Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Indian Veteran: Focus for India

A Study of a Model Veteran Focus Program for Adoption with Appropriate Modifications to suit the Country

(A Multi-Media Presentation)
November 11th Veterans Day

Veteran's Day

A veteran (from Latin vetus, meaning "old") is a person who is experienced in a particular area, and is particularly used to refer to people in the armed forces. It often refers to retired service personnel. A veteran is one who has served in the armed forces and has an honorable discharge; a common misconception is that one has either been in combat and/or is retired from active duty to be called a veteran.We need one day we remember all those who fought in all the wars starting from World War 1 right upto the insurgency of yesterday and we need to call it Veteran's Day. Veteran means all those who were ever in uniform and those who are in uniform to day. Veteran is an all encompassing word. Many nations within the Commonwealth of Nations observe Remembrance Day on the same date i.e 11 th November. That is the day nation should remember every one who was in uniform ever. That will coincide with the day the free world remebers the veteran. That will be fitting tribute to our major and perhaps the only reckonable war memorial: India Gate.

Built in the memory of more than 90,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the Afghan Wars and World War I, the India Gate is one of the most famous monuments in Delhi.
Built in the memory of more than 90,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the Afghan Wars and World War I, the India Gate is one of the most famous monuments in Delhi
The tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Amar Jawan Jyoti (the flame of the immortal warrior). A black marble cenotaph with a rifle crested by a helmet forms the main shrine.
The tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Amar Jawan Jyoti (the flame of the immortal warrior). A black marble cenotaph with a rifle crested by a helmet forms the main shrine.
The names of the soldiers killed during the wars are inscribed on the walls of the India Gate.
The names of the soldiers killed during the wars are inscribed on the walls of the India Gate.
India Gate by night, the view also shows the grounds around India Gate, February 2006.
India Gate by night, the view also shows the grounds around India Gate, February 2006.

Do we have one Monument of the stature of India Gate built by Independant India in honour of its Veterans after Independance? Is it because the independant India is not as much thankful to them as Her Majesty, the Queen of England was thankful to the services renderd by the Veterans of India? Or is it that the rulers of India that followed after independance were too busy to appreciate this? It is an insult to not only all those who fought for the independant India and all those who made the supreme sacrifice but also to those who are alive today but find no commemoration of their loved ones who made sacrifices for the country. Service at the call of the nation is not just another job or another career but a calling that demands supreme sacrifice when called upon to do so. Very few people who have not made services their calling in some part of their life will ever understand this simple truth. Unfortunately, we have very few representation of such people amongst our law makers and rulers unlike perhaps in those countries where the law makers and rulers had more than its fair share of representation. It is a sad commentry on all those veterans who rose to important positions in the Independant India both within the Armed Forces and out side that they have failed the country and its veterans to bring the focus on its veterans. It is never too late to correct the sad state.

Ministry of Veteran Affairs

We have no single nodal point which will address all the vetran affairs. Can the Service Headqarters fulfill this function? No. They are focussed on solving the security issues of the day. Can the Ministry of Defence do this? No. The recent case of Ministry of Defence deciding to appeal against a Supreme Court Judgement in favour of a veteran speaks volumes. If veterans are provided free legal counsel for their cases as is done in many countries, then M of D will be funding both sides of the case. M of D does not see the irony of this. Bureaucrat deciding to fight the case knows that it does not cost him any thing. M of D says that it will use the tax payers money to block the benefits of a judgement against the government and in favour of veterans and the veteran will use his after tax retirement benefits to pay the lawyers to defend his case against the Mof D. Currently, Veterans are passing the hat around to collect money to fight the appeal by M of D. Obviously, M of D does not represent the interests of the vetereans. We need a full fledged Ministry looking after all the affairs of the veterans. We suffer the consequences of not having one. All free world nations who honour their veterans have such a Ministry headed by a full fledged Minister reporting to the country's Chief Executive directly. This includes UK, Canada, Australia, Newzealand and most importantly United States. The country most indebted to its veterans is the US and they had a full fledged Department of Veteran Affairs for the last 80 years. This Department of Veteran Affairs is headed by a Secretary (equivalent to a Minister in our case) of the same rank as Defense Secretary. The authorities and duties of Secretary VA and the Department of VA are spelled out in the US Code. The same model has been adopted by all the other countries named above. Giving focus to veteran affairs can not come unless the same model is adopted. Ministry of VA could be totally staffed by veterans and non-veterans who compete openly for every position right upto the top as is done in the US DVA. This could be a model Ministry for this lateral induction experiment which is successfully implemented in the United States for the last so many years.

Considering the Department Veteran Affairs USA had the longest learning process in managing Veterean Affairs, we should desirably adopt the organisation agenda for business and benefits of US VA as a model (A Summary of VA Benefits) for our Ministry of Veteran Affairs.

The total lack of interest in and action on war memorials in India will automatically get corrected if a focussed Ministry of Veteran Affairs becomes the single nodal point for all Veteran Affairs directly responsible to the Prime Minister and the Parliament of the Country.


The number of legislation passed in favour of the Veterans in the US is a model worth emulationg and this sort of focus came about in the US because of a very strong Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs overseeing the veteran legislation in the senate. Similar committees in our Parliament with vast powers is the only solution to get the veteran affairs focussed legislation in India.

We need a Veteran History Project under the auspices of the Indian Parliament Library on the lines of the same name under Library of Congress in USA, motivated by the urgent need to collect the stories and anecdotes and passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation. The Veterans History Project relies on volunteers to collect and preserve stories of wartime service. Stories can be told through personal narrative, correspondence, and visual materials
"Our primary focus is on first-hand accounts of U.S. Veterans from all the 20th Century wars" reads the US Veteran History Project Mission.


The model of benefits based on the US model is given below for all appropriate benefits:
In considering the improvements of veterean benefits, a systematic approach with one sigle legislation and appropriation is the solution rather than piece meal award of benefits. (Currently, it a shameful tragedy that some of the veteran benfits in India are awarded from the Defence Minister's Discretionary Funds - typical case of retaining discretion by the well entrenched bureaucracy because the Defence Minister has no time for exercising such discretion!) Title 38 of US code is such a condensation in the form given below.
rwb rule

Health Care Benefits

VA should totally revamp Health Care Benefits to include:
  1. Hospital, outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and prosthetic services
  2. Domiciliary, nursing home, and community-based residential care
  3. Sexual trauma counseling
  4. Specialized health care for women veterans
  5. Health and rehabilitation programs for homeless veterans
  6. Readjustment counseling
  7. Alcohol and drug dependency treatment
  8. Medical evaluation for disorders associated with military service
  9. Combat Veterans - VA will provide combat veterans free medical care for any illness possibly associated with service during a period of hostilityfor two years from the veteran’s release from active duty.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment

VA can help veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare fo, find and keep suitable employment. For veterans with serious service-connected disabilities, VA also offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible. Some of the services VA provides are:
  1. Job Search: Assistance in finding and maintaining suitable employment.
  2. Vocational Evaluation: An evaluation of abilities, skills, interests, and needs.
  3. Career Exploration: Vocational counseling and planning.
  4. Vocational Training: If needed, training such as on-the-job and non-paid work experience.
  5. Education Training: If needed, education training to accomplish the rehabilitation goal.
  6. Rehabilitation Service: Supportive rehabilitation and counseling services.
  7. Time Limits to avail should be 10 to 12 years from the date VA informs you in writing that you have at least a 10% rating for a service-connected disability.

Education & Training

VA pays benefits to eligible veterans, reservists, and active duty service members while they are in an approved education or training program. Based on the type of military service, benefit programs are:
  1. Active Duty Service: Persons who first entered active duty after June 30, 1985, are generally eligible under the Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30). Those who entered active duty for the first time after December 31, 1976, and before July 1, 1985, are generally eligible under the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP).
  2. Reserve/Guard Service: Benefits are available to Reserve and National Guard members under [a] the Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 1606) who signed a six-year commitment with a reserve unit after June 30, 1985, and remain actively drilling and in good standing with their unit, and [b] the Reserve Education Assistance Program (Chapter 1607) who were activated under Federal authority for a contingency operation and served 90 continuous days or more after September 11, 2001.
Time Limits: Generally, veterans have 10 years from the date they were last released from active duty to use their education and training benefits, and Reserve and National Guard members have 14 years from the date they became eligible for the program unless they leave the Selected Reserves before completing their obligation.

Home Loans

VA offers a number of home loan services to eligible veterans, some military personnel, and certain surviving spouses.
  1. Guaranteed Loans: VA can guarantee part of a loan from a private lender to help you buy a home, a manufactured home, a lot for a manufactured home, or certain types of condominiums. VA also guarantees loans for building, repairing, and improving homes.
  2. Refinancing Loans: If you have a VA mortgage, VA can help you refinance your loan at a lower interest rate. You may also refinance a non-VA loan.
  3. Special Grants: Certain disabled veterans and military personnel can receive grants to adapt or acquire housing suitable for their needs.
  4. Time Limits: There is no time limit for a VA home loan.

Life Insurance

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is low-cost term life insurance for service members and reservists. Coverage of up to $400,000 begins when you enter the service. Generally, it expires 120 days after you leave the service.
Traumatic SGLI is automatically included in SGLI and provides for payment up to $100,000 for servicemembers who lose limbs or incur other serious injuries.
Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) is renewable term life insurance for veterans who want to convert their SGLI up to an amount not to exceed the coverage you had when you separated from service. You must apply within one year from separation from service.
Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance, also called "RH" Insurance, is for service-connected veterans. Coverage is $10,000. You may be eligible for a $20,000 supplemental policy if you are totally disabled. You must apply for RH within two years of being rated service connected by VA

Dependents & Survivors

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is payable to certain survivors of:
  1. Servicemembers who died on active duty
  2. Veterans who died from service-related disabilities
  3. Certain veterans who were being paid 100% VA disability compensation at time of death.
Death Pension is payable to some surviving spouses and children of deceased wartime veterans.
Parents’ DIC is payable to some surviving parents.
VA Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) shares the cost of medical services for eligible dependents and survivors of certain veterans.
Dependents & Survivors Education & Training: Some family members of disabled or deceased veterans are eligible for education and training benefits.
Home Loans: Certain surviving spouses may be eligible for this benefit.
Time Limits: For education and training benefits, spouses and surviving spouses have 10 years from the date VA first finds them eligible, and surviving spouses of servicemembers who died while on active duty have 20 years. Children are eligible from age 18 to 26. These time limits can sometimes be extended. There are no time limits to apply for the other benefits described above.

Burial/ Cremation

VA offers certain benefits and services to honor our Nation's deceased veterans.
  1. Headstones and Markers: VA can furnish a monument to mark the unmarked grave of an eligible veteran.
  2. Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC): VA can provide a PMC for eligible recipients.
  3. Burial Flag: VA can provide an American flag to drape an eligible veteran's casket.
  4. Reimbursement of Burial Expenses: Generally, VA can pay a burial allowance of $2,000 for veterans who die of service-related causes. For certain other veterans, VA can pay $300 for burial and funeral expenses and $300 for a burial plot.
  5. Burial in a VA National Cemetery: Most veterans and some dependents can be buried in a VA national cemetery.
Time Limits: There is no time limit to claim reimbursement of burial expenses for a service-related death. In other cases, claims must be filed within two years of the veteran's burial.
This is how US honours its veteans: "A Sacred Trust: The Story of the National Cemetery Administration" .

The video is intended for those with high speed connections.

A Sacred Trust: In Honor of All Veterans

We Will Rember Them

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the gun below."

John McCrae


Lest we Forget

The Soldier

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier,
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag.

By Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

Visit our memory pages to leave a memory, message or just a story of you and your colleagues. Let family members husbands, wives sons and daughters see the memories you have left for their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters so they know they will never be forgotten.


Anonymous K Jani said...

Excellent compilation. Kudos to the author for bringing out the importance and urgency of a 'Veterans Affairs' Ministry in India. Sadly, the Politicians, Bureaucrats and the Industrialists have distanced themselves from the Armed Forces due to some reason or the other. The main reasons being their inferiority complex and a sense of insecurity in front of the person in Uniform. The Nation has failed to recognize their Armed Forces.

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Brig VA Subramanyam said...

An excellent case well compiled covering almost all aspects. The pity in India, as KP has pointed out is that the civilians – politicians and bureaucrats – have a mistaken notion – also fuelled by the defence services – that civilian rule as opposed to a military rule implies that the uniformed services are subservient to the civilians. This had caused the MoD that exists in India to act as a super Defence Services Headquarters. All departments of the Services Headquarters have to ‘report’ through the similar department in the MoD to the GoI. And the notings of a lowly official (civilian) sitting in the comforts of the capital quite often over rules practicalities prevailing in the field.
This is very aptly brought out by Brig JP Dalvi in his excellent book – ‘The Himalayan Blunder’. I shall give a few examples here of what he has written, which are relevant even today.

On yet another occasion when asked for money to buy the minimum requirements of the Army, Nehru is reported to have held the view that ... the Army High Command were making a military miscalculation. This view was belied when we presented our shopping list to the Anglo-American Military Missions which flew to our rescue after the Chinese invasion. The American `Time' magazine put it aptly. The paper wrote: "The Indian Army needs almost everything except courage."

Changes and transfers were frequent as the Indian Civil Service brains evolved schemes to expand and multiply into a plethora of ministries and directorates. Congress ministers, still recovering from the glamour of their new positions of power and privilege were not able to provide any purposeful political leadership, it would have been unfair to expect them to master the intricacies of the Government machine in a few months.
The Ministry of Defence gradually duplicated Army HQs: started their own filing system ... The Indian's love of power without responsibility was given full rein.
The Ministry eventually became a super military HQ, and their "approval" to everything except the times for reveille and retreat was required. They took "decisions" or accorded "sanctions" on every conceivable occasion.
Both the politician and the civil servant found it convenient to keep the soldier in his place, and devise a system whereby the Army was always asking, begging, pleading and justifying.

. Financial officials enjoy their extraordinary discretionary powers partly due to our out-moded, colonial financial and audit control system. Under our fiscal policy, funds are allotted for a year at a time and they automatically lapse on the 31st of March each year. If Finance hindered and blocked proposals, then they saved all the lapsed funds. This was treated as an achievement on the part of the official who had saved the tax-payer and a favourable note made in his dossier.
...Every minor expenditure requires financial "approval." Financial experts are positioned at all levels, and this sort of scrutiny goes on down to the humble Engineer Officer who tries to put up a hutment - he has to "justify" his expert engineering specifications.
If a service recommends a saving at one point, to find the money to introduce a new idea, the saving is gratefully snatched but the new idea is squashed. If the Army recommends a change in organisation, it is asked why the French Army has not got what we are asking for. The explanation that the French Army is not deployed in the Himalayas sometimes makes Finance relent and other times is not considered sufficient. When we ask for something and say that the British Army has it, we are told that as a poor country we cannot afford everything that the British Army has! The same arguments are used to deny changes and improvements

Some of his civil advisers became "defence experts" and military tacticians as a result of sitting in on discussions about handling border disputes. They became experts in moving infantry platoons and companies. When a military argument was adduced to suggest a different course, they would use the solid sledge-hammer of "political necessity" or "Government has decided," to force the Army to be embroiled at a disadvantage... The natural sense of duty and discipline of the officer corps was mistaken for servility and weakness. For politicians who had spent the best part of their lives in humble circumstances and even obscurity, political supremacy was a heady wine.

God willing, let us pray and hope that change does occur and a Ministry of VA is established soonest in India.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Aman Bandvi said...

A very nice idea and an effective one at that, if implemented. This thought of a ' Veterans Ministry ' should have been in force by now.

We shall chip in and mobilise support and publicise this thought in the best manner possible..

Thanks & Warm Regards,

Aman Bandvi
Chief Executive Officer


Corporate Office : N 24 A, IInd Floor, Green Park Extension, New Delhi, India.
Phones: 011 - 2617 3704, 2617 3700.
Tele Fax : 011 - 2617 3703

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12:38 PM  
Blogger CPC Nath said...

We welcome all types of comments, postive, negative and even highly critical. Comments will NOT appear immediately but you will have wait for some time. Return later to look at your comments on the posting.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a brilliant effort! In spite of his busy schedule, Nath has created this blog, comprehensively covering a lot of details.
I have forwarded the same to the COAS, Gen JJ Singh, through his Dad, who is a colleague of mine.
I sincerely hope that the Defence Minister will actively progress this case.

Lt Gen(Retd) LM Rajgopal.

1:04 PM  

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