Monday, December 27, 2010

Soldiers' Death Benefits vs. 9/11 Victim Compensation?

And now, fresh from my inbox, here's another viral email:

Don’t like Limbaugh? No matter. You will be stunned by what he says….so….please read….you will learn the truth about the way we treat those who give up their all so we can be free.

Delete all names before forwarding to respect confidentiality

  Love him or hate him ...
~Limbaugh Nailed This One~

Love him or loathe him, he nailed this one right on the head..........

By Rush Limbaugh:

I think the vast differences in compensation between victims of the September 11 casualty and those who die serving our country in Uniform are profound. No one is really talking about it either, because you just don't criticize anything having to do with September 11. Well, I can't let the numbers pass by because it says something really disturbing about the entitlement mentality of this country. If you lost a family member in the September 11 attack, you're going to get an average of $1,185,000. The range is a minimum guarantee of $250,000, all the way up to $4.7 million..  If you are a surviving family member of an American soldier killed in action, the first check you get is a $6,000 direct death benefit, half of which is taxable.

Next, you get $1,750 for burial costs. If you are the surviving spouse, you get $833 a month until you remarry. And there's a payment of $211 per month for each child under 18. When the child hits 18, those payments come to a screeching halt.

Keep in mind that some of the people who are getting an average of $1.185 million up to $4.7 million are complaining that it's not enough. Their deaths were tragic, but for most, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Soldiers put themselves in harms way FOR ALL OF US, and they and their families know the dangers.. (Actually, soldiers are put in harms way by politicians and commanding officers.)

We also learned over the weekend that some of the victims from the Oklahoma City bombing have started an organization asking for the same deal that the September 11 families are getting. In addition to that, some of the families of those bombed in the embassies are now asking for compensation as well.

You see where this is going, don't you? Folks, this is part and parcel of over 50 years of entitlement politics in this country. It's just really sad. Every time a pay raise comes up for the military, they usually receive next to nothing of a raise. Now the green machine is in combat in the Middle East while their families have to survive on food stamps and live in low-rent housing. Make sense?

However, our own US Congress voted themselves a raise. Many of you don't know that they only have to be in Congress one time to receive a pension that is more than $15,000 per month. And most are now equal to being millionaires plus. They do not receive Social Security on retirement because they didn't have to pay into the system. If some of the military people stay in for 20 years and get out as an E-7, they may receive a pension of $1,000 per month, and the very people who placed them in harm's way receives a pension of $15,000 per month.

I would like to see our elected officials pick up a weapon and join ranks before they start cutting out benefits and lowering pay for our sons and daughters who are now fighting.  "When do we finally do something about this?" If this doesn't seem fair to you, it is time to forward this to as many people as you can.

How many people CAN YOU send this to?

How many WILL YOU???
It's hard to tell what this email is proposing.  It's clearly had several authors.

One way to interpret this is : "The 9/11 bombings were tragic...  but victims' families don't deserve more than the people in the armed forces who put their lives in harm's way.  $1 million per family is just much too much to pay."

I'm somewhat sympathetic.  I'm saddened for the losses of families that have had their lives cut short after the 9/11 bombings.  I'd love to see the the perpetrators forced to pay restitution.

However, the perpetrators are all dead.  And the people who were peripherally involved are now "enemy combatants" who aren't likely to answer to American lawsuits.

The government, in it's reasoning, saw what was likely to happen - since many families were looking to sue someone, they'd probably clog the judicial system with lawsuits against the airline industry, the government, the buildings' owners, or their contractors.  And there are likely to be a few clever prosecutors who can exploit a potential jury's natural desire to help the 9/11 victims.

In short:  This is a settlement.  It has nothing to do with "worth".  It has to do with practicality.  I don't know how folks get together to decide "how much is it worth to settle this case."  A reasonable discussion of this subject would talk about how these numbers were derived.  Not just with "One million dollars is too much."

That's one way to interpret this email message.  The other is, "Why can't soldiers get a million dollars when they fall in combat?  Why is it so much less than the 9/11 victims?"

For one?  Soldiers give up their ability to seek compensation through the courts when they enlist.  It's part of the package.

Now, looking at these figures, it seems like a pretty bad deal for our servicemen.  If I was thinking about enlisting, and my family was depending on my future income, a $6000 lump-sum benefit on my death, $800/month in compensation to my wife and $211/month/child in survivor benefits would make me think more than twice about whether I should sign up.  Because my odds of dying are pretty high in wartime.  And this wouldn't be much to leave my family.

In fact, with those figures, it would be surprising that any military families could be successfully recruited in a time of war.  Something doesn't seem right here.

Turns out Snopes has a long history of this particular viral email.  Turns out that the origin of this email is in 2002.

Now, let's turn back the clock.

In 2002, there was no Iraq war.  The war in Afghanistan was in a lull - the US role at that time was to support the Northern Alliance and the new government, and long before a resurgent Taliban.

In short, the pay structure reflected what was necessary to recruit during a period of peace, when few potential soldiers thought it was likely they would face a significant insurgency.

Since the "real war" started, the military has had to sweeten the deal.

At this point, the death benefit for an active-duty serviceman in a combat zone is $100,000 and is non-taxableSurviving spouses recieve dependency and indemnity compensation of $1154/month, and surviving children recieve more than this email suggests.  (Look here to see how much.)  And if they leave behind a spouse or children who are unable to earn a living, they're eligible for even more.

Plus, if they've enrolled in SGLI (the military's life insurance plan) for $27/month, they're eligible for a death benefit of $400,000.

In short - the surviving family probably won't be living the high life - but, at least, with this financial package, they're off to a secure start.

Finally, it wouldn't be a right-wing email without comparing the lives of "victims" with the fictional congresspeople.

You know, the ones who don't pay social security.  (Sorry, they do.)

The ones who earn over $15,000/month for serving one year in congress.  (Here's their real package.  And it's not even close.)

Although, to give them credit?  When this was written, they probably did write themselves pay raises - like those most Americans recieved.  But for the last two years, they've kept their salaries the same.

So, all in all, this is, at best, an outdated rant piece.  With a little bit of out-and-out lying on the side.