Thomas D. Segel
Tomsegel@tiagris.com
1629 Clarke Street
Harlingen, Texas 78550
(956) 423 3126
 
Veterans Face More Enemies Than Friends
By  Thomas D. Segel
 
Harlingen, Texas February 27, 2003: In the two decades which have passed since the end of the Vietnam War, changes in our national political landscape have done nothing to enhance the lives of more than 26 million veterans and retired military personnel.  Once a grateful nation extended caring hands to lift up its former military protectors.  Today, it looks upon the men and women who gave of themselves to defend the Flag, as little more than second class citizens.
 
Who are the enemies of our veterans?  It would be easier to ask.who are their friends?
 
The Department of Defense has always been at odds with former service personnel.  It matters not to that agency if they served a day or a lifetime.  Those who are no longer on active duty are of little value to the agency and will be fought on every issue, if DoD perceives the veteran's objectives as something, which might drain dollars from its control.
 
A perfect example of this is the DoD position on the issue of Concurrent Receipt.  For more than 100 years disabled military retirees have lost one dollar of their retirement pay for each dollar of disability compensation they received.  No other retiree from government service is so penalized.  Still, those at Defense insist the restoration of retirement pay would be too costly.meaning it might be taken from the overall DoD budget.
 
Before leaving the restoration of retirement pay to those who spent twenty or more years on active duty another sector of government should be given the enemy label.  This would be our United States Congress.  Even though more than 80% of the congressional members were co-sponsors of a bill to give the disabled former warriors back the money taken from them by discriminatory law..this legislative body could not muster the courage to turn their bill into law.
 
Congress could also be named the villain in a major issue pending before the United States Supreme Court.  From the start of World War II, until the late 50s,career service personnel were promised they would earn lifetime medical care for themselves and their dependent family members, if they would serve twenty or more years on active duty.  Late in the game, Congress changed its pledge to "space available" medical care and. as we moved into the 90s, even that care vanished.
 
They United States Court of Appeals granted that military recruiters and even Department of Defense directives did promise lifetime medical care.but that didn't matter, because there was no law on the books authorizing such action.
 
Congress could have taken action at any time to pass legislation and keep the promises of our government, but it has refused to follow such an honorable course.
 
The atomic veterans of our country have also been treated deplorably by the government.  From those sitting in the Oval Office to the people in dark robes sitting in the courts of our land, not one has lifted a hand to help these veterans.  Those thousands of Americans, who were test subjects during years of atomic blasts, fallout, and radiation exposure, have been sick and dying for decades.  They have been all but ignored by everyone in government, including the Veterans Administration.
 
The Veterans Administration is one of the true enemies of former military personnel.  What was created by our government to be an advocate and benefactor to former servicemen and women has mutated into an organization which denies veterans most of the benefits they have rightfully earned.  Now the VA has powerfully armed itself, in concert with Congress.  With laws which deny veterans their right to an attorney of choice, ban them justice in a civil court and even pay bonuses or "bounty" to senior administrators who cut costs by denying claims, the VA has reduced its processed claims to no more than 4% a year.
 
A "special" VA controlled Court of Appeals was created to hear challenged cases.  Of the 170,000 claims filed for review in the past 12 years, less than 130 have been settled in favor of the veterans.
 
So, today we have denial of support and assistance from every sector of our government.  Veterans and retirees keep looking and hoping, but it seems friends and supporters are hard to find, while enemies are everywhere.
 
Even a presidential candidate who pledged that "promises made to veterans, would be promises kept", seems to have forgotten those words now that he is in office.
 
Perhaps he should rethink his pledge and remember he walked into the White House by only a sprinkling of votes.  He would not be there today if veterans and servicemen had not believed his words and cast their ballots accordingly.