This is how it worked in the early 1970’s, as the Vietnam era was winding down.
This is how it works now:
Soldiers (and congressmen) get health care while on duty.
When they leave the service, their health care ends, unless they can find a means to pay for it.
Most soldiers who can afford to pay for health care all their careers are the Lifers. They get health care and pensions after their service, unlike the soldiers who serve only one hitch.
To get health care after being wounded in a war, a soldier must be very badly wounded. Those who aren’t outright cripples — or are just mentally damaged — have to find a way to make it on their own. A lot of Vietnam vets ended up on the streets, lost in the crowd of ignored and despised Homeless.
Today, there is no draft. Combat soldiers cycle repeatedly until they are killed or crippled. This is not because most of the young people in the country have “no sense of duty.” It is simply because they are conducting a silent anti-war march. If you support the war, join up and go. If you don’t, well, don’t. Wars are about keeping and holding territories and resources, with the tools of killing and dying. Period.
The career soldiers don’t care about the short-hitch people. They care more about making rank, and the best way to make rank is during a war. It’s all good for their careers. I made sergeant in 19 months because a sergeant was needed in my position — and I was just a dumb-kid stateside teletype operator. There were no bodies to do my job but me, because the Grunts were getting killed off so fast.
Many Lifers are what were called REMF’s — the first two letters mean “Rear Echelon.” The second two: guess. They survive, for years. The combat troops don’t.
If this appalls you, make sure everybody gets health care. Then all soldiers will have health care, too.