Veterans and Service Member Benefits -- A Deal's a Deal

04/02/2012 05:20 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2012

Recall the old saying, "A deal's a deal."

This applies in full force to our vets and active members of the military.

When we asked our young men and women to join the military and a) risk their lives, b) risk permanent injury, c) leave their families for often years at a time, d) work for far less than a market wage and, often, far less than the minimum wage, e) live in substandard housing, f) subsist on a far cry from home cooking, g) endure ongoing physical rigors, and h) surrender much of their personal liberty on a daily basis, we were asking one hell of a lot.

In return, we promise to provide the veterans and active service members with the full set of benefits available at the time they signed up. This promise was not set in stone or written in blood. It was taken on faith. That set of implicit, but sacred, promises is now being threatened by proposed cuts to 10 specific military and veterans quality-of-life benefits.

Here's the list of what some cost cutters are proposing we do to our vets and active members of the military:

1. Increase health care premiums for military retirees on TRICARE
2. Increase fees for medications for the troops, their families and retirees
3. Eliminate presumptive service-connected conditions for disabled and ill vets
4. Lock out or increase fees for Department of Veterans Affairs Priority Groups 7 and 8 veterans
5. Reduce cost-of-living allowances
6. Freeze military pay
7. End government subsidies to military commissaries
8. Eliminate Department of Defense elementary schools stateside
9. Eliminate the 20-year military retirement plan
10. Eliminate the Department of Defense tuition reimbursement programs for service members

I view doing any of the above as outrageous. A deal's a deal. And the deal we struck with those who joined the military and are in the military is as big a deal as there is.

Rather than renege on our obligations to the vets and current service members, we need to

1. Fully fund VA health care and research on medical conditions specific to veterans
2. Fund programs to reduce suicides and homelessness among vets
3. Ensure immediate processing of claims by the Veterans Benefits Administration
4. Create electronic medical and service records for service members from induction through death
5. Improve the quality of life for active service members and their families
6. Take steps to improve the education and employment of veterans
7. Focus our defense efforts on real threats to our national security, not unsuccessful nation building
8. Achieve the fullest possible accounting of U.S. military personnel missing from all wars

All Americans owe those who serve in the military our highest respect and deepest gratitude. In my book, they are all heros and we need to rise to their standard when it comes to fulfilling our faith-based commitment to them.