Veterans Face More Enemies Than
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
Who are the enemies of our
veterans? It would be easier to ask.who are their
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
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
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
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.