Lastly, the citizens themselves suffer when someone falsely wears a uniform that they didn’t earn. As I mentioned earlier, they are the ones whose opinions are being formed by these people, rather than real warriors. In some cases, this in the forming of negative stereotypes because of nasty individuals trying to pick up girls of loose morals and poor judgment. In other cases, however, it is people who tell the greatest stories. These people can tell you of the battles they have fought and the lives they lost. They tell you the story every man wants to be a part of and of their great, though humble, heroism. These people push the limits of what is humanly achievable. Yes, while there are truly heroic cases that exist of great valor in the armed services, there is also a flood of people who have completely blown the common understanding of what it means to be a warrior. Civilians will ask questions like “did you kill anybody?” and be disappointed when you tell them “No.” Many people have no understanding of the real lives of warriors because the fakers have led them to believe in myth over reality. This robs the civilian listener more than the veteran in my opinion, because they miss out on the value of real veterans. Real ones will never live up to the legend created by the guys who just made it up.
Perhaps more importantly though, is the real heart of the matter and why the Stolen Valor Act was passed, not once, but twice.
The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 (; ) is a that was passed by the . The law amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for a person to fraudulently claim having received any of a series of particular with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit from convincing someone that he or she rightfully did receive that award.
The commonly held belief is that people dressed as military people just walk around all day and collect thank yous. While this happens, as I have shown often, the majority of problems dealing with fakers surrounds people fraudulently filing for benefits they do not rate. These aren’t people who ever go out in public. They are simply con-artists. Consider the state of disability among military veterans. To get a grip on how much is at stake here, in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2009, President George W. Bush requested $38.7 billion for veteran medical care alone. Most of us who were deployed rate something. I rate 10% disability for service connected back injury and hearing loss from working around guns, which gives me a small stipend every month to pay for medical care. While this is small in my case, it can be grievous in the case of others. For example, if you can produce evidence of 100% disability and that you have three dependents in your care, your compensation from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs can reach $3,447.72 a month. I am not saying that is a good thing. That level of injury is staggering, but if all you have to do is fake the paperwork… that is a free ride for life. One case I have heard of involved a Vietnam Era “Colonel” Hamilton receiving over $30,000 in undeserved VA disability compensation. It seems that he never actually served at all. This doesn’t even include getting paid to receive a college education, guaranteed housing and business loans, as well as receiving discounts to various businesses and services for being a veteran. Frankly, if all you have to do is fill out the paperwork the right way, there is a lot of money to be had and that poses a tempting target for scammers. I’d like to know the exact figures, but given the bloated VA backlog and the poor resources to investigate such abuses, we are looking at a multi-billion dollar fraud industry.
I’m sure at this point, I don’t have to make it clearer how this hurts all of us. While somewhere around eight years ago I used to be just a lowly Corporal, mucking it up in Al Anbar Province Iraq, now my day job is as a teacher in one of the poorest regions of the country. Every day I see good kids who don’t have enough books to take home and study. I see buses and facilities in disrepair and not enough teachers to cover all the classes. Leave the school and you have roads that haven’t been properly repaired in years and a hospital you are afraid to go to because you might die. It isn’t that anyone in the town isn’t doing a good job, it is simply that we could use help. As I drive home down Main Street and look at its decay, I think about how we will never get that help because there are so many out there getting by simply from doing nothing, living off government payouts such as those I have listed. While I know that all the problems of a small town won’t be solved by cutting entitlement benefits to freeloaders, and while I know that fraudulent veteran payouts only account for a small percentage of the total entitlements being paid out, there are people who need and deserve it more. I think most people, even non-veterans can see this, but many veterans especially, having already made great sacrifices for their country, view the freeloader mentality, and especially the scam artists, as a particularly abhorrent form of vermin.
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