Veterans don’t need state dependency. They need rehabilitation and a sense of belonging.
And here’s how we get there.
Government intervention in the form of basic income and free healthcare is all well and good, but merely creating a culture of welfare dependency for veterans is naïve at best, grossly negligent at worst.
UBI and free healthcare for all may work for everyone, but singling veterans out and providing these just for them creates two problems:
- It ensures that these liberal reforms will never be implemented for everyone, and gives the GOP a great excuse for failing to implement them for all
- Veterans (who are typically proud and less willing to accept help) are dependent on the state. This is both a psychological and an economic disadvantage, demonstrating the extent of the negative effects that such poor and ill-considered policy can have
Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Democratic Presidential candidate and veteran of the Afghanistan war, has spoken about how his town in Indiana, South Bend, has been combating the problems faced by veterans in a quite different way.
Their approach has been to rehabilitate veterans back into the community, through community-led schemes. Big government can solve many problems, but the state, by nature, cannot solve the problems which returning veterans face. Free healthcare is necessary for and will be well-received by some veterans, those who need it, but community rehabilitation is the real key to success with veterans.
The UK’s welfarist approach to veterans has, largely, failed. Too much money spent on government intervention, and far too little on rehabilitation. The UK has far too many veterans who are homeless, unemployed, or just about managing, and the US would be mad to follow the British approach — widely copied across Europe with similarly disappointing results.
Veterans return to very different societies to that which they leave behind, and our approach must appreciate this. We must also think about the problems associated with the politics of welfare: different governments spend different amounts of money on the welfare system, and so dependency can mean being financially crippled by an economic crash or a particularly austere administration.
Money needs to be appropriately split between necessary government programmes, to ensure veterans' mental health is maintained and that they are financially stable, and rehabilitative projects to ensure that they can become a functioning and valued member of society upon their return.