Veterans Benefits VS. Entitlements Others Feel Due


by Ed Mattson


Great Depression Soup Kitchens. No entitlement back then. Everyone was in the same boat.

It seems as the debate goes on between the warring political factions. I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time responding to e-mail on all sides of the many issues that are brought up.

It is almost impossible to discuss any issue today that isn’t somehow linked to the budget deficit battle going on in Washington DC and state capitals around the country. Our legislators at all levels have been running around like a reckless housewife on a shopping spree with a no-limit credit card for decades, and it’s all coming home to roost. Programs of importance to everyone are under scrutiny, knowing we have to reign-in spending or we will soon be relegated to a much reduced living standard.

Last night as I heard a New York representative flat-out state the US does not have a budget deficit problem…say what? He is under the belief that all are problems are to be blamed on unemployment. Right…and how did that occur?

Reckless government programs, promises made to special interest groups to garner votes, inadequate oversight from government committees assigned the task of protecting us from abuse, and an ambivalent block of voters trying to “get their fair share” of the bureaucrat pie. Such naivety is the insanity that legislators get from too long in office. They don’t even recognize the  havoc their policies do to the citizens.

To my way of thinking, the word “entitlement” has come to represent a thought that because one claims a right, the right being claimed is automatically justified.  I don’t consider veterans in this category as our so called “entitlements” are actually contractual arrangements whether explicit or inferred, when we signed on the dotted line and raised our hand to protect and defend this country from all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC.

I kind of feel like we did the first part of that and are now in Phase II, defending ourselves from domestic foes. While many citizens should get and need help, the issue of helping those in need  versus those who feel entitled to unending support has gotten out of hand.

Let’s take a look at the educational system in the US. We spend considerably more per student than any country on earth, from about $18,000 per year in New York to $9000 in many states with an average across the board of $12,000. Detroit spends $13,000 per year on its students and is typical of what we see. Half of the population of Detroit is functionally illiterate.  Of the 47% of Detroit residents who can‘t read, half of them hold Detroit City School System diplomas.  All of them made it past the elementary school  years, where basic reading is taught.  Can anyone justify these results? So let’s agree the education is an “entitlement”, but where does the money go? Why do we have tenure (built-in job security regardless of the competency of the teacher)?  Of the salaries paid to teachers, about $1100/year ends up in the union bank accounts which help perpetuate this obvious problem. Where ever you sit politically, how can we condone this inefficiency?

Welfare and other “entitlement” programs are handout programs. Some folks honestly cannot take care of themselves and need assistance, but to many it has become a gravy-train promoted by politicians trying to ingratiate themselves with benevolent voters. The very poor in our country would be living quite well by other country’s standards, yet they want more.  It is your or my fault that we have our next round of welfare families already in the making because near 50% drop-out in high school, join gangs, do drugs and commit crime, or that we have parents that won’t marry and take responsibility for supporting their families because we’ve made it too easy for mom to stay at home, continue to have more kids, and collect benefits, while dad works for cash under-the-table? Come-on.

I didn’t want to go into the support of illegal immigrants and the benefit package we throw to them as they shouldn’t be here in the first place, and what a slap in the face it is those who have gone through the legal process to become card-carrying residents of the US.  The fraud, waste, and abuse in these programs defies justification on any account

Of all the groups trying to maintain the status quo, only a few come to mind that are truly worthy a seat at the table. We need to expand our horizons to look at other views, not just views that make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy.

We have all paid into the government endorsed Ponzi schemes named Social Security and Medicare. Like veterans benefits, these are contractual obligations folks love to call entitlements to diminish the importance of the programs if they are not currently participating. Social Security was never meant to be one’s only retirement stash, but it should be enough to keep people out of the gutter.  Means-testing, reducing payments to those with taxable income over $50,000 could be a ways to deal with the shortage of funds for those who are receiving a monthly check, because what was paid-in and what is being paid-out simply don’t equate. In 1935 our average life span was about 65-70. Today it is nearly eighty for many. Increasing the age to collect benefits for those aged 20-45 by 2-3 years may well improve the solvency of the system. The government improperly invested the so-called trust funds by loaning it back to the government. It’s not the fault of the citizen, but it is the reality we have to deal with. Medicare oversight to prevent fraud and dismantling the recent prescription program in light of all the new $4.00 pharmacy programs could save billions.

We have unemployment insurance, another contractual obligation, not an entitlement. Money is paid in to insure some semblance of family solvency during a period of unemployment. The government runs out of program money because it is not treated as insurance, but unemployment really is insurance, not a handout. Maybe the government shouldn’t have anything to do with or be a part of these kinds of programs. When a real insurance company faces a disaster and has to pay claims, they have built in protection though a series of re-insurance partners, and in most cases remain solvent. Not our government…no back-up plans, just jobs for more bureaucrats, and a slush fund to spend the money until needed.

Now to us veterans who have earned our benefits…Thank God we have dedicated supporters that recognize our situation and organizations which are supporting our position. This past week I received a great e-mail from Julio Martinez thanking me for sticking up for veteran’s rights, but the thanks should really be directed to all veterans group. I will discuss his comments on Monday but to paraphrase his thanks for supporting veterans…

“We have made great strides in meeting the needs of veterans of today, while keeping our promise to yesterday’s veterans. We must not be lured into turf battles, but instead rise above the political fray to fight for America’s wellbeing. Out of control spending is crippling our country, and we need to slow the growth of government and take responsibility for our bills. As we do this, our veterans deserve better than to be used as shields in political warfare. Instead, we have an obligation to work in a bipartisan manner to better serve veterans and their families. No one should disagree this is the least we owe these men and women”.

An AMEN would be appropriate. In coming articles I will discuss suggested solutions posed by readers of my column, and try to do justice to those ideas.


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Ed Mattson
Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina. Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.


  1. Dave,

    I’ve been all over the world. Haven’t found anyplace better. Every country has its problems. The closest thing we found to the US is Australia and third would be Canada. As to the Capitalist system, we don’t really have that here anymore. My latest column yesterday had a great video link pointing out the problem by Dr. Garwin. The capitalist system, despite what the media wants you to believe, has been responsible for creating the US and wealth across many borders. Socialism, Communism, Fascism, and other state run systems have all proven far more faulty than capitalism.

    The problem is that 80% of employment comes from small “capitalist business owners”. They are taxed and regulated into submission by a government wanting to control every aspect of our lives…doesn’t work and when you kill the incentive to make a profit by threatening to take all the profit from, what for most, has been a tremendous investment in education, time, money, and family blood-sweat-tears, we end-up with stag-flation as we see today. Ask any small business owner. The mere thought of government intervention is keeping them from expanding and hiring.

    After the Corps, I too was a capitalist. Couldn’t see any reason for not being one with all the examples of failed systems we have fought for two centuries (USSR, Germany, Japan, Castro, Mao, and many others). There was an element of luck in my success, but luck is often determined by preparedness and opportunity. My wife is from a Communist country. Most of the Asians, Indians, Hispanics and other ethnicities come here for the opportunity Capitalism presents. Many make it and make it big. You hardly ever see those truly seeking opportunity flee to a socialistic country…many end up there because it is so difficult legally getting into the US. I have never seen anyone who is sane seeking opportunity in a Fascist or Communist run country.

    We can get back on track to country our parents left for us if we vote. You can have that effect in many countries round the world.

  2. Ed,
    I believe the capitalist model no longer serves the common man. Maybe it’s time to start a conversation about something better. I’m a 100% DV and real tired. Seems that all the blood and sacrifice made by our veterans has come to nothing. Corporate puppeteers are in control of The Government, with Depression and civil unrest now a real possibility. The wife and I are researching a move outside the country.

  3. John..

    I hear that news from many sources. This next election it’s time to say enough is enough and dump the whole boat load of bozos in Congress, get some genius to come up with a term limit bill and throw every blood sucking legislator that won’t vote yes out of office the next election. We have to clean the outhouse in Washington and then come up with a Balanced Budget Amendment. If I see that Pelosi one more time claim she is concerned about what the government spends and that she did her best to minimize spending when she was house speaker, I think I’m going to explode. Under her guidance Congress spent about $2 trillion in new expenditures including $30 million to save some swamp rat in old Candlestick Park (maybe it was her husband?). Good God what an unadulterated, limp-brain , moron!

  4. To that crimsom dude…come on down here to Arizona and take a look. In case you haven’t been paying attention, southern AZ is a war zone. They don’t just come over in “small groups” like the news states, they SWARM over the border every night. Everybody, including terrorists groups with explosives, weapons, whatever they want. I can go down to Phoenix and buy complete citizenship documents, DL, passports, birth certs. everything for about a grand.

    Welfare offices are swarmed with aliens and they ain’t there if anybody is telling them no. Free med., free housing, free everything. Murder and rape of our citizens occurs regularly. Do the crime and then do the border = no jail.

    Illegals don’t do jobs Americans won’t do, they take jobs away from Americans by making less and all under the table, thus no taxes. Don’t tell me I’m wrong, I KNOW guys that are out of work, right now!

    America’s destruction is underway and it’s just strolling across our southern border every night.

  5. Uh Rah to you my fellow Veteran. I’m 100%, combat wounded vet and being metaphorically spit on again by my country. VA Compensation is being used (against federal law 5301) as now state judges are using our COMPENSATION for divorce settlements. It’s compensation protected by a law that state judges are just legislating away from the bench. I signed a contract with the US government saying I would go fight their war, BUT if I was wounded they would take care of me through healthcare and compensation (not taxable income) VA Compensation is not an entitlement but a contractual agreement. Disabled vets are coming home now with TBI, amputee’s, etc and some spouses can’t handle it and walk away with up to 50% of the veterans compensation. Google Area 5301 for more info as we’ve got to stop this assault on our contractualveterans benefits if not for us, then for our kids coming home today.

  6. Sue,

    Send me details and let me see if we can find help somewhere. We have many minds that can be put to the task and sometimes service clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions have ideas that can be implemented.

  7. Vinnie,
    Maybe I’ll call you up and order an old style pinball machine…now that worth talking about. Needed great skill to become a “pinball wizard” without creating “tilt”, and what great, great fun was the flipper baseball game. Best by a long shot. Nostalgia for simpler times when people were human, and you had to look for the government can now only be relished in the minds of those fortunate enough not to have Alzheimers!

  8. Follow-up received from Vinnie ([email protected])
    TO. Ed. i hear you. I have a business of 30 Vending Mechines. the state of Texas tax me on everything. its hard to make a profit. my wife halps me out. i can not hire anyone because have to pay health insurance and wages. i even have to pick up vending mechine’s that are broken and repair them myself. and replace them. Uncle Sam always has his hands in the till. for small business to survive. we the small business owners must get the federal laws changed. stop the wealthy Corporations from giving money to all the elected BOZZO’S for their relections. (((( WE NEED TO ORGANIZE AMERICA AND WAKE UP THE 312 MILLION BLIND POPULACE SHEEP. )))))

  9. I wasn’t sure of the breakdown, but the economics in Eastern Europe which is really pegged to the US economy are really hurting. In Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, the cost of potatoes and other staples are about on par with what we pay. Incomes are far lower there without any social net programs. We are still trying to sell our property and bring mom and our other son over here to North Carolina.

  10. One more note to Baglimore,

    My background was in oncology til I retired. I too lost a loved one (my first wife after a 16-year battle with five different cancers) facing treatment covered by insurance in only her first three years into the battle. Her company went out of business and we lost coverage. There are resources and I am willing to help those you mentioned. I have a website at We have ideas that have proven effective for others and our services are free. You and I both know life isn’t easy and it sure as hell is not fair, but networking can open doors to ideas that can help.

  11. Claim for a WWII Armed Guard vet was in progress. Wife was allowed food stamps for her deaf and blind husband. Oh, she could work and take care of herself. Yes, who’s gonna look after husband? Who’s gonna pay for the care? Remember, we’re still prosecuting the claim and subsequent benefits for someone like this comrade were not available at that time. We’re supposed to die and save the government money.

  12. Ed, you are beating a dead horse. I don’t care about contracts or entitlements, this is about who is going to pay and the average person is tapped out. The big corporations use our tax money to get bigger and then pay no taxes. Our federal government gives money away to foreign governments faster than we can print the money. We are the policemen of the world and pay the bills to keep the peace. We have military in dozens of countries and you are harping about what the cellar dwellers pay. Get real !

  13. I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t mention all the corp. welfare ( give aways in the tax code where corporations making hundreds of billions of dollars pay zero in taxes) the 50 billion in tax subsides to the largest oil companies and of course the Bush tax cuts which amounts to 4 trillion over 10 years.

    I know there are those that talk about our high corp tax rate, but virually non of the corps pay the 35%, or even 20%, 15% is the more likely the rate that is paid by the one’s that pay anything of substance, and many pay 1 or 2% and many many pay a minus rate , thats right they get refunds for money not paid in
    by them.

    As a percent of GNP, our corporations pay the least of any of the developed countries, but they are the ones with the lobbyists and the money and unless and until we can get that changed we are not going
    to make many major changes that will change our Government from a Government by the corporations
    for the corporations, to one for the people. It’s sad, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  14. By the way there are more Eastern Europeans applying than Asian or Indian. Most of the Asian and Indians apply for elderly parents. Most of the Eastern Europeans who applied were Albanians.

  15. I disagree with your comment, Medicaid is given out like candy. When I began training for my job, I was told I wouldn’t be doing a lot of Medicaid applications. Well, that was wrong. My first case was an elderly woman who couldn’t afford medical assistance. I was able to give her enough deductions that she became eligible. You don’t know what it’s like to see someone cry because someone finally took the time to explain everything to her. I also had to go to an appeal for a man with throat cancer. His medical assistance was cut off because his Social Security put him over the income limit. If he was a woman and had breast cancer, he would have had a higher income limit. His medical was cut off in the middle of his treatment. Do you know how horrible it is to go in and argue to cut off his medical for the state. I do. I never want to have to do that again.

  16. Reply forwarded from Joe LaBranche ([email protected])a fellow Marine we reached out to for Randy:


    My name is Joe LaBranche, a former Marine and Vietnam vet and a friend of Ed Mattson. My cell # is 404-862-2141, please feel free to call me or email me your phone #.
    I run “About Face” a veteran support center for the VFW in Cumming, Georgia. I have suffered with PTSD for a number of years before reaching out for help. As a machine gunner in Vietnam I have the utmost respect for corpsmen and what you guys did. Marines consider corpsmen Marines!
    It would be an honor to help you any way I can.
    Semper Fi, my brother! Welcome home and thank you for your service!

    Joe LaBranche
    VFW About Face
    Veteran Support Center
    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  17. If they mess with us disabled veterans then THEY are unpatriotic, mindless, over-paid/underworked IDIOTS.
    How many of our Congressmen and women have ever been in a firefight, had mortors and ied’s to deal with,
    had punji pits and booby traps to try and see (if they were lucky enough) and dealt with the nightmares, etc. that
    go hand in hand with PTSD ? 5% max…maybe ? If they want to continue to live off the government dole of being
    in Washington they better not screw with us vets ! Semper Fi….

  18. Running America like a business is a nifty idea until you realize that BUSINESSES are run by FINANCE, the crime syndicate that has corrupted business and government, alike.

    The idea of free enterprise is wonderful, it’s such a shame it’s never been tried in this country. Quality and usefulness are NO match for financial terrorism, fraud and back-door deal-making.

    No big point here except to remind you that capitalism, the world of production, innovation and free enterprise are not theoretically required to be beholden to the banksters, but that’s been the reality for a long, long time.

    My experience of 30 years in corporate America is that people who WANT to work don’t last long, while the people who are able to numb themselves to the usurpations of the frat-boys can survive, at least long enough to poison themselves from drugs or alcohol, or die of depression.

    Pretty similar to what you see in the welfare line, no? A lot of people who have given up. Guess what? The cause is the same: the “financial” mafia.

  19. Randy,

    It is difficult to fully understand your plight as I have not walked in your shoes. While I did serve in the Corps, I was never subject to life as a corpsman. Dodging bullets and providing aid would not be my idea of the ideal MOS, so I can only imagine what runs through your head with flashbacks and recollections. The VA’s burden is far more than they can handle. Many public foundations have been established to provide help by people familiar with what you are going through. This is not a “quick-fix” situation, but one that requires counseling and vigilance.

    I am copying my friend and fellow Marine Joe LaBranch, who has a program in the Atlanta area specializing in PTSD problems. I hope he will make contact and provide advice as he is working on his program through the VFW. While you may be miles apart, having an “ear” that will listen is the first step, and since has to continually face the same type demons every day, he would be an excellent person to mentor you through the barriers ahead and give you support in dealing with your situation.
    Other avenues:
    Cpl Chad Eric Oligshlaeger Foundation of PTSD
    If you have questions or comments about the Cpl. Chad Eric Oligschlaeger Foundation for PTSD please email us at [email protected]

    David Lynch Foundation
    Fairfield Office
    1000 North 4th
    Fairfield, IA 52557
    [email protected]
    Tel: 866-962-0108

    Wounded Warrior Project
    1111 W 22nd Street, #620
    Oakbrook, IL 60523

    Telephone: 630.522.4774

    I have copied several people on this response with hopes they can reach out to you and provide some level of comfort. You are not the the forest alone and often talking to a military chaplain might have resources available.

    Semper Fi,

  20. Yo Vinnie,

    Good to hear from you. I can always expect a boisterous follow-up when I stray into issues about “government spending”. You know, we are not too far apart on many of our beliefs, but I detect a little crack in your shell. You mentioned the quote by Perot that we need to run America like a business and I totally agree with that. Hell everyone of those baboons in DC would have been fired by now for malfeasance or stupidity, yet the electorate puts ’em back in office every election. We must be blind.
    But to hear that utterance from you, I thought you were one of the crowd who gets so angry at Corporate America you are ready to take to the streets at the mere mention of “business”. Business per se is the engine that runs America, and I know if we sat and had a cold beer we would agree on that. It is so-called “big business” that is screwing up the system with government corporate handouts (that brings in big donations to the election fund). It is ironic that we have a corporate tax system so high (lowering dividend potential to the stockholders like you, me, our pension programs, and foundations) that it is driving those same businesses to set-up corporate offices in lower-tax countries. 70% of the jobs in America are provided by small business, yet they are the target of excessive taxes because most have revenue over $250,000…heck man, they have to have revenue to hire and grow their business yet to the government’s eye they are looked at as “wealth targets”, let’s go after them…hence the uncertainty and unemployment problems.
    I am considered a “small business” because of my consulting services, yet most of what I do is volunteer work. I need help to cover all the bases, but will not employ anybody other than my wife and son because I don’t want the payroll tax burden, be hit at sometime with mandatory health insurance, day-care, paid vacations, minimum wage hassles, and all sorts of government paperwork. Besides my paper route, my first job when I was 12 was for $.35/hour. My first part-time job while in school was as a laborer at $1.25/hr. It was simple…I worked, they paid me…no benefits, no nothing. I bought my first car for cash, saved for college, and it all worked fine because I was willing to “earn” what was given to me. Guess I am old and it doesn’t work that way anymore. Oh well.
    Best to you my friend,

  21. Coffeecrimson-
    Thank you for the comments. My wife and son came here from Eastern Europe. I well understand the treatment of immigrants and immigration procedures; that there is supposed to be no public benefits for a 10-year period, and that if they do collect benefits they are recoverable from the sponsor. That being said, all one has to do is visit the Social Security Office for a day and sit in the lobby and just listen to the conversations on the ways to get around the system. A visit to San Antonio or New York City where a large number of immigrant reside and look around. I am not one to be always in a pre-judge position, but the second-hand store parking lots often have a “husband figure” hanging out in the parking lot while mom and kids are inside shopping…no problem with using a second hand or thrift store to make purchases, but many of the father-figures are sitting in a newer car than I drive.

    A few years back it was not uncommon to stumble into a food-stamps-for-cash “trade scam” outside a store; I can only imagine to get money for drugs, cigarettes, or other commodities not eligible for food stamp purchase. Much of that has been cleared up by the debit cards, but I am convinced that folks have found a work-around that by now. Medicaid benefits are handed out like candy, and my contention is…I have no problem helping those who need it, but we have made it too easy to get benefits, and not enough for the truly needy. Workfare is an answer, and so is “education to qualify”, for those physically fit to work. We have lots of parks and cities to keep clean and elderly that need help; no reason that can’t be asked of those on the dole. But maybe the best way to at least increase the money for the services we so freely give out (even more so by those with ethnicity spokespersons-Sharpton-Jesse Jackson-LaRaza), is a national consumption tax so we can tap into the underground economy. That would help.

    I respect the view from your angle, because we do have folks who need help, but most of the help we provide is so diluted it ties the recipient to abject poverty with no end in sight. Asian, Indian, and Eastern European families seldom ever take the welfare route yet come here with far fewer assets and no language skills, but by the second generation are off in pursuit of their dreams… their kids are the valedictorians in schools, and they are part of America. Why have those whose families who have been here for generations still stuck in the hole? I don’t have all the answers but can just make suggestions, unfortunately it is too easy to look the other way and say, “That’s not my problem”.

    It is small potatoes by comparison to other budget problems but if we could figure out how to make all citizens productive and living inside the legality of the social safety net guidelines, the increase in the tax base would be far greater.

  22. This government does not care for veterans.I’m a Vietnam combat vet.There not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the nightmares I went through. The nightmares I have ,are just this side of hell.Being a combat medic life was not easy in Nam with all the firefights,the dead and wounded.If it don’t screw your life up you’re lucky.I was treated like trash then and now.

  23. As always you forgot to mention the TWO WORTHLESS WAR’S America is in. YES our Government is out of control. spending like a dam DRUNK. on pork barrell projects. throwing away tax payers money on FOREIGN AID. one country don’t need the 50 Billion Dollars in foreign aid ((( ISRAHELL ))) they have Americas politicans in their pockets. BRIBE THEM and pay Billions to their re-elections. YES Social Security was supposed to be for all people who paid into it. LAW’S dont mean anyting to all the thief’s and criminals in the Federal Government. ED Mattson you better wake up. your government is a PHONEY. RUN by the MAFIA. a man running for president said it best in 1992. ROSS PERIOT. said the Federal Government was a run away freight Train. they dont run America as a big business would do. (((( YOU CAN NOT SPEND MORE MONEY THEN YOU TAKE IN. You will go BANKRUPT. these CLOWN’S that run America dont know finance. they spend money like a drunk. its not their money. they could care less what happens. (((( IF YOU WANT A COUNTRY TO BE FINANCIAL SAFE. YOU NEED RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE. That know finance and budget. America is like a Air Plane flying at night with no lights. waiting to hit something. and its coming soon. Talking is cheep will and does nothing . America need’s people taking action. organize and fight all the corrupt idiots in the government.

  24. Illegal aliens don’t get a benefit package. I worked for the welfare department and illegal aliens aren’t eligible for anything except when a pregnant woman is giving birth. Even refugees are only allowed benefits for nine months. Some of those people on welfare are, or were, tax payers. Would you dump them in the woods because they need help? And the welfare gravy train is no gravy train. A woman with two children gets $403 a month in Pennsylvania. Where can she live on that kind of money? Section 8 has a waiting list 2 years long. The government has been trying to gut the Low Income Housing Energy System and the Mortgage relief for over six years as energy prices go up and more people need help for their mortgages because they were laid off.
    Yes, there are people cheating the system. There are fathers working and living in the household. Women who refuse to work a lousy 20 hours a week even though they’re eligible for childcare. Part of that problem is the system refuses to hold them to the regulations because they “make too much noise”. When I worked there, they refused to let us cut down the grant by removing the mother even though she had three times abide by the regulations. They also never followed up with sanctioning the family. Those were decided by the directors and the state government. There’s more to it than in your story.

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