This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.
In 1729, my spirit guide, Dr. Jonathan Swift, penned “A Modest Proposal” to the people of England to solve their widespread poverty problems. Tragically, his thoughtful suggestion to sell Irish babies to the aristocracy as food has been widely ridiculed as some sort of joke, even to this day. SMH.
In honor of Dr. Swift’s 351st birthday, I would like to try to salvage his legacy as an innovator with a bold proposal to solve one of the biggest problems facing the U.S. military today: misbehaving veterans. Every day it seems veterans are becoming more and more of a menace to society. The President even sounded the alarm after the latest veteran mass murderer killed 12 people in Thousand Oaks, California. When they are not killing people, they are scamming thousands of people out of their hard earned money! And if they are not a threat to others, they are a threat to themselves. On average, 20 veterans a day commit suicide, bringing undesirable scrutiny on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Administration (VA).
Introducing the Retroactive Immediate Dishonorable Discharge (R.I.D.D.)
The R.I.D.D. program fundamentally changes the equation for veterans’ affairs in the United States. When veterans commit an act of misconduct, as determined by the DoD Public Affairs Office, they immediately will receive a dishonorable discharge, retroactive to their last day of honorable active service. In addition, service members discharged under the R.I.D.D. program no longer will be considered veterans—alleviating the need to include them in inconvenient statistics. For example, by enacting R.I.D.D., the veteran suicide rate will drop to zero percent overnight.
Precedent exists for R.I.D.D. From 2007 to 2012, an intrepid team of psychiatrists reversed 40 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses at Madigan Army Medical Center in an attempt to save taxpayers the immense cost of treating veterans with PTSD, which they documented at $1.5 million per soldier. Imagine the savings they could have provided if they had taken this program force-wide. Even academia seems to be getting on board. In November 2016, Yale removed a depressed student from campus over concerns she may commit suicide and bring unhelpful media attention to the school’s high suicide rate. Brilliant. Most recently, the Commandant of the Marine Corps signaled his support for this type of program by labeling the Thousand Oaks shooter as an “ex-Marine,” effectively excommunicating him from the Corps. Under the R.I.D.D. program, this person in fact would no longer be a Marine, or even a veteran, and therefore no longer a concern for DoD and the VA.
And let’s not forget the ingenious “secret waiting lists” of the VA. First reported in 2014, this creative approach enabled the VA to meet strict timeline requirements for providing medical care to veterans. Undeterred by prying media and congressional investigations, the VA continued to employ secret waiting lists as recently as 2017 to alleviate the strain on overworked physicians and bureaucrats. This is exactly the kind of relentless innovation upon which the R.I.D.D. program aims to expand.
Critics no doubt will dismiss a bold initiative such as R.I.D.D. in favor of more traditional approaches. They will claim that more funding should be allocated to veterans’ wellness programs to provide preventative mental health care and research into next-generation medical treatments for PTSD. They will argue that DoD and the VA need to be logically integrated to provide veterans a smooth transition from active service to civilian life. They might even have you believe that 17 years of war takes its toll on an all-volunteer force. Do not listen to these haters! A modest proposal such as Dr. Swift’s made sense back in his time. Today, a bolder proposal is appropriate. Aggressive, innovative action is required to address misbehaving veterans. Get R.I.D.D. of them!