by Sandra Givens Scott, a state representative in Georgia and a member of the Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).

As a veteran, I have some particular worries about how our nation is meeting the needs of our men and women in uniform and their families. The political brinkmanship Congress has displayed with basic budget decisions over the last several years has threatened the entire U.S. economy and specifically put  at risk essential programs that help prepare returning veterans to reenter the job market.  Members of our military and their families deserve an economy that serves them as well as they serve us.  Jeopardizing our economic security for a political gain is no way to honor these brave women and men.

My husband and I are U.S. Army veterans, and I am appalled at the treatment and services provided to veterans and their families. Our men and women serving in the military work tirelessly to serve this nation; in return they get a slap in the face from the country they protect and love.  As I look at my husband and our friends, who served in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Afghan war, and see the pain, stress, and sickness some of them have, I wonder how the government can continue to prioritize outdated, expensive weapons systems over veterans’ care.

Soldiers often wait many years to get the medical assistance, disability, and other help they need just to survive. Why isn’t the government putting our veterans first? As a state legislator, I am doing my part to help veterans lead productive civilian lives. Shouldn’t Congress do its part?

Even as austerity and budgetary discipline has been imposed on federal spending in the last few years, it has been a different story at the Pentagon, where spending has skyrocketed to $640 billion a year in 2013, almost doubling since 2001. Rather than reshaping its budget to prepare America for real 21st century threats, secure economic competitiveness, and support our military, the Pentagon continues to invest in outdated and expensive weapons systems, such as Cold War-era nuclear weapons and unneeded and troubled programs like the F-35 Strike Fighter Jet.

Taxpayer dollars are wasted on fraud, abuse, and contractor greed. We need instead to invest in our future and address the needs of today’s servicemen and servicewomen, military families, and veterans. If the Pentagon budget is not reined in, other programs including those that are essential to our nation’s veterans will suffer devastating cuts in order to keep overall spending lower and within mandated budget caps.

As a state legislator, I know too well the challenge of budgeting in these difficult economic times. The kind of political brinksmanship seen in Congress lately only makes state budget-writing more difficult. Rather than focus on political gain, Congress should put the livelihoods and needs of our constituents, and especially our veterans, ahead of political posturing.

As the budget process for Fiscal Year 2015 gets underway Congress must decide: will it be showing gratitude for our veterans by fighting for economic security, American strength, and supporting our returning military, veterans and their families; or will Congress instead side with special interests and continue to spend billions on wasteful, outdated and unnecessary programs that don’t make a real contribution to our national or economic security.


 

 

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