Veterans want to be treated fairly

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

On August 25, 2003, approximately 25 veterans and military retirees including myself met with Congressman Terry Everett (R-AL), who represents Alabama's Second Congressional District in the U.S House of Representatives. The closed door meeting which lasted more than two hours was held at the Dothan Chamber of Commerce office.

My inner thought at the end of the meeting was that "the system has run amuck." I will let you draw your own conclusions.

My good friend Jim Waldie, a Marine Corps veteran who is legally blind, has operated a snack bar inside Lyster Army Hospital, Fort Rucker, AL, for the better part of 20 years. Jim reported that there is no emergency room, no more one-day surgeries; and the powers that be are planning to shut down the ambulance service. This at Lyster Army Hospital, a major military hospital on the military post which is the home of U.S. Army Aviation.

The primary focus of the meeting was veterans' push for restoration of retired pay. At the present time, let's say that a veteran retires after serving his full 20 years, but he becomes disabled during that period of time

- let's say to a war injury. The veteran is entitled to his "retirement pay" for having served 20 years, which is paid by the Department of Defense. The veteran is entitled to his "disability pay" for having been disabled, which is paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Hypothetically, the veteran is entitled to $1,000 per month "retirement pay" and also $500 per month "disability pay." But, the veteran does not receive a total of $1500 monthly. He or she only receives a total of $1000. The $500 disability pay is deducted from the $1,000 retirement pay; therefore the veteran is funding his or her own retirement.

The veteran in the end only receives $1,000. Veterans are seeking to have this wrong righted, that is, have their pay restored so they will receive a total of $1500; hence the name "Restoration Of Retired Pay." We veterans call it the "Veterans' Tax."

There is no deduction from Civil Service Retirement for VA disability. Even disabled military retirees who go to work as a civil servant or postal employee after their retirement from the military and convert to the civil service retirement system do not have their retired pay docked for VA disability.

Veterans want to be treated fairly - no more no less!

Our congressmen and senators are themselves playing games with the Restoration Of Retired Pay issue according to Congressman Everett who was critical of Alabama's senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

The key words here are "authorize" and "appropriate." The US Senate, unlike the US House of Representatives has "authorized" Restoration Of Retired Pay but has not "appropriated" the dollars to fund it. Nothing happens until the act is "funded". The U.S. House of Representatives, has not even authorized the legislation. According to Terry Everett, Alabama's two U.S. Senators are playing games with veterans when they say they have "voted for" Restoration Of Retired Pay because they - and the US Senate - have not funded the legislation. That gives veterans a lot of confidence in the system to see our Alabama Republican congressman badmouthing our Alabama Republican senators when nothing is getting done to help veterans who laid their lives on the line for these United States of America.

Now for the crowning blow - Congressman Everett confirmed that even if both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate authorized and funded Restoration Of Retired Pay, President Bush on the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would veto - yes, veto - the legislation if it were to come to the President's desk. Now you know why veterans nationwide are livid.

Oh! Congressman Everett gave us a supposed reason not to jump the Republican ship. He said that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidental nominee in the next election 2004 when all is said and done.

Last but not least, Congressman Everett said that our government is running off "deficient spending." In other words, borrowed money. He said with a forlorn look on his face that our children and grandchildren will have to pay off that huge debt.

My daughter is expecting her first child and my first grandchild in November. It is a boy. Does granddaddy-to-be-ever have some news for him. The headline will read: "AMUCK IN THE THIRD DEGREE."