Air Force, felt compelled to resign her commission to save the life of our unborn son when her commanding officer refused to honor the doctor's "administrative duty only" orders during her pregnancy because of toxemia. She isn't so fortunate. After 16 years of service, and having suffered "probable causative agents" to multiple sclerosis "in the line of duty" and having been diagnosed with m.s. within the 20 (to 30) year incubation period (but well outside of the 7 year limitation the VA medical system uses to protect themselves from "extraneous expenses"), my wife receives absolutely nothing for her service.
We were both discharged honorably, but I was "fortunate" enough (if you want to call it that) to have some of my injuries documented as well as continue to be a problem after separation from active duty (within the restricted time frame).
My wife, having been "forced', in her opinion, to resign her commission to save the life of our unborn child, and most likely exposed to the agents that caused her M.S. while in the service, struggles day to day with constant pain, paresthesia, and fatigue,with nothing to show for her 16 years of dedicaton to our country.
Yet whenever she or I inquires about a rumor of a job opportunity that I might be able to satisfy, we are met with smiles and empty promises, and more frequently shock and credulity, and sometimes even resentment.
It seems that more and more people out there are believing that veterans receive some type of retirement after just a few years of service, much like the u.s. president or congress, and some are openly expressing resentment for this misconception. This couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, and active practice, the branches of the u.s. military actively work on discharging as many as they can long before these people become eligible for a pension. When I was in the service, a minimum of 20 years was required to receive a 50% pension, 50% of the highest salary held for 3 consecutive years preceding discharge. Shortly after I left the 50% was reduced to 40%. I can only imagine what further reductions have been made in the light of the increasingly failing economy.
Most veterans today are coming back into civilian reality with not only little to no practical experience to market, but also suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and other war related trauma. When I think of how much worse these poor young men and women have to experience than the rest of us, I feel ashamed to be so frustrated at the lack of compassion from employers when I apply for a job.
I hear a lot of people saying "thank you for your service" when faced with situations where disclosing my "veteran's status" is required or potentially beneficial, but when pressed for work, the plastic smile and awkwardness immediately crops up.
Serving in the military actually has less benefits than serving in a civilian job. the pay is considerably less, rights and freedoms are restricted or forfeited during a tour of duty, and the "office politics" are much more severe than a normal company, not to mention that your "boss" can require you to place yourself in mortal peril, prosecuting you and leaving you with a criminal record if you refuse. Then you are left with little to nothing when you are discharged. Most enlistees are from poor and underprivileged families and have little to no financial training or 'savvy" and have no ideal how to save for the future. Very few veterans receive the counseling that would equip them with the knowledge or skills to save for the future. Just as few are privileged enough to obtain a job field that is marketable after service, many military job fields have no civilian counterparts.
If you want to thank a veteran, then help him or her to land (and keep) a decent job. Words don't help a veteran to put food on his or her family table, nor to pay the bills. Simply saying "thank you for your service" does little more than waste the 2 or 3 seconds it takes to speak. False gratitude is not appreciated, nor is it placating, but instead it is frustrating.
Veterans need jobs too. Most of us receive nothing after years of service and sacrifice. Most of us are happy to have served and are happy to get on with our lives after we are done. But none of us deserve the scorn and shock of indignation when we go to apply for a job.
If you want to thank a veteran, then give him or her a job. Save your indignation for congress, and express it on election day, please.