The public pension funding crisis continues looming over the heads of tax-weary Pennsylvanians. School tax reform remains a pipe dream. But, by gum, we love our veterans.
Yes, the Pennsylvania Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett value this select group so highly that they recently granted vets special identification on their driver’s license. The governor, a National Guard veteran, received the very first newly marked license, basking in the warmth politicians feel when they have done something nice for veterans.
He said the licenses won’t cost more and will help vets receive the recognition they deserve.
The change was both unnecessary and ill-advised. Veterans don’t need their driver’s license to assure that they served; they have a veteran ID that does that. It’s not likely to give them faster access to social and legal programs designed for those who served, an argument supporters also forwarded.
But it’s likely to invite abuse and unequal treatment. Say a veteran commits a traffic violation and is pulled over. It’s very possible that a cop, looking at the license, might be inclined to give an offender a pass. It might even embolden a veteran to suggest such a pass.
Whoops. The example of U.S. Army veteran Timothy Flaherty, in Pike County, should disabuse just about anyone of the foolhardiness of that gesture. Flaherty is a serial DUI offender, yet was furloughed from his prison sentence based on questionable claims of battlefield heroism. Judge Joseph Kameen granted Flaherty several furloughs despite repeated requests from the District Attorney’s Office that he should remain behind bars.
Flaherty ended up in an outpatient treatment program he technically wasn’t eligible for, then on Jan. 27 was charged with introducing alcoholic beverages onto VA property. Only then did he go back to jail.
Veterans served their country. For that we are grateful, and we owe them the proper delivery of medical care, education and any other services to which they are entitled. Like anyone else, they are entitled to legislators who focus on real, significant problems, such as school tax reform or the pension funding shortfall.
Veterans are not entitled, however, to special treatment, or to exemptions from rules that are meant to apply to everyone equally under the law.
Sadly, giving veterans or any other interest group a special ID on the license amounts to little more than pandering, and makes such abuses a virtual certainty.