Statement of Intent to Resist War Tax
Howard Waitzkin and Mi Ra Lee
December 30, 2018
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Cincinnati, OH 4999-0149
Re. Notice CP14
Tax Year 2017
Notice date December 10, 2018
Social Security number xxx-xx-xxxx
Dear IRS officials:
First, we would like to express our gratitude to you for your service. We know that your job isn’t easy, especially considering the current cutbacks in staffing at the IRS. We also recognize that you may feel constraints imposed by your understanding of laws and regulations pertinent to our situation. We regret any increase in your workload that our position may create and will be glad to communicate in any way that you think would prove helpful.
Statement from Howard Waitzkin: I am a Conscientious Objector (CO) to war, based on religious and ethical beliefs, as recognized and certified 36 years ago by the U.S. Selective Service System. My beliefs as a CO have prevented me from participating in military service. However, I have devoted my whole professional career to many forms of alternative service, trying to meet the unmet health and mental health needs of active duty military personnel and veterans, as well as those of other underserved communities in the United States and other countries. For instance, since 2005 I have directed a national network of volunteers, including health and mental health professionals and other people such as veterans and active duty military personnel, the Civilian Medical Resources Network. In this effort, we have provided free services to hundreds of active duty military personnel who have not been able to meet their needs for services within the military. Many of these clients have experienced severe problems due to their military service, including PTSD, severe depression, military sexual trauma, and substance abuse; about one half of the clients have been suicidal at the time of intake. More information about our work and the reasons for it appear below in the section on Background.
Due to my values as a CO, which derive from religious and ethical beliefs, I continue to experience profound ethical conflicts about paying for war through my taxes. For many years during and after the Vietnam War, I resisted half of my income taxes, leading to encounters with IRS officials who entered into dialogue with me. I contributed the money that I didn’t pay for war taxes to humanitarian projects, including various efforts to help active duty GIs and veterans. I argued and continue to argue that I and others like me who are conscientiously opposed war should not suffer from the Constitutional contradiction of being recognized officially as a CO yet being required to pay taxes for war. Later, when the proportion of the U.S. federal budget devoted to war decreased somewhat, I decided not to resist a proportion of my income taxes officially but continued to spend a substantial part of my earnings on humanitarian projects including services to current or former military personnel.
Now, as our wars in various parts of the world have increased, the impacts of our military actions have created enormous devastation, including terrible effects on population health, horrible epidemics of suicide and deaths from drug abuse, adverse changes in the environment such as pollution and a substantial worsening of global warming, a rapid increase in gun violence in the United States and other countries, and a diversion of critically needed economic resources away from services like health, education, and improved infrastructure and into terribly destructive militarism. “Endless war” has become our way of life, although warfare directly affects mainly the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups in our society who see no other way to get a job or an education except through enlisting for military service. Meanwhile, despite its enormous costs, both financial and humanitarian, endless war leads to little or no apparent benefits, except large profits for a tiny portion of the world’s population. These ethically and religiously based considerations have led me to decide once again to withhold my financial support for war.
Statement from Mi Ra Lee:
I grew up in Korea, where war has had a terrible effects on living beings for centuries. My family suffered directly from the Korean War and the dictatorships that followed that War, leading to deaths and injuries among many family members and dear friends. Our society also continues to suffer from prior wars, when we were conquered by Japan, China, North Korea, and other war-making countries. As one of many examples, the women whom the Japanese military personnel used as “comfort women” have experienced deep trauma and degradation, which still has not been adequately compensated. Similar abuses affecting women have been perpetrated by military personnel from the United States and other countries that participated in the Korean War and that have maintained the military occupation of Korea. Until very recently, conscientious objection was not tolerated for the entire male population required to serve in the military; for that reason, many COs have been required to spend long periods of their lives in prisons. If military conscription had applied to women, I am sure that I would have been a CO and probably also would have gone to prison.
Since I have been living in the United States, I have been shocked by the negative impacts of warfare on the U.S. population, as well as the many populations around the world who have been adversely affected by U.S. military policies and practices. On a daily basis, we must live in fear within the United States, as veterans and others influenced by military culture engage in almost daily tragedies involving gun violence. The tragedies of warfare, paid for through our taxes, are ruining us and the rest of the world’s peoples. For all these reasons and others, I also can no longer ethically pay half of my income taxes for war.
Further background: Members of our national network of health and mental health professionals, CMRN, confront many terrible effects of U.S. warfare, which have contributed to our current decision not to pay the proportion of our specified taxes that finance past and present wars. We recently published a major article about our work in Military Medicine, the leading journal about health outcomes and services pertinent to military personnel. Here are some key points from the article, based on our press release with the Military Medicine:
February 27, 2018
Military Personnel Seeking Mental Health Care Outside the Military
A new article in Military Medicine, published by Oxford University Press, indicates that military personnel are making extensive use of outside mental health services, suggesting that military health and mental health services do not meet the needs of active duty service members.
Professionals working as volunteers in the Civilian Medical Resources Network (http://www.civilianmedicalresources.net) received referrals of active duty GIs from the GI Rights Hotline (https://girightshotline.org), staffed by members of peace and faith-based organizations. A research team based at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, as well as in Texas, Oregon, and Massachusetts, collected quantitative and qualitative data for 233 clients between 2013 and 2016. Military clients were located throughout the United States and also in Afghanistan, South Korea, and Germany.
Clients showed very high rates of psychiatric disorders. Almost half, 48%, reported suicidal thoughts. Seventy-two percent of clients met criteria for major depression, 62% post-traumatic stress disorder, 20% generalized anxiety disorder, 25% panic disorder, and 27% alcohol use disorder. Thirty-eight percent of clients reported mistrust that their command would meet their needs. Twenty-four percent gave a history of pre-military mental health treatment.
Many clients related a history of pre-military (46%) and military (73%) trauma. Of those with military trauma, 52% gave accounts of combat related trauma while 59% reported non-combat related trauma, e.g., physical or sexual assault.
During recent years approximately 80% of referrals to the Civilian Medical Resources Network involved mental health problems and 20% physical health problems, with an overlap of mental and physical problems in about 10% of cases. The majority of the clients were male (82%) and between 18 and 26 years of age (58%). Sixty-two percent identified themselves as White, 16% Black, 15% Hispanic, 2% Native American, and 4% Asian/Pacific Islander. Most clients were in the Army (64%), were of lower rank (82%), and had completed high school or some college (78%).
Several themes emerged in clients' intake interviews as reasons for seeking civilian services. Clients reported lack of accessible and trustworthy services, as well as feeling afraid of peers. Multiple clients reported that they could not afford the services they needed. Guilt about killing or injuring others were common experiences. The most frequent themes arising in client narratives were insufficient and unresponsive services (93%), fear of reprisal for seeking services (56%), mistrust of command (48%), pre-existing mental health disorders (22%), military sexual trauma (22%), and cost as a barrier to receiving health care (19%).
The mental health consequences of military service show themselves most dramatically in high rates of suicide, recently averaging 20 per day among veterans and over 1 per day among active duty military personnel. During recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, more active duty personnel have been dying from suicide than from combat.
The article indicates that military health and mental health professionals must balance obligations both to patients and to the military command and argues that ethical problems of trust and confidentiality become barriers to care. Other barriers include stigma, a negative impact of seeking care on one's career, beliefs that care would not be effective, and lack of appropriate services.
“Current wars have led to a devastating public health epidemic of suicide and mental health problems among veterans and active duty GIs,” said the study’s coordinator, Dr. Howard Waitzkin, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico. “The military should encourage and support GIs’ use of civilian-sector services that do not involve the ethical conflicts inherent in military medicine and mental health care. Such civilian services should be based in not-for-profit organizations that do not benefit financially by restricting their services. We also need non-military alternatives to conflict resolution.”
The study aims were to determine the personal characteristics of military personnel who receive care from a civilian network of volunteer professionals; to ascertain the mental health diagnoses of these military personnel; to analyze the characteristics most closely associated with mental health disorders and suicidal thoughts; and to clarify the experiences that led military personnel to seek care outside military institutions.
Thank you for considering.
Mi Ra Lee