Last Update: Aug. 9, 2004
Indignities Endured by U.S. Military Veterans
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
"I believe that our laws must reflect our gratitude to the men and women who so valiantly served our nation in battle. But to many veterans, it seems like they are remembered in Washington only on Veterans Day. Speeches are all well and good, but daily advocacy is needed too in such issues as health care and compensation claims."
Prior to the 2000 presidential election, President Bush outlined his views on issues affecting veterans. Some of his comments, like the one above from a campaign position paper, have been archived by Disabled American Veterans Magazine.
Today it's clear to many veterans that the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress think of them on other days of the year besides Veterans Day. They're thinking of veterans as they work to cut off VA healthcare. They're thinking of veterans when they refuse to address lingering health problems from the first Gulf War. They're thinking of veterans when they block full retirement and disability benefits. And they're thinking of veterans when Bush decides, yet again, not to attend a solider's funeral or pay a visit to those who are recovering from injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center just a few miles from the White House.
All that thinking has only hurt veterans of this country. Obviously, they deserve much better. And they deserve our full support.
BuzzFlash is committed to revealing the numerous ways in which Bush has gone back on his pledge to be an advocate for veterans. Excerpts from news stories, editorials and speeches detailing Bush's and Congress' actions are provided here. New articles will be added periodically. Please send articles on how the Bush administration is betraying our veterans to: BuzzFlash@BuzzFlash.com
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Back Home, Disabled Vets Fight Injuries, Red Tape
Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, 6,239 troops had been wounded in action, according to a recent Pentagon count. Of those, 57% were so severely injured that they were unable to return to duty. Medically retired from active duty military service, they need immediate assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system.
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Disabled vets miss out on assistance
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Broken promises to veterans
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Veterans: Pay More, Wait Longer, Receive Less Health Care
President Bush has not submitted an adequate budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs since he took office. Year after year, he has offered budgets that have sought to make veterans pay more and more out of their own pockets for health care. Not only has the Bush Administration tried - and been successful in one case - to dramatically increase copayments for prescription drugs, the Administration has also proposed various methods of generating additional revenue and artificially reducing demand for VA health care.
The Administration uses the projections from these measures to pad their inadequate budget requests for veterans' services so that they can claim budget increases. Some examples of this include the counting of revenue from copayments and third-party insurers as part of the President's request, which has become standard practice for the Administration, and shifting retirement funds from another government agency. The following is a year-by-year summary of the President's budget proposals for veterans' programs.
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Practices: Disturbing Revelations About Quality of Care at Some U.S.
Fourteen years ago, an ABCNEWS hidden-camera investigation ignited a firestorm about conditions and competence inside Veterans Administration hospitals.
Recently, there have been new stories of misdiagnosis, disastrous management and deficient care at some of the nation's 162 facilities.
At a hospital near Cleveland, an ABCNEWS hidden-camera investigation found bathrooms filthy with what appeared to be human excrement. Supply cabinets were in disarray, with dirty linens from some patients mixed in with clean supplies, or left in hallways on gurneys.
At a neighboring facility, examining tables had dried blood and medications still on them. In several areas, open bio-hazardous waste cans were spilling over. Primetime obtained internal memos documenting that the equipment used to sterilize surgical instruments had broken down — causing surgical delays and possible infection risks.
With 130,000 young American men and women putting their lives at risk in Iraq today, these conditions are particularly relevant. While current soldiers are treated in military hospitals, when they leave the service and need treatment, many will seek care at Veterans Affairs (as the Veterans Administration is now known) hospitals.
"Once you come back to be a veteran, it's like a black hole, you know — nothing," former Army Sgt. Vannessa Turner told ABCNEWS.
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may not receive education benefits
National Guardsmen returning from duty in Iraq are finding that the funds promised them for tuition reimbursement are in short supply.
The federal program that is supposed to defray up to 75 percent of their college expenses is broke, with no new funds in sight until this fall.
That's put Oregon National Guard leadership in an awkward position, as soldiers were promised up to a maximum of four thousand dollars per soldier per fiscal year as an enlistment incentive.
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shameful duplicity at Walla Walla hospital
As the older veterans go gray after their service to their country and the young ones come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, some bloodied, some sick, the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., pushes ahead with its mad determination to cut medical services.
The VA denies it's a cut. But while administrators promise better local services, they have no plans to actually provide them. Instead, they intend to close the Veterans Hospital at Walla Walla, among others, in defiance of protests by veterans and outraged members of Congress.
Almost 3,500 American servicemen and women have been wounded in Iraq since the beginning of hostilities. The fatality count earlier this week stood at 686 for the same period. In just the past two weeks, 80 American service personnel were killed and 560 wounded.
Does this seem like the time to be shutting veterans' hospitals?
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may not receive education benefits
The federal program that is supposed to defray up to 75 percent of their college expenses is short of funds, and until recently had no new funds in sight.
National Guard Col. Mike Caldwell said money recently was found for spring and summer students but that the fund remains about $180,000 short for fall term.
That's put Oregon National Guard leadership in an awkward position, as soldiers were promised the 75 percent tuition deferral, up to a maximum of $4,000 per soldier per fiscal year, as an enlistment incentive.
The benefit is described in National Guard literature, and new enlistees are still being promised this benefit when they sign up.
"This could not have happened at a more critical juncture," wrote Brig. General Raymond Byrne Jr. in a March 22 letter to Army National Guard Director Roger Schultz.
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Bush Attacks Veterans’
article in the Washington Post about military-service families tells an
uplifting story about an Army wife who had a fender bender accident and
mailed the damage estimate of $500 to the driver who had hit her. When the
driver learned that her husband had just returned from a year in Iraq, he
sent a check for $600 -- and enclosed a second one for $50 with the
notation, “Dinner for two.”
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says visits to hospital blocked
A prominent veterans group whose members have occasionally been critical of the Bush administration says it is being blocked from meeting with patients at the nation's leading Army hospital, which President Bush visited yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.
Officials from Disabled American Veterans, a nonprofit service group that counsels wounded veterans and tells them what government benefits they are entitled to, say that since Iraq war veterans began returning to the United States last year, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington has limited their access to patients, citing privacy and post-Sept. 11 security concerns.
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Bush alienating some
Bush campaign asked James McKinnon to co-chair its veterans steering
committee in New Hampshire - a job he held in 2000 - the 56-year-old
Vietnam veteran respectfully, but firmly, said no.
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Survey Results Show
Strong Support for Veterans Health Care and Benefits
A new nationwide survey shows that three out of four Americans (75 percent) believe veteran's health care should be a "top to high funding priority" in the federal budget. Most Americans (87 percent) also support making veteran's health care funding mandatory.
This survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) for Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Disabled American Veterans, shows that 74 percent of Americans surveyed believe that Congress and the President have a very big responsibility to ensure that veterans receive their health care and other benefits following their military service. Nearly all survey respondents (95 percent) said veterans should not have to wait to receive their benefits.
Regarding veteran's issues and this year's elections, 82 percent stated that the care of veterans is an issue that should be discussed by candidates to a "great to moderate extent." Of the 1,000 Americans queried for the survey, 63 percent of respondents also believe that veterans issues will play a "very big to moderate part" in their decision about which candidates to vote for this fall.
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not getting help, critics say
As Army officials try to figure out what led a Green Beret based at Fort Carson to kill himself Sunday, veteran advocates say soldiers returning from war aren’t getting the help they need.
Chief Warrant Officer William Howell, 36, shot himself in the head outside his Monument home during a confrontation with police. Authorities had been called to the house by his distraught wife, who said the couple were having an argument.
Howell had been home for three weeks after serving a 10-month tour in Iraq with an elite fighting unit that experienced heavy combat, according to Maj. Robert Gowan, spokesman for the Army’s Special Forces.
The unit lost a member in January when Master Sgt. Kelly Hornbeck was killed by a roadside bomb. Another member was charged with cowardice when he suffered a panic attack and wouldn’t go on missions after seeing a dead body. Gowan said soldiers in Howell’s unit received counseling to deal with Hornbeck’s death.
“I know that when soldiers are departing a theater of combat, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, they undergo specific counseling about reuniting with their spouses, stress screening,” Gowan said.
Fort Carson officials say that all soldiers receive at least seven hours of counseling as a part of their redeployment.Some veteran advocates don’t believe it.
“I would challenge you to go out and ask those (returning) soldiers if they have gotten their seven hours of counseling. They’re not,” said Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, an advocacy group for veterans.
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Vets rally to keep
Local veterans rallied and railed against possible changes to the Walla Walla Veterans Affairs hospital Monday.
After a march through downtown Walla Walla, veterans and their supporters crowded into the First Congregational Church to hear speaker after speaker call for action.
Anger and dismay were plain in the voices of many who protested a federal commission's recommendation for the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The commission wants to close inpatient facilities and retain, but relocate, outpatient services.
In February, the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) commission recommended closing Walla Walla's VA campus and, where appropriate, contracting for acute inpatient medicine and psychiatric care and nursing home care.
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Critical of Bush's VA Budget
Military veterans have already played a prominent role in the 2004 presidential campaign, helping to propel one of their own -- Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts -- close to the Democratic nomination. If he is the nominee, Kerry is counting on strong support from his fellow veterans in the general election battle against President Bush.
And Kerry may be getting an unintended boost from the Bush administration's proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the next fiscal year.
After three years of mostly cordial relations with the administration, leaders of veterans' organizations and a union that represents VA workers are voicing strong criticism of Bush's fiscal 2005 budget plan. They assert that the budget would only worsen the backlog in processing disability claims, reduce the number of VA nursing home beds just as the number of veterans who need long-term care is swelling and force some veterans to pay a fee simply to gain access to the VA health care system.
In a statement issued shortly after the budget was released, Edward S. Banas Sr., commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the VA's health care spending proposal "a disgrace and a sham."
VA officials reply that spending for health care will increase under the budget, but that tough choices had to be made because of the soaring budget deficit and limits on spending.
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The Permanent Scars of Iraq
Shrode can't sleep.
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money not going toward Iraq vets' health care
Bob Graham of Florida argued last April that wounded soldiers were a
certainty in the new Iraq war.
"Particularly with the large casualties that we've suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'm stunned that they're not going to use it for that purpose," said Graham, the ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
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U.S. veterans get a raw deal at home
There's no emotional sting like the one inflicted by that 500 number. It's larger now, the total of Americans dead from an Iraq war launched on false pretenses, but 500 is getting a lot of usage as the ultimate cost of this mess. It's a cost 500 can't begin to illuminate.
How about at least 9,000 servicemen and women wounded, sickened or injured? How about 6,891 troops medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, 2003?
"There are about 2,500 combat casualties," Dave Autry said on the phone from the Disabled American Veterans offices in Washington. "The rest are attempted suicides, vehicle accidents, other accidents, illness. Something that's becoming a big concern is lesions caused by exposure to sand fleas that carry a particularly virulent bacteria."
All of this could be categorized as the inevitably horrible cost of post-modern war in the desert, but the scandal is what is happening to these survivors once their government brings them home. Tom Keller, the immediate past commander of the DAV in Ohio, wrote to me last month about the secretive nature of the process.
"I can't speak for the DAV's national organization," Tom said, "but I have my own feelings about why the Bush administration is bringing the casualties back to the States in the middle of the night and wants to keep organizations like the DAV away from them. I believe the administration wants to keep the American people in the dark about the number of troops being wounded, the severity of the injuries they are receiving and the types of illnesses that may be surfacing."
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say Bush overhaul of overtime will cost them
figures she made two "mistakes" that could end up costing her
money: She served her country as a captain in the Army, and she earned a
master's degree in college.
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wants more awareness of homeless vets
Dorothy Sanchez admitted she should have known better.
But the County Board member, D-Aurora [Ill.], said recent developments have opened her eyes to a problem she did not realize was as critical as it is: homeless veterans.
She said the realization came as she watched Democratic Party presidential candidates donating to a homeless shelter for veterans in Iowa.
"I'll be the first to admit I did not realize the situation," Sanchez said Monday at a County Board Public Service Committee meeting. "You just assume that people who go to fight for this country are cared for. When you find out they're not, it's nauseating. They risked their lives, and now they're homeless, and we can't do enough about it?"
Her comments were made to John Carr, Kane County Veterans Affairs office director, who said estimates are that of the about 3,000 homeless people in Kane County, 1,000 are veterans. That one-third ratio holds true nationally, Carr said. There are 26,480 veterans living in Kane County, he added, the seventh most in the state.
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I am appealing to you on behalf of thousands of military families that are being treated unfairly. I speak of the Survivors Benefit Plan. The SBP is not free. It has been a costly investment for our family. We have paid into SBP since 1973 and see no end to this inequity. This year (2004) my husband will be 86 and I will be 77 years old. The proposed law to stop paying into SBP after 30 years participation in 2010 is hardly acceptable. We have already paid more than 30 years.
There is also another penalty. My husband's birth date puts him in the "Notch Baby" category for Social Security benefits which effectively lowers the SBP. I do not see how in good conscience the Congress of the United States is able to find monies for congressional pay raises, space exploration, military actions, yet deny the military retiree what was promised back in 1973. Something is very wrong with this country. No commercial insurance company has the right to change a policy. The government should also be held to its obligations.
(An overview of the Survivor Benefit Plan can be found at Military.com)
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shouldn't happen to a vet
Feeling restless? Is 2004 looking just like 2003? Do you long to have your place in life very firmly defined by others and to wear a range of interesting hats? Do you have low financial expectations, a vigorous desire to travel and a functioning index finger? Then the US military could be for you.
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Government Gives Few Contracts To Disabled Vets
The federal government has a long tradition of encouraging veterans who want to start their own small businesses, especially those with disabilities related to their military service. But like Mr. Kemp, who lives in Duxbury, Mass., entrepreneurial-minded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan won't find the level of support that greeted troops from earlier conflicts.
"They are not going to get as much, and they are going to have to fight for that," said sociologist Paul Camacho, who researches veterans' economic issues at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Indeed, the already small percentage of federal contracts awarded to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans plunged further last year despite a federal law that specifically directs federal agencies to send more business their way.
Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration under its primary lending program guaranteed 6,750 small-business loans in fiscal 2003, ended Sept. 30, a 24% increase from fiscal 2002 but still far below the 8,300 such loans guaranteed in 1995.
"There's a lot of talk, but little action when you really need assistance," said Army veteran Rex Tolman, owner of an environmental engineering concern in Jamestown, N.Y. His troubles in landing federal contracts have led him to concentrate on state and local government work, where he has had better luck.
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visits restricted to U.S. wounded
As of January 7, the Pentagon said 2,431 military personnel have been wounded in action and an additional 383 wounded in non-hostile incidents in Iraq.
Most service members severely wounded in Iraq and returned to the United States are treated at Walter Reed.
In a letter sent this week to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Dave Gorman, executive director of Disabled American Veterans, complained that the DAV is being blocked from carrying out its congressionally chartered mission.
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"Held Captive" at Walter Reed
And so now we learn that ever since Operation Iraqi Freedom got underway, it has been easier for a terrorist to get into the United States legally than for a DAV representative to get into a military hospital to help wounded soldiers with their benefit applications.
Sickeningly, the Pentagon has been severely limiting DAV access to wounded veterans and doing it on grounds of "security." Oh, yes, and protecting "privacy."
It protects the veterans' privacy by not allowing them to speak with DAV representatives "unmonitored."
Fortunately someone blinked and it wasn't the Disabled American Veterans.
When he got back to the office after celebrating New Year's and opened his mail, Donald Rumsfeld found a letter informing him that he had messed with the wrong people this time.
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Budget for 2005 Seeks to Rein In Domestic Costs
Facing a record budget deficit, Bush administration officials say they have drafted an election-year budget that will rein in the growth of domestic spending without alienating politically influential constituencies. […]
Mr. Bush proposed last year to double co-payments on prescription drugs for many veterans, primarily those with higher incomes and no service-connected disabilities. The White House reaffirmed its support for that proposal in November.
In the last week, the Pentagon has been considering a new proposal to increase pharmacy co-payments for retirees with at least 20 years of military service. Under the proposal, the charge for a generic drug would rise to $10, from $3, while the charge for a brand-name medicine would rise to $20, from $9.
The Military Officers Association of America criticized this as "a grossly insensitive and wrong-headed proposal." In e-mail messages to the White House, members of the association asked Mr. Bush, "Why do your budget officials persist in trying to cut military benefits?"
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proposal enrages veterans
Pentagon budget documents indicate that retirees may be asked to pay $10 -- up from $3 -- for each 90-day generic prescription filled by mail through Tricare, the military's health insurance program. Tricare's current $9 co-pay for a three-month supply of each brand-name drug would jump to $20.
The proposal also would impose charges for drugs the retirees now receive free at military hospitals and clinics. There would be a $10 fee for each generic prescription and a $20 charge for brand-name drugs dispensed at those facilities.
A Pentagon spokesman declined Wednesday to comment on the drug plan, calling it "pre-decisional." But word of the proposal was being spread at the speed of light by veterans service organizations, who were urging their thousands of members to send calls and letters of protest to the White House and members of Congress.
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Lipservice to Vets, Then Slashes Their Health Care
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Medals and Pentagon Meddlers
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strong-armed me on Enfeld money
When local officials gathered with Enfield's congressman on Wednesday to celebrate the announcement of new funding for the Family Resource Center, part of their enthusiasm was because that money almost wasn't available at all.
Robert R. Simmons, R-2nd District, told a small crowd at the new building
at 110 High St. that the $225,000 grant he announced Wednesday was nearly
cut out of an appropriations bill in reprisal for a stand he took against
an attempt to cut funding for veterans' health benefits.
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disabled Vietnam-era vet visits a Minneapolis V.A. hospital and discovers
that many fellow vets oppose the Bush administration's war in Iraq
First, a veteran around 50 years old in my area said, "I can't believe he has the guts to wear that uniform!" Others around the room started making remarks like, "Count the lies!" and "Didn't he learn anything on that aircraft carrier?" I'll clean up the language, but not long into Shrub's obvious photo op there were so many men and a few women veterans either yelling at each other or at the TV that staff members came in thinking someone had a serious health issue, or that perhaps an unstable patient had gone into a rage.
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last year and a half, President Bush has staged more than a third of his
major public events before active military personnel or veterans. His
rowdy “Hoo-ah”s and policy pronouncements—even when they have
nothing to do with military matters—are predictably greeted with rabid
* * *
One of George W. Bush's major campaign themes in 2000 was his promise to improve the lives of America's soldiers - and military votes were crucial to his success. But these days some of the harshest criticisms of the Bush administration come from publications aimed at a military audience.
For example, last week the magazine Army Times ran a story with the headline "An Act of 'Betrayal,' " and the subtitle "In the midst of war, key family benefits face cuts." The article went on to assert that there has been "a string of actions by the Bush administration to cut or hold down growth in pay and benefits, including basic pay, combat pay, health-care benefits and the death gratuity paid to survivors of troops who die on active duty."
At one level, this pattern of cuts is standard operating procedure. Just about every apparent promise of financial generosity this administration has made (other than those involving tax cuts for top brackets and corporate contracts) has turned out to be nonoperational. [...] Why shouldn't soldiers find themselves subject to the same kind of bait and switch?
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Money for Troops Jailed in Iraq
The Bush administration is seeking to block a group of American troops who were tortured in Iraqi prisons during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 from collecting any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Iraqi assets they won last summer in a federal court ruling against the government of Saddam Hussein.
In a court challenge that the administration is winning so far but is not eager to publicize, administration lawyers have argued that Iraqi assets frozen in bank accounts in the United States are needed for Iraqi reconstruction and that the judgment won by the 17 former American prisoners should be overturned.
If the administration succeeds, the former prisoners would be deprived of the money they won and, they say, of the validation of a judge's ruling that documented their accounts of torture by the Iraqis — including beatings, burnings, starvation, mock executions and repeated threats of castration and dismemberment.
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No amount of
money -- and he means it
The billions included by Congress in the president's supplemental budget fall well below estimates of what will be needed to rebuild Iraq. So the Bush administration is looking everywhere for money (while averting its gaze from the tax revenues squandered on wealthy contributors).
Among the funds they've found is a court judgment won against the Iraqi government by a group of former American prisoners of war who were brutally tortured during the 1991 war. The White House position -- which seems likely to prevail -- is that any frozen Iraqi funds should be turned over for reconstructing Iraq rather than used to pay damages to those tortured U.S. soldiers and officers.
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veterans: Drop Dead
In an astonishing series of cynical attacks on veterans rights, benefits and sanctity, the administration has shortchanged our military personnel on their medical care, pensions, compensation for having been tortured, access to vital information about health dangers suffered in service, and even their body armor.
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funds down for veterans
Even in DuPage County, where homelessness and poverty are considered unusual, hundreds of veterans struggle to pay their bills or find jobs and places to sleep at night. Many veterans are reluctant to seek help, and the resources to help them are dwindling.
"Veterans are a very proud group of people," said Terry Owens, who served in the Vietnam War and is now case manager for DuPage County's Shared Housing Program. "They'll always wait until the last minute to ask for help. By the time they come to us, their savings are depleted."
Yet the number of veterans in DuPage County seeking assistance has doubled this year - a sign of the seriousness of their struggles.
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rules undermine care: DAV is blocked from aiding newly-disabled veterans
in navigating benefits, paperwork
His family says the military should not have asked a wounded soldier in a mental and emotional fog to sign legal papers. "I think they needed someone to tell not only himself but his wife what a temporary duty list meant and what kind of rights he had," said his mother, Arvilla Stiffler of Chapel Hill, N.C.
Officials with the Disabled American Veterans organization have provided that service to military patients for decades, and they say they probably would have discovered Stiffler but for a new obstacle. Privacy rules began blocking the DAV from access to most military patients soon after shooting began in Afghanistan.
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the Troops Pay Twice
If you notice there are more veterans to honor this Veterans Day than there were last year, thank the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.
If you want more help for those veterans, better ask the Democrats.
They're fighting President Bush, the Defense Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the GOP congressional leadership just to keep a shamefully inadequate veterans support system from getting worse.
When Democrats tried to insert health insurance and other personnel benefits into the $87 billion appropriation for Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House shot them down.
When Democrats tried to replace $1.3 billion of the $1.8 billion shortfall in the pending VA health care budget bill, the White House threatened a veto.
On and on it goes. Waits of six months to two years for some seekers of health care, even as the VA moves to close down facilities. Multiple hikes in drug co-pays. Exclusion of more than 160,000 "low-priority" vets from the health care system because the money's not there to cover them. Non-mandatory funding, meaning the budget must be fought for anew every year by those who care.
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Fazio speaks out on the reality of the treatment of veterans
In a five-minute statement from the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, rebuts the Republican notion that the Bush administration is doing great things for veterans. Here is an excerpt of his remarks.
Mr. Speaker, next week is November 11. And often, I believe, in this Chamber we pay lip service to our veterans; and we fail to deliver on solid votes and programs that would better demonstrate our recognition of their sacrifice and service. And this year, unfortunately with the budget and the appropriations passed, is no exception.
I was astonished earlier today when a colleague from the Republican majority stood up to pretend to document how great things are for our veterans, all these new services and things we are providing. I am hearing a very different assessment from my veterans and their dependents. And facts are stubborn things. [...]
Now we either believe in the all-volunteer military or we do not. And we are either going to recognize the sacrifice and service of veterans or we will not. And if we do not, probably the next generation is not going to want to enlist for what is a very tough and today very bloody and dangerous job because they are not quite sure of the promise that we will take care of them and we will take care of their families and their dependents.
A few other problems. Rather than funding the VA, the Bush administration sent a memo to regional VA facilities that forbid Veterans Administration employees from proactively informing veterans about the services available to them in order to reduce the number of veterans using VA facilities.
That is supportive. Is that not great?
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story points to vets' need to know
Randy Duprey, a Hudson veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, served his country during tours in Kosovo and Afghanistan, but because he didn't meet one of 10 criteria once he was discharged, the Veterans Administration will not be helping him with $58,000 in medical bills he accrued after being stricken with Stills disease this spring.
Duprey's situation should serve as a cautionary tale to returning servicemen and women - make sure you know what you have to do so that your health care costs are covered by the VA health care system.
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Duty and Veterans Not on America's Priority List
We can all recall vivid images of our president praising our military troops for their patriotism and willingness to fight and die for their country. He has even said he is grateful and the country owes these great warriors a great deal. But this appears to be only rhetoric without much sincerity as he continues to be led by advisors that have no regard or concern for the military and veterans other than being a cheap renewable fighting resource to meet the neo-conservative goals throughout the world.
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receipt deal still not good enough, GOP lawmaker says
Rep. Walter Jones, R-S.C., who defied House Republican leaders by signing onto a Democrat-sponsored petition on pay for disabled retirees, is not entirely satisfied with the $22 billion concurrent-receipt plan announced Thursday.
Over a 10-year period, that plan would phase out the current offset in military retired pay for retirees who have service-connected disabilities rated at 50 percent or more, beginning with an immediate partial payment Jan. 1. The plan is expected to be included in the 2004 defense authorization bill.
"It is better than we have, but I hope that is not all that we do," Jones said Tuesday. "As long as we keep working to cover everyone, this is satisfactory."
Jones was one of only two Republicans to sign a discharge petition organized by Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., that would force a vote on HR 303, a bill promising to allow concurrent receipt of full retired pay and disability compensation for all veterans.
* * *
Spending for Ex-Soldiers Falls Short of Promise to Give Them
Two years ago, President Bush said, "Veterans are a priority for this administration... and that priority is reflected in my budget." But, a year ago, when he had a chance to approve an emergency funding bill that included $275 million for medical care of veterans, he said, "We'll spend none of it."
Now the President's 2004 budget request for the Veterans Administration will effectively cut spending for its already-stretched health care system. Because of increased medical costs at an above-inflation rate of 4.7% and increased enrollment of 8%, the American Legion calculates that Bush's 2004 request "comes $1.9 billion short of maintaining an inadequate status quo."
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legal ironies of regime change: Iraq recovers its sovereign immunity, and
former U.S. POWs, former hostages, and September 11 victims' families lose
Recently, three small groups of individuals -- a group of former Gulf War POWs; a group of former hostages of Iraq; and a group of September 11 attack victims' families -- have been trying to get redress against the Saddam Hussein regime in the courts. Until recently, it seemed that all three groups might have a chance not only of winning their cases, but also of actually recovering some damages against Iraq.
But now a cruelly ironic twist of fate had intervened. Regime change has made Iraq our friend, not our enemy -- and the U.S. government, which previously had encouraged these lawsuits, no longer does.
The U.S. government has promised that Iraq's assets should be used for the benefit of the people of Iraq. Thus, it has acted to prevent the POWs, hostages, and September 11 victims from reaching any blocked Iraqi assets in the U.S.
* * *
problems, homelessness, awaits returning vets
The U.S. mission in Iraq continues, but already one Connecticut soldier who served in the conflict is homeless and living at the state Veterans Home and Hospital in Rocky Hill.
There are about 1,800 members of the state National Guard and Reserve currently on active duty, in addition to those state residents enlisted in the armed forces.
State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Linda Spoonster Schwartz said she doesn't know how many of those soon-to-be veterans will be seeking state help. But last week, 15 vets, including a National Guardsman who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, sought shelter at the veteran's home, she said.
"I was a little bit jolted that we had 15 in one week," she told The Associated Press this week.
* * *
goes AWOL when soldiers need care
The Bush administration is trying to cheat the veterans while continuing to send today's troops back into action, all at the same time, thereby creating more casualties and new disabled veterans who can be denied benefits. And don't think the troops don't know.
* * *
veterans, disability pay comes with a price
The military retirees are growing increasingly vocal about demanding a change in the law they say robs them of fair compensation for the health they lost while serving their country.
Although 371 members of the House agree the retirees are getting a raw deal, they have not yet figured out a way to pay the 10-year, $58 billion tab to fix the problem.
One proposal enraged veterans groups because it would have taken away disability and health benefits from thousands of future vets, including many of those now serving in Iraq.
The issue will come to a head this month as lawmakers struggle behind closed doors to balance the cost of the fix with what veterans and congressmen alike describe as doing the right thing.
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Politicians failed us
At a time when virtually every politician talks about supporting the troops in Iraq, few do anything to support the troops who have fought previous wars, veterans say.
Two issues have dominated debates over veterans affairs in recent years:
-- Health care for veterans and military retirees.
-- Retirement pay for disabled veterans.
While the number of veterans has been dropping in recent years as World War II vets pass away, the number of patients at Department of Veterans Affairs has increased with the aging of Korean- and Vietnam-era vets. In 2002, there were 4.7 million veterans enrolled in the VA health system, up from 3.1 in 1997.
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The Army and Air Force failed to obey Congress' orders to create baseline medical records for soldiers sent to overseas war zones, in this case Iraq, Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO) concludes in a just-released report. (Read the report here: [LINK to PDF])
[...] After the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, tens of thousands of veterans became sick with mysterious illnesses. But because the Pentagon did not have baseline medical records for each soldier in that conflict, it was very slow to acknowledge and act on its responsibility to provide health care for these veterans.
So, in 1997, Congress passed a Public Law 105-85 requiring the military to conduct detailed pre- and post-deployment medical records for every soldier sent into a war zone. The GAO says the military "did not comply" with that requirement in the Iraq War. It also found the Department of Defense (DOD) "did not maintain a complete, centralized database of service members' medical assessments and immunizations."
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veterans here lose from old law, study says
Hawai'i veterans are losing $21 million a year because a century-old federal law prevents veterans from getting full retirement and disability benefits at the same time, House Democrats charge.
Veterans who serve at least 20 years in the military are eligible for retirement benefits, but those payments are reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis when veterans also collect service-related disability. The lawmakers cite a report estimating that in Hawai'i, 4,150 veterans are losing retirement benefits because of the 1891 law.
Lawmakers have tried to change the law for years, but the Bush administration recently threatened a veto because of the potential cost, which could exceed $58 billion over 10 years.
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injustice to disabled vets: Robbing Sgt. Peter to pay Sgt. Paul
The cost of satisfying the demands of the old veterans -- estimated at $58 billion over 10 years, or $29 billion less than the administration now wants for Iraq and Afghanistan for a single year -- would be borne by those now serving in uniform in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, South Korea and a hundred other countries around the world.
The so-called compromise would redefine "service-related injury" for those now on duty in our military so that two-thirds of future retirees could not qualify for disability pay - and this would be done by legislative fiat without any public hearing.
Rumsfeld and the Defense Department clearly are reluctant to see any change in the status quo, for reasons that will become obvious. Each year, the Department of Defense budgets a sum of money to pay all military retirees their pensions. Then, they deduct the amount the VA pays in disability income from the pension checks.
Does the money saved go back to the Treasury? Is there a Tooth Fairy? Of course not: It goes into the general Pentagon budget to be spent on present and future wars that create more disabled veterans.
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benefits issue draws protest
Senior Republicans on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee have joined Democrats and veterans groups protesting proposals being considered by the Bush administration to shrink the number of military personnel who qualify for disability benefits.
Changes in the definition of service-connected disability "could have far-reaching and unintended consequences for millions of servicemembers and veterans," wrote the committee chairman, Representative Christopher Smith, Republican of New Jersey, and three of the panel's subcommittee chairmen.
The Senate's top Democrats, minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and whip Harry Reid of Nevada, weighed in on the issue yesterday, telling President Bush in a letter that it was "outrageous to pit one group of disabled veterans against another."
Daschle said the proposals, if retroactive, could disqualify about 1.5 million veterans, about two-thirds of those now in the VA disability program.
The proposals were part of a response to what veterans regard as a century-old injustice without adding another major chunk to a federal deficit, already at record levels because of the war on terror, operations in Iraq, and tax cuts every year since Bush took office.
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Ok'd to get test subjects health care
The House passed legislation Wednesday aimed at helping soldiers subjected to Cold War-era chemical and biological weapons tests get access to government health care.
The Defense Department has identified 5,842 U.S. troops who were part of tests between 1962 and 1973 on the use of biological and chemical agents in combat and ways to protect combat troops from attacks.
Although simulated chemicals were generally used, the Pentagon acknowledged for the first time last year that some of the tests included potentially deadly biological and chemical agents, including anthrax and the nerve agents sarin and VX. Pentagon officials say the troops were always protected.
In many instances troops were not told they were guinea pigs in the tests.
"It is impossible to believe that the military exposed our own troops to such potent agents," said Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, the sponsor of the bill.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
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-- Vets for Justice (http://www.vetsforjustice.com), America's First Civil Rights Association for Military, Retired Military, and Veterans
-- Veterans for Common Sense (http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/), which "seeks to inject the element of Common Sense into debates over war and national security. In an age when the majority of public servants have never served in uniform, the perspective of war veterans must play a key role in the public debate over national security issues in order to preserve the liberty veterans have fought and died preserving."
The Veterans Administration wants to close 19 VA Hospitals. Read this
veteran's plea for help in keeping the hospitals open:
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