7.02.2004

Fahrenheit Fact no. 28: Bush policies regarding military pay misrepresented

The David Kopel piece soon to be published in NRO continues to be a major resource. One of Fahrenheit 9/11's biggest claims is the reduction in funds for members of the military. But Kopel points out that Moore can't even get those facts straight:
Bush “supported closing veterans hospitals” says Moore. The Bush Department of Veteran’s Affairs did propose closing seven hospitals in areas with declining populations where the hospitals were underutilized, and whose veterans could be served by other hospitals. Moore does not say that the Department also proposed building new hospitals in areas where needs were growing, and also building blind rehabilitation centers and spinal cord injury centers. (For more, see the Final Report of the independent commission on veterans hospitals, which agrees with some of the Bush proposals, and with some of the objections raised by critics.) According to Moore, Bush “tried to double the prescription drug costs for veterans.” What Bush proposed was raising the prescription co-pay from $7 to $15, for veterans with incomes of over $24,000 a year. Prescription costs would have remained very heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Bush, announces Moore, “proposed cutting combat soldiers’ pay by 33%.” Not exactly. In addition to regular military salaries, soldiers in certain areas (not just combat zones) receive an “imminent danger” bonus of $150 a month. In April 2003, Congress retroactively enacted a special increase of $75, for the fiscal year of Oct. 1, 2002 through Sept. 30, 2003. At first, the Bush administration did not support renewing the special bonus, but then changed its position. Likewise, Congress had passed a special one-year increase in the family separation allowance (for service personnel stationed in places where their families cannot join them) from $100 to $250. Bush’s initial opposition to extending the special increase was presented by Moore as “cutting assistance to their families by 60%.” (Edward Epstein, “Pentagon reverses course, won’t cut troops’ pay,” San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 15, 2003.) Even if one characterizes not renewing a special bonus as a “cut,” Fahrenheit misleads the viewer into thinking that the cuts applied to total compensation, rather than only to pay supplements which constitute only a small percentage of a soldier’s income. An enlisted man with four months of experience receives an annual salary more than $27,000. (Rod Powers, “What the Recruiter Never Told You: Military Pay.”) In 2003, Congress enacted a Bush administration proposal to raise all military salaries by 3.7%, with extra “targeted” pay increases for non-commissioned officer. NCOs are lower-ranking officers who typically join the military with lower levels of education than commissioned officers. (Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, “Defense Department Targets Military Pay Increases for 2004,” American Forces Press Service.)
(All emphasis mine) -a_sdf