Washington State Chapter
From: Charles W. Heckman
Announcement from Congressman Adam Smith
Recently, Congressman Adam Smith sent me a Veterans’ Issues Update. It mentions the appropriations bills, notably the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill, which will provide a decision on concurrent receipt. Congressman Smith wrote the following letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees:
As you are preparing the FY04 Defense Authorization conference report, we urge you to provide full concurrent receipt to military retirees who are also eligible for VA disability pay.
As you know, retired members of the armed forces who have a service-connected disability see their military retired pay reduced by the amount of compensation they receive from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Military retirees are the only federal employees subject to this offset and are essentially funding their own disability benefits. It is time to lift this unfair tax on disabled veterans and provide full concurrent receipt to all eligible military retirees.
Even though last year both the House and Senate included concurrent receipt language in their FY03 Defense Authorization bills, conferees abandoned concurrent receipt and instead provided for a limited “special pay” for retirees with at least 60% disability resulting from a narrowly defined “combat-related” injury and retirees with 10% or greater disability resulting from an injury for which the retiree was awarded a Purple Heart. Sadly, this compromise will compensate only an estimated 35,000 of the nearly 700,000 retirees burdened by this unfair tax. This “special pay” is a mere shadow of what these disabled veterans deserve and what concurrent receipt would provide. We urge you to take this opportunity to fully right this wrong.
Section 644 of the Senate amendment to H.R. 1588 provides for full concurrent receipt and permit retired members of the armed forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both military pay and disability compensation for the Department of Veterans Affairs. We are calling on you to include the language in the final conference report.
For the last 17 years, legislation providing for concurrent receipt has been introduced in the House. Current legislation, H.R. 303, has bipartisan cosponsors. You as conferees have an opportunity to lift an undue burden on a more than deserving group.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this very important issue, and we stand ready to work with you on this matter.
Signed by Congressman Adam Smith
The newsletter also describes Congressman Smith’s support for H.R. 2357, which requires the VA to make definite plans for offering chiropractic care for veterans.
It concludes that the Air Force Sergeants Association awarded Congressman Smith the Mendel Rivers Award of Excellence at their national convention in Las Vegas.
Comments on the Update
Although most veterans would like to see big personnel changes in Congress, I think that Congressman Smith has done his part to promote veterans’ issues. I see no reason why we should not wholeheartedly support him for reelection in 2004 as we did in 2002.
A personal note on 9.11
Today, the second anniversary of the disaster at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, our media, especially public television, went out of their way to relive all of the suffering of the victims. My personal reaction was not favorable to the telecasters. This disaster was brought about, in part, because of the reputation the United States has made for itself by backing down to terrorism in the past.
Seeing buildings blow up after being hit by rockets was a common occurrence while I served in Vietnam. Shootings, thrown hand grenades in crowded cities, and assassinations of teachers and other public employees was an everyday occurrence. Want did the news media and documentary film makers recommend? Pull our troops out and turn the whole country over to the terrorists.
What did we do when the military quarters were blown up in Lebanon? Pull out.
How did we react when our helicopter crew was killed in Somalia? Pull out.
Is it surprising that a political group trying to compel the United States to do something would try to kill as many Americans as possible to achieve a goal? We may well pull out of Iraq before long because of the frequent bombings. While our state department refuses to give peaceful groups fair hearings, terrorists have learned that a little violence can go a long way. If we pull out, as some presidential candidates are suggesting, Saddam Hussein might well take over the country again. That would end the credibility of our government throughout the world. While it might not have been such a bright idea to go in, it would be a disaster is we just pulled out now.
However, calling for the United States to back down in the face of terror is not the only thing our network executives advocate. Since the Vietnam War, they have also been trashing American servicemen and veterans who have tried to keep terrorists in check, in spite of the restrictions placed on them for domestic political reasons. Why has the press consistently blamed the servicemen in Vietnam for fighting in the war when all the decisions were made by the politicians in D.C.? Why were the young servicemen blamed for losing the war when they were not permitted the full use of their power by the president? Why are veterans still blamed for fighting the war today?
Without trying to reduce in any way the honor given to the fire fighters and police who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, it must be pointed out that only 300 to 400 lost their lives. In contrast, more than 58,000 young Americans lost their lives fighting the terrorists in Vietnam. What honor do they receive, other than the occasional epithet “baby killer.” In contrast to less than 3,000 civilian victims in the World Trade Center, South Vietnam lost almost 1,000,000 people, including many murdered women and children, supporting our war effort. The number of people killed in the World Trade Center roughly equals the number murdered systematically when the North Vietnamese captured the city of Hue in 1968. Nobody wants to remember that. If we hear about atrocities in Vietnam, our news media invariably focuses on My Lai, where the number killed was only about 1/10 the number murdered in Hue. The difference was that we considered the actions at My Lai a war crime and sentenced the officer responsible to the severest penalty available at the time. The Hue massacre was communist policy, and nobody was punished by the North Vietnamese for the murders.
Remember, the ultimate goal of the communists in that war was killing all of the hated capitalists “on Wall Street and in Washington.” If our servicemen and the servicemen of our allies had not resisted, they might well have achieved that goal. If they had, we would have experienced horrors that would have amounted to thousands of times more suffering than anything that we have ever experienced in the United States. The communists killed about 20,000,000 in the Soviet Union, and the death toll would have been much higher if our country had been allowed to fall. After we followed the advice of our newscasters and withdrew from the war in Southeast Asia, another 2,000,000 Khmers were brutally murdered, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese wound up in the tropical gulag system. Whole tribes of mountain people in Laos were subjected to genocide if they could not escape to Thailand.
If we wanted to avoid terrorism, we should not have backed down in Vietnam, in Lebanon, or in Somalia. Strength of character does not invite terrorism, weakness and lack of resolution do. Our armed forces are the symbols of our strength of characters; those who abuse our servicemen and veterans in word and deed represent weakness and cowardice. It is time for our veterans to start taking their proper role in government, both for their own good and for the good of those who are serving on active duty, trying to perform as well as possible in a role our present public office holders have not been able to define very well.