Evil Elvis - Live Free Or Die

Yes, I do have opinions on damn near everything. I'm just trying to decide if I should post them or not.  Unlike Rush, they might actually come after me.  Can't have that, can we.  I'll think about it a bit longer.  Besides, an opinion is simply a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty.

Whatever the hell that means.

This is via email from my friend Major Bill Donahue USMC Ret.

Republicans Need Major Image Repair With the Military

Harlingen, Texas, March 4, 2006: 

How does the military community view Washington these days?  Veterans, particularly those who retired from military service, feel they have more enemies in the capitol city than they have friends. 

While the Washington crowd pretends to support military and veteran issues, the truth behind those false gestures is the majority in both political parties view former warriors as nothing more than unwanted expense.

Who should be held accountable?  At the top is the President of the United States, along with those of the Republican administration who pays lip service to supporting the military, but only offers gestures of superficial support once a warrior leaves the field of battle. 

Equally responsible are both the Republican and Democrat members of the United States Congress.  With fewer and fewer veterans in its ranks and an opposition political party with an anti-military mentality, little has been, or will be done to support those who were the defenders of this nation

In fact, Congress seems to go out of its way to find new ways to make the cost of serving ones country a very expensive choice for anyone to adopt.

A very significant example of the high cost of serving can be seen by actions which took place only days ago.  The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, now chaired by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a” health fee summit” meeting on February 28, which included key officials from the Department of Defense, including Under Secretary Dr. David Chu.

Chu has never been known to support any positive retiree or veteran related legislation.  He is currently champion for a Pentagon proposal to raise Tricare fees by 50% to 270% for retirees under age 65 and raise pharmacy co pays by 67% for all beneficiaries. 

The subcommittee seems to agree with the proposal and is helping it to move forward, an effort, quietly supported by many Republicans in Congress and the Administration.

What was always promised as free medical care for services rendered, has in recent years had across the board fees enacted...and it looks like more are on the way, slowly driving retired and even active duty military personnel away from government supported treatment into a search for less expensive coverage.

However, if veterans rank any individual or agency as the primary enemy, The Department of Defense holds that questionable honor.  One needs only to pick a topic.  If it involves support of a military retiree or any veteran, DoD has a spokesperson to deny there is any government responsibility or obligation.  In most cases the DoD voice is in direct opposition to issues raised by American veterans.

If Republicans are to regain their status as strong supporters of national defense in the eyes of voters, those who control the nation’s purse strings need to realign their loyalties to coincide with the foot soldier, the military retiree and the veteran population, instead of with the dollar driven mentality of DoD bureaucrats.

Note: All it would require is a sincere effort to cut back on government handouts to those who never did a damned thing in their lives for this country…like more than $ 11,250 PER person (so far) for New Orleans…not to mention all those free ATM cards that FEAM gave away.

Every elected official in Washington should be very mindful of this...and also remember that the ranks of veterans grow larger every day. More and more service personnel are returning from the war zones.

Instead of trying to solve budgetary headaches by creating nightmares for all military personnel, Republicans should be examining the huge waste and fraud associated with everything from their own pork barrel issues to reconstruction efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq to the Gulf Coast of the United States.

While those who control both the executive branch and both houses of Congress keep heralding their support and dedication to all who serve or have served in uniform, they continue to show by their actions that all those words mean absolutely nothing.  If they are to regain the rapidly diminishing support of the military community, meaningful legislation needs to become a reality, not political double-speak.

What veteran’s issue is Washington against?  Just pick your topic.  It spent years rejecting responsibility for everything related to the Gulf War Syndrome.  It denied veteran charges that the government used service personnel as human guinea pigs during deadly biological and chemical tests of the 60s and early 70s. There is continuing denial and stonewalling on just about everything related to the thousands of veterans who participated in our nations atomic testing program.

The DoD remains a major obstacle in the hiring of mental health counselors to work with veterans facing serious emotional issues. The VA keeps falling further and further behind in processing disability claims.  And most of America is familiar with the case of World War II and Korean War military retirees seeking long promised lifetime health care.  Throughout the legal process the Congress and its ally the Department of Defense has fought our former warriors.  (Is there a ‘plan’ afoot to filibuster any meaningful action…until AFTER all these veterans are dead?)

A major problem area involves many thousands of retirees.  The issue is an ongoing dispute between disabled retirees and DoD over payments received related to retired pay and disability compensation. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal year 2005 eliminated the phase-in period for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CROP) for veterans rated as 100% disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

After decades of battling the Washington establishment and particularly the Department of Defense, a partial solution was provided by Congress. 

Career military veterans with 60% or more disability would have their retirement pay restored.  However, this would be done over an extended ten-year period(After many are already dead?)

In 2005 that ruling was modified to give those retirees with 100 % disability full pay restoration at once.

Once again the anti-veteran crowd at the Pentagon found a way to attack those who were no longer able to contribute to the active duty force.

There are two different methods of determining the 100% disability status.  The first is called a scheduled 100% rating by the VA. The scheduled 100% disability rating is one given to a condition, which has been predetermined by the VA to be a total disability.  The second is called Individual Unemployable or IU.  However, both methods result in same total disability status.

An example of an IU rating can be understood by examining the case of another officer who experienced heart and degenerative joint disease while on active duty.  The officer was retired at a scheduled rating of 60%, but was never able to work.  Following extensive medical procedures related to these service connected disabilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs changed the rating to 100% extra-scheduler and Individual Unemployable (IU).

However, the Pentagon has elected to read the law in its own special way and has refused to restore full disability payment to any veteran rated with an IU 100% disability.

The important thing to note is, the law makes no distinction between “scheduled” or “individual unemployable” ratings.  They are both considered total and 100% disabilities by the VA.

Republicans in DoD the Executive Branch and Congress all know this and to date have done nothing to correct the problem.  In fact, they have done everything possible to make themselves less acceptable in the eyes of the military community.

While negative recommendations and actions taking place in Washington are growing with each passing month, Republican support of the active duty, retired military veterans and their families continues to decline.  Though those who serve and have served in uniform have little faith the opposition party will treat them any better, they are still moving in that direction.

Mike Baily is an Edgewood Arsenal chemical test veteran who has been waiting 31 years for treatment.  He says, “Republicans and Democrats both have problems, but Congress has abandoned oversight and things have run amok.  The Republicans are the party in power and they are the ones who will pay for the nation’s low opinion of Congress.”

There is a consensus among those who serve and have served our country.  Using a variety of different expressions they all seem to say, “It is time to stop the lip service, false promises and lies.  It is past time for Congress to do some real work on behalf of veterans, the retired and those now in uniform.”

These men and women have all sacrificed greatly, some of them in life altering ways.  They deserve to be ranked among the highest priorities of our nation’s leadership. 

Every returning serviceman or woman and every individual who served in uniform remembers “Promises made will be promises kept” was a Republican pledge. 

They also know it was just about as meaningful as any other campaign promise.