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COVID-19 Stimulus Checks a Joke?

COVID-19 stimulus checks, round two. Is $600 for each qualified person enough, or is it a joke to veterans and our families?

Initially, the Treasury Department assured us: “The CARES Act provides for Economic Impact Payments to American households of up to $1,200 per adult for individuals whose income was less than $99,000 (or $198,000 for joint filers) and $500 per child under 17 years old, or up to $3,400 for a family of four.”

Since the first round of $1,200 economic relief checks were released starting in March 2020, veterans and families have quietly questioned the efficacy of this historic government program, mostly because many are still broke or destitute, with no relief in sight.

No veteran or family member I spoke with would go on record, for fear of losing their VA benefits and other government assistance.

That in itself is telling: in this current toxic atmosphere where whistleblowers are persecuted and even thrown in prison for speaking out against the US government, even America’s badass combat veterans are reluctant to voice their opposition.

How’s that even possible?

A nation of supreme tough guys and badasses—men and women—who fought for our liberty on battlefields afar and delivered crushing blows to many an enemy are afraid to speak their mind to their own elected officials.

In generations past, veterans had no compunction whatsoever about punching ol’ Uncle Sam in the kisser, because they almost always got positive results and were encouraged to “make things better for all,” as one WWII general put it.

I’m sad to report, though, this COVID-19 crisis has shaken veterans to the point of anxiety, fear and apathy.

Anxiety: COVID-19 is another reason many veterans use to kill themselves. We lose nearly thirty of our beloved veterans every single day. And since the US government is classifying every death as a “COVID death,” each of these daily suicides are now attributed directly to COVID-19.

Fear: Reading and watching soul-killing news about reprisals against those who voice opposition to government actions. There is no longer any incentive for a veteran to speak out against government programs and actions, because veterans who voiced opposition have been systemically silenced and, in some cases, their benefits removed. What veteran in his right mind wouldn’t fear that level of suppression and retaliation from an institution with a proven track record of censoring its own citizens?

Apathy: Discovering that veterans’ voices are ignored has driven many vets underground, where they refuse to participate in their own communities and basically drop out of life. Some of these veterans turn to drinkin and druggin, and ultimately end up dead by suicide or otherwise.

If the first round of relief checks was disheartening, the second round is an absolute joke to veterans, and has caused them to lose interest and faith in our political process.

Members of Congress and their colleagues in government and the private sector have never been wealthier in the history of this country, due to the largest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history, yet many continually vote against bills that would aid veterans and their families.

And, at the same time, the Middle Class and our poor have never been worse off, and that includes The Great Depression from 1929 to 1939. The Middle Class has been shrinking at an alarming rate since 9/11, with many falling into the abyss that houses America’s poor.

This current crisis, while worse than any previous economic disaster, has been mislabeled The Great Recession. Those of us veterans in the trenches know better, and we’re not accepting such a soft and inaccurate title.

We’re calling it what it really is, The Worst Depression in America’s History.

This “depression” transcends the very concept of economics: “the branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption and distribution of wealth.”

It’s much deeper than mere wealth, which is only enjoyed in the upper Middle Class and above. Our depression is mental, psychological, neurochemical. And it’s causing an avalanche of health issues throughout our entire population, not just veterans. Suicides in America are at an all-time high, and are all being reported as COVID-19 deaths.

What’s worst of all, though, is our own government giving out relief checks that amount to little more than a pin-prick, a month’s grocery bill for most. How many people who receive these checks actually feel even more depressed, knowing this tidbit of “relief” will not be seen again?

If we actually considered the real cost of relief checks and what the next generation will be paying in about ten years, we probably would not accept any checks at all. After all, they don’t add much to our bank accounts and only serve as a cruel teaser.

Now, if the government were to offer, say, $2,500 checks each month for the next two years to qualifying Americans, that may carry us through this “pandemic.” All other “stimulus checks” are chump change to veterans, a mere carrot on a long stick that seems to get longer with each passing year, its carrot shrinking in the distance.

The veterans who shared their experiences with me all said pretty much the same: Seriously? Is this supposed to be a practical joke on Americans? If so, what’s the punchline? Certainly not the $600 check itself.

No, it goes deeper than that. I suspect it’s something like, “If you idiots are willing to accept the meager bone we are tossing you today, then you will surely accept even less tomorrow.”

Many of America’s active-duty personnel are also employed outside their respective service, because Uncle Sam simply doesn’t pay them enough. And it’s worse for veterans, especially those who cannot work a second job, let alone a primary one.

It appears that the desk jockeys and bean counters in Congress and at the VA go out of their way to keep America’s veterans hungry. They give us just enough to barely get by, but not so little that we complain every day. If Congress continues treating veterans and active-duty personnel like dirt, they just may have a mutiny on their hands.

One veteran told me that he actually returned his first $1,200 stimulus check to the IRS. And when they wrote him a letter to confirm the return, he told them to shove it and that he was turning in his US passport and moving to Australia, to be with his daughter and son-in-law.

When I asked other veterans if they’d consider giving up their passport and moving outta the country, four of them said they’re gonna wait and see how this next president handles things. And if things aren’t any better by the end of 2021, they’ll probably hit the Pan American Highway to Mexico, Peru, Panama or Colombia. The cost of living in those countries is staggeringly low, compared to life in the US. The booze, drugs and entertainment are embarrassingly cheap, too.

Bottom line: If veterans remain silent, that punchline will become a reality, and countries south of the border will see a steady increase in their immigrant populations.

AUTHOR: Bo Riley reports on issues of interest to veterans and active-duty personnel. He’s a former Army Ranger with the 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and lives in the Tampa Bay area.