Indeed, Wounding Warriors: How Bad Policy Is Making Veterans Sicker and Poorer is a transformational effort of research into the Department of Veterans Affairs and the US military.
Authors Daniel Gade — retired US Army lieutenant colonel, professor, public policy leader, and former US Senate candidate from Virginia — and former Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Huang interviewed dozens of veterans who saw the perverse structure of incentives within the VA from the inside. The authors also combed through years of literature and compiled a wealth of data that demonstrates beyond all reasonable doubt that our system of caring for veterans, post-military, is broken.
As former US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in his review of the book, it is “an unflinching appraisal” of how the Department of Veterans Affairs rewards disingenuity and dishonesty. Wounding Warriors, however, does more than identify flaws in how veterans are cared for after their time in service is up. It also outlines solutions that would move veterans to take a healthy approach to post-military life.
Wounding Warriors is a must-read for veterans, their families, and anyone who has felt subjected to a corrupt system of bad incentives.
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About the Author
After retiring from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2017, he accepted a political appointment as a Senior Advisor at the US Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS). In 2019, he ran unsuccessfully for United States Senate in Virginia, but garnered more votes than any Republican candidate in Virginia history.
Daniel’s military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, the Combat Action Badge, Ranger Tab, Presidential Service Badge, and both Airborne and Air Assault wings. He and his family reside in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Daniel Huang is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. A graduate of New York University, he previously worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered finance and veterans issues. Since 2016, Dan has lived and reported from across Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. He has primarily covered international affairs, ranging from the elections in Afghanistan to Chinese history and politics. His writing has been published in Foreign Affairs, Guernica, Pacific Standard, and The New Republic.
Wounding Warriors expands upon a series of articles Daniel wrote from 2014 to 2016 on fraud and abuses at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. His coverage culminated in a front-page exposé detailing how the dramatic rise in disability claims has overwhelmed important assessment and control tools at the V.A. Dan's work on the myriad dysfunctions within the veterans disability systems for both The Wall Street Journal and on this book has incorporated wide-ranging firsthand testimonies and research from 60-plus sources, spanning current and former V.A. staffers, policymakers, academics, and crucially, veterans themselves.
Table of Contents
Part I Service
Chapter 1 The Volunteer Army 10
Chapter 2 Indoctrination 25
Chapter 3 After the Peak 45
Chapter 4 Warriors in Transition 61
Chapter 5 Able-Unable 76
Chapter 6 You Can Get Paid for These things 91
Chapter 7 Kabuki Theater 104
Chapter 8 Burkett Syndrome 121
Chapter 9 Paid Trauma 149
Chapter 10 Magic 8-Ball 164
Chapter 11 100 Combat Vets 182
Chapter 12 Permanent Disorder 194
Chapter 13 Science Versus Advocacy 214
Chapter 14 Collusion 226
Part III Home
Chapter 15 Lost Tribe 250
Chapter 16 I Deserve It 259
Chapter 17 Drifting Apart 273
Chapter 18 Out of the Nest 291
Chapter 19 Good and Faithful Servant 309
What People are Saying About This
“This revelatory, lens-changing book shows why our VA, though staffed by devoted and capable medical professionals, must change. Institutions get the behavior they reward. Seen through the experience of a clear-eyed, seriously wounded warrior, the current system’s design and application guides vets coming in with no intent of becoming wards of the state into that very situation. Those with serious problems are submerged in a sea of others who are rewarded for staying in an unimproved situation. In Wounding Warriors, Daniel Gade has made an unflinching appraisal and charted a refreshing path forward for making the VA best in class. A must-read for those committed to caring for our veterans who have borne the battle.”
-General (ret.) Jim Mattis, US Marine Corps (Ret), Former US Secretary of Defense
"As a US Army veteran and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, I find this book to be a breath of fresh air. In Wounding Warriors, Daniel Gade, himself a wounded warrior, dissects and critiques some of the serious issues that beset our nation's worthy attempts to care for our wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. His credibility is ironclad and his argument is stunning: in attempting to care for veterans, our disability system creates incentives that make them sicker, poorer, and worse off. This is a must-read for policy makers and anyone involved in care for veterans, as well as for veterans and their families."
-Jim Nicholson, 5th Secretary of Veterans Affairs
"Daniel Gade's real education came after losing his leg fighting in Iraq. The most disturbing lesson paradoxically came from the agency that was supposed to help put him back together. What Gade discovered both through his own experiences and extensive research of others’ is this: rather than assisting warriors in returning to productive lives, the Veterans Administration encourages fraud and rewards indolence, further marginalizing these men and women and robbing the nation of their potentially robust contributions and continued service post-war. These meticulously researched findings set to compelling human narratives won't make Gade very popular. But they represent the brave effort and convincing factual evidence necessary for the hard work of systemic change when the system is broken."
-Kevin Sites, author of Swimming with Warlords
“America’s veterans, including the most seriously wounded, ill, and injured, have become the latest battleground in a long-standing political war. The political left and right both trip over themselves to ‘honor veterans,’ not ever considering that their efforts may be misguided or even harmful to those they aim to help. In this bold, groundbreaking new book, Daniel Gade exposes flaws in the disability system that make America’s veterans poorer and sicker. This book will be controversial, and it should be read by anyone who seeks to understand the veteran landscape in America.”
-Col (Ret.) Jack Jacobs, US Army, Medal of Honor Recipient and Author of If Not Now, When? Duty and Sacrifice In America's Time of Need and Basic: Surviving Boot Camp and Basic Training
“[Wounding Warriors shows that] the current system promotes waste and abuse not only of VA disability payments but of unnecessary medical appointments. It would almost be better to give soldiers a piece of paper that asks, "Are you willing to lie, cheat, and/or steal to receive 100 percent disability?" and if they check yes, just give them 100 percent because it will free up waste from unnecessary imaging, behavioral health, sleep studies, etc.”
-MAJ [Name Withheld], PT, DPT, MHA, MBA; US Army
“[Wounding Warriors] makes a compelling case for reform. Lincoln’s immortal words in his second inaugural address, “To care for him who has borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan” have served as a beacon, but today are shrouded in fog. It is time to bring the disability compensation program into the twenty-first century and not the century gone by. Reform is never easy, but veterans who have suffered the physical and mental wounds of war, their dependents, and the American people who support this critically important program deserve no less.”
-Anthony Principi, 4th Secretary of Veterans Affairs
“A vitally important book, written by someone uniquely qualified to tell the story. Reaching all the way back to the post-World War II era (when five-star General Omar Bradley — one of the great leaders of that war — led a commission that identified the "perverse incentive structure" that continues in our current VA disability system), this book shows us how ‘the path of care and compensation’ has led to a ‘quagmire of despair and dysfunction.’
“Astoundingly well documented, with a clarion call for action and clear-cut recommendations, Wounding Warriors shows us the road home from dysfunction and despair. This book can transform the way we care for our veterans, from the current methodology that has done great harm, to policies that will give our veterans the care they deserve.
If our nation sincerely cares about our veterans, we will read and heed this book.”
-Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Combat, On Killing, and On Spiritual Combat
“I found myself re-reading parts of this book as they strike so deep. [The authors captured] the reality of soldiering as well as anything I’ve read. This book accurately describes a broken and spectacularly failing VA system, and will make plenty of people squeamish. Between popular culture, wishful thinking, and an untamable bureaucracy, I’m afraid that the only real solution is to blow the whole system up and start over.”
-Matt Eversmann, Army Ranger (Ret.) and Author of The Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts from the Men of Task Force Ranger
“Gade and Huang provide crucial context to understanding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies and practices of determining disability ratings. The authors’ research and experience tell of a deeply flawed system that incentivizes veterans to ‘claim everything.’ Perhaps even more concerning is the negative effect the process has on healing and rehabilitation of veterans who often chose financial compensation over recovery.
“The authors masterfully describe the challenges associated with implementing change in this government bureaucracy. Wounding Warriors deftly uncovers the current situation within the VA and the history that led to this point. This story should infuriate every veteran for the rampant malingering among our own warrior class and every American citizen that funds these benefits through taxation. If Wounding Warriors doesn’t result in a demand for congressional reform of this well-intentioned but grossly off-track institution, then perhaps nothing ever will.”
-Lt. Col Wayne Phelps, USMC (Ret.) and author of On Killing Remotely: The Psychology of Killing with Drones
"Few people know this issue as well as Daniel Gade, informed by his experience in Washington and on the frontlines. Gade's thorough examination of the VA, from its poorly designed incentive structure to its record of waste and lack of accountability, is a serious indictment that should have American taxpayers demanding reform. In an era when veterans’ entitlements are treated as an untouchable third rail of politics, Gade's book is a profile in courage."
-Paul D. MIller, PhD. Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and author of Just War and Ordered Liberty; American Power and Liberal Order; and more.
“Daniel Gade was wounded in combat twice and has spent the last fifteen years fighting against the bad policies he saw crippling his fellow veterans. Too often, our wounded warriors have to fight through a system that prematurely labels them ‘disabled’ without ever making an attempt to help them adapt to their new lives. The system thrives on dependency and creates bad outcomes, making our veterans poorer and sicker. He brings his hard-earned expertise to bear in this vital guide to fixing our broken systems.”
-Jim Hanson, Special Forces Veteran and President of Security Studies Group; Author of Winning the Second Civil War: Without Firing a Shot
"My friend Daniel Gade is a gravely wounded American war hero and a scholar. In this book, he proffers an antidote for the terrible problem of wounded veterans being treated as broken toys rather than potentially valuable members of our communities. Treating severely wounded veterans as irreparably broken contributes to a catastrophic veteran suicide crisis. We The People can solve this problem. Herein, Daniel Gade describes a broken system and solution for reform."
-Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, USMC (Ret.); CEO Fidelis Publishing.Com
“As a veteran Marine and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I’ve seen some of the problems described in these pages close up. Unfortunately, most people in political life don’t have the courage to do what Daniel Gade and Daniel Huang have done here: shine a bright light on a system that in many cases creates disincentives for veterans to recuperate and thrive. In some cases, the current system can also encourage distortion of honorable service into a way of seeking financial gain. With its clear call for significant reform, Wounding Warriors charts a path toward a system that better promotes wellness and treats veterans like the valuable assets that they are.”
-The Honorable Jim Byrne, 8th Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
“Daniel Gade not only issues a siren call to rethink how we care for veterans, but to reclaim the dignity lost when we let adversity define identity. By refusing to be a victim to his own battle wounds, Gade has proven that arming people with personal agency, rather than casting them into a mass victim class, is critical to helping those who’ve sacrificed for their country move on to create meaningful civilian lives.”
-Margie Warrell, PhD; Leadership Speaker and Bestselling Author of Find Your Courage and Train The Brave
“Fascinating read. Daniel Gade outlines the current status of the VA, how it fosters a state of dependency, and why VA reform must become a priority for the health and well-being of our veterans. This compelling book takes a behind-the-scenes look into the institution that was created to help veterans, the problems plaguing it today, and solutions to get it back on track to help those who served. Veterans need to read this; politicians need to read this; anyone who cares about veterans and service members needs to read this.”
-Amber Smith, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Author of Danger Close: My Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan
“A long overdue clarion call! Wounding Warriors calls for a much-needed paradigm shift away from victim to victor and highlights how our flawed system keeps veterans trapped in the former and often fails to elevate them to the latter. Daniel Gade himself is emblematic of this transformation and leverages his own experience as a severely wounded combat veteran to showcase the danger of our current orthodoxy. Gade and Huang don't just call attention to the problems; they come armed with solutions. Policy-makers should take heed that while our VA is mostly staffed by passionate and competent medical professionals, its underpinnings are in desperate need of reform.”
-Meaghan Mobbs, PhD. Former Army officer and Clinical Psychologist
"As a US Army veteran and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, I find this book to be a breath of fresh air. In Wounding Warriors, Daniel Gade, himself a seriously wounded warrior, dissects and critiques some of the serious issues that beset our nation's worthy attempts to care for our wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. His credibility is ironclad and his argument is stunning: in attempting to care for veterans, our disability system creates incentives that make them sicker, poorer, and worse off. This is a must-read for policy makers and anyone involved in care for veterans, as well as for veterans and their families."
-Jim Nicholson, 5th Secretary of Veterans Affairs
“This revelatory, lens-changing book shows why our VA, staffed by devoted and capable medical professionals, must change. Institutions get the behavior they reward. Seen through the experience of a clear-eyed, seriously wounded warrior, the current system’s design and application guides vets coming in with no intent of becoming wards of the state into that very situation. Those with serious problems are submerged in a sea of others who are rewarded for staying in an unimproved situation. In Wounding Warriors Daniel Gade has made an unflinching appraisal and charted a refreshing path forward for making the VA best in class. A ‘must read’ for those committed to caring for our veterans who have borne the battle.”
-General (ret.) Jim Mattis, U.S. Marines & 26th Secretary of Defense