Veterans Fund: A Moral Obligation?

July 20th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

Should Americans to pay a debt to veterans of foreign wars?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Most Americans believe they owe a debt of gratitude to the veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but three affluent families are contending that if your family has eligible children who have not served, then you literally owe a debt to those who have. And the wealthier you are, the more you should pay.

The new Veterans Support Fund, as reported by the Associated Press, was created by Philip Green, president of PDG Consulting, and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs, head of geriatrics at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington. They have teamed with two other couples – Glenn Garland, head of Texas energy consultancy CLEAResult, and his wife, Laurie; and CLEAResult’s executive vice president Jim Stimmel and his wife, Patty. With a fundraising goal of $30 million, they have donated $1.1 million to five organizations that provide medical and financial help to veterans, active-duty troops and their families.

Green told AP that he and his wife came to see it as unfair that their three “able-bodied, wonderful, wonderful children” were lucky enough not to have had to serve while “there were parents just like me down the street, down the block…who did not have that luxury.”

The issue of unequal national sacrifice has been a recurring theme during current and past conflicts, and it always touches on two questions: Who serves in America and who doesn't? What's the responsibility of those who don't?

According to the Pentagon, our armed forces mirror the society they defend, in that racial and ethnic groups make up approximately the same percentage of the military as they do the general population. Beth Asch, a senior economist at RAND Corporation, claims that the major difference is that the 20 percent with the lowest income in society are the least likely to serve – often unqualified due to lower education and aptitude ratings. Equally rare, however, are recruits from areas where the average household income exceeds $100,000. The goal of the new Veterans Support Fund is to get these families to “do their duty” by contributing to the fund.

At the heart of the matter, according to a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article, is the fact that many charities that serve veterans are hobbled by lack of funds. The Veterans Support Fund intends to fill that hole by making people see donations to veterans’ funds as more of a moral obligation than just a charitable act. As Stimmel says, “Supporting our troops is more than sticking a yellow sticker on the back of your car that says ‘Support the Troops.’”

Do you have children in the military – or eligible kids who don’t serve? Do families whose kids don’t serve have a moral obligation to contribute to veteran support funds?