Paying for bad sex

The nation’s veterans disability system is severely strained and it could be strained to the point of collapse when 700,000 returning Iraq and Afghanistan war vets begin applying for help.

It is dismaying then to learn that since Congress generously relaxed the rules in 1972 veterans, often of only short-term service, are receiving lifetime benefits of $100 a month or more for sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis and genital herpes — even if they became infected on their own time, decades ago and for conduct that was often illicit.

Reporter Lisa Hoffman of Scripps Howard News Service found a South Carolina vet who served from 1955 to 1958 and caught gonorrhea about 10 times during and after his service and 47 years later was awarded $200 a month for life for gonorrhea-caused arthritis in his knee.

The Department of Veterans Affairs either doesn’t know or won’t say how many vets are receiving disability benefits for venereal disease but Hoffman estimates that collectively they have received millions of dollars– and it’s legal. Close to 20 sexually transmitted or related conditions are compensable with VA benefits.

Congress loosened restrictions on venereal disease to encourage returning Vietnam vets to seek treatment but since then, Hoffman writes, the system “has evolved into a more generous one that does not require vets with VD or any other medical condition to demonstrate how their ailment has hurt their earning power in order to receive monthly checks,” only that their condition began while they were in military service or was aggravated by it.

Veterans groups argue rightly that the issue of questionable benefits pales next to the trouble many vets have in getting benefits clearly due to them. But public confidence in the fairness of the system, the assurance that the money is going to those who genuinely need it, is vital to the kind of support the disability system is going to require.

The Veterans Disability Benefits Commission, whose report on disability reform is due out in September, should consider whether it is fair to compensate veterans for ailments that, as Hoffman writes, don’t affect their ability to work, or are treatable, or carry only tangential connection to military service.



  1. Sandy Price

    It was a constant worry when our kids and relatives were in Vietnam and their R & R time spent in many Asian cities. Am I to understand that our Vets are not receiving innoculations at this time? Do they not have the proper medications when they do visit those famous prostitution brothels? How many will be coming home with AIDs and inflicting the family members here at home?

    What the hell is our government doing? I cannot finds fault with our vets who have volunteered to do their duty on the battlefield, but they are men! How many American babies will be left in Iraq when they do return home? Americans are supposed to be civilized but under wartime conditions we are simply human beings.

  2. Cashel Boylo

    Out of first hand reports of the horrors of the sufferings of Imperial Japan’s “Comfort Women,” we have pictures like this:–
    “500 or 600 American soldiers standing in line on the street,” Seiichi Kaburagi, the chief of public relations for the RAA, wrote in a 1972 memoir. He said American MPs were barely able to keep the troops under control.
    “Charge for a short session with a prostitute was 15 yen, or about a dollar, roughly the cost of half a pack of cigarettes.”
    By the end of 1945, about 350,000 U.S. troops were occupying Japan. At its peak, Kaburagi wrote, the RAA employed 70,000 prostitutes to serve them.
    MacArthur’s Occupation HQ organized the brothels for American troops.
    However, disclosure of the brothels threatened to embarrass the occupation forces back in the U.S. On March 25, 1946, MacArthur placed all brothels, comfort stations and other places of prostitution off limits.
    By that time, Tanaka says, more than a quarter of all American GIs in the occupation forces had a sexually transmitted disease.
    Presumably, Rumsfeld and Rice have organized similar “comfort” facilities for the U.S. troops in Iraq.
    Presumably, about one quarter of all of them now have a sexually transmitted disease and are presently re-transmitting it throughout the general American population.
    Consider a quarter of all the troops who have served in Iraq and are now back in the States.

    Cashel Boylo