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Registered: 02/06/02
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Bush Screws Vets Again
    #1943125 - 09/23/03 02:03 AM (13 years, 1 month ago)


Bush goes AWOL when soldiers need care

By George McEvoy, Palm Beach Post Columnist
Saturday, September 20, 2003

"I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint of beer,

The publican 'e up and sez,

'We serve no red-coats here.'

The girls behind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

'O it's Tommy this an' Tommy that, an' Tommy go away'';

But it's, 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play... "

Tommy Atkins is what the British have called their typical soldier in the ranks since the Duke of Wellington coined the term in 1843. Rudyard Kipling, in his poem Tommy, wanted to show how civilians treat the military as heroes in time of war, and as drains on the taxpayers once peace is won.

The words of that old poem flashed through my mind a week ago Friday as I watched President Bush greet members of the Army's combat-weary Third Division and welcome them back from Iraq. As the soldiers, wearing berets and camouflage fatigues, sat in bleachers at Fort Stewart, Ga., Mr. Bush strode onstage with that John Wayne walk he assumes when he's playing soldier.

The Third Division supplied more than 20,000 troops to the Iraq war, most of them front-line combat soldiers. They saw more action than just about any other outfit. Some of them returned to the U.S. only three weeks ago.

"America is grateful for your devoted service in hard conditions," Mr. Bush told the troops. Their applause was described as "polite." They probably knew that some of their units already were being redeployed back to Iraq and that they probably would follow in a short while.

"You've made history,'' Mr. Bush went on. "You've made our nation proud... " And he presented the Third with a Presidential Unit Citation for "extraordinary heroism" in action.

Again, the applause seemed to lack a certain enthusiasm usually found when the president speaks to military groups. After the speech, Pvt. Kenneth Henry, 21, a Third Division radar operator with a field artillery unit, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying of Mr. Bush:

"He likes war. He should go fight in a war for two days and see how he likes it."

Mr. Bush's military experience consists only of serving as a jet pilot with the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. But his outfit never left Texas, and he since has been accused of going AWOL for a year to campaign for a political pal of his father's.

But what brought the Kipling poem tramp-tramp-tramping across my mind was another story that ran the same day as the one about the president's trip to Fort Stewart. This story said that senior Republicans on the House Veterans Affairs Committee were joining with the Democrats in an attempt to keep the Bush administration from taking benefits away from disabled veterans.

Under the Bush plan, the Department of Veterans Affairs would disqualify about 1.5 million veterans, two-thirds of those now in the VA disability program.

In Kipling's day, at least, the civilians and the government would wait until the killing fields had been quieted before deciding to act like ingrates and treat the disabled troops as a needless expense.

The Bush administration is trying to cheat the veterans while continuing to send today's troops back into action, all at the same time, thereby creating more casualties and new disabled veterans who can be denied benefits. And don't think the troops don't know.

Rudyard Kipling understood the soldier's mind as few men have, and so he wrote:

"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy wait outside';

But it's 'Special train for Atkins,' when the trooper's on the tide --

The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,

O it's 'Special train for Atkins,' when the trooper's on the tide."

george mcevoy@pbpost.com

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Re: Bush Screws Vets Again [Re: EchoVortex]
    #1943152 - 09/23/03 02:14 AM (13 years, 1 month ago)


Under the Bush plan, the Department of Veterans Affairs would disqualify about 1.5 million veterans, two-thirds of those now in the VA disability program.

That's pretty bad, for sure.

What is the number of this bill? Which member of congress introduced it in the House? When was it introduced? When is it due to be debated?

I suggest everyone write to their member of congress to ensure this bill is voted down.



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Re: Bush Screws Vets Again [Re: Phred]
    #1943648 - 09/23/03 09:50 AM (13 years, 1 month ago)

It's not actually a bill but rather a set of preliminary proposals.

Here's the original news story that the author of the editorial was referring to:

Politics - U. S. Congress
House, Groups Rally Against Benefit Cuts
Fri Sep 12, 3:35 PM ET

Add Politics - U. S. Congress to My Yahoo!

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Senior Republicans on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee have joined Democrats and veterans groups in a chorus of protest against proposals being considered by the Bush administration to shrink the number of military personnel who qualify for disability benefits.

Changes in the definition of service-connected disability "could have far-reaching and unintended consequences for millions of servicemembers and veterans," wrote the committee chairman, Rep. Christopher Smith (news, bio, voting record), R-N.J., and three of the panel's subcommittee chairmen.

The Senate's top Democrats, Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Whip Harry Reid of Nevada, also weighed in on the issue Friday, telling President Bush (news - web sites) in a letter that it was "outrageous to pit one group of disabled veterans against another."

Daschle said the proposals, if retroactive, could disqualify about 1.5 million veterans, about two-thirds of those now in the VA disability program.

The proposals, which have not gone beyond the preliminary discussion stage. They were part of a response to what veterans regard as a century-old injustice without adding another major chunk to a federal deficit, already at record levels because of the war on terror, operations in Iraq (news - web sites) and tax cuts every year since Bush took office.

Under current law, disabled veterans eligible for military retirement pay have their retirement reduced by the amount they receive in disability payments. Veterans groups argue that civilian federal employees on disability get full retirement benefits, and lawmakers for years have tried to extend that right to veterans.

The problem is cost: estimates are that full "concurrent receipt" of both benefits would cost $58 billion over 10 years.

This year the Senate, in its version of a $400 billion defense spending bill for next year, included full restitution of benefits. The House bill did not contain the provision, and the issue has become a major sticking point in reaching a compromise on the crucial defense bill.

The White House and House GOP leaders have floated less costly compromise proposals that would phase in the increase of benefits over four or five years and narrow the definition of service-connected disabilities.

Democrats circulated on Friday a two-page draft, described as a White House document, that define qualified disabilities as those injuries and illnesses "directly resulting from the performance of official military duties."

Actions unrelated to official government business, including travel between home and duty station, would not qualify.

Smith and the other Veterans' Committee Republicans cited estimates that 50 percent to 90 percent would not qualify if the standards were applied to current disability claims. They added that future payments to widows could also be jeopardized.

Currently, service-connected disability payments are made to about 2.4 million veterans, at an annual cost of about $17.6 billion. Payments also are made to some 315,000 surviving spouses and children of disability-qualified veterans.

Veterans groups are adamantly opposed to the changes. The American Legion promised in a statement to "stop dead in their tracks any fiscal compromises that would make it harder for veterans to receive just compensation."

"If this is the only compromise that is thrown out there, then I think it will kill the issue," Legion Commander John A. Brieden said in an interview.

Five other service organizations, including Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America, put out a statement saying that the "House majority leadership has shown callous contempt for the sacrifices of America's defenders by attempting to impose overly restrictive conditions that would limit benefits for disabilities." (Highlighting mine. I should point out that the "majority leadership" refers to the Republican leadership.)

Republican aides stressed that no final decision has been reached on benefits, and the drive to link benefits and a smaller eligibility pool may be abandoned. Among ideas being discussed, they said, were extending both retirement and disability pay to a smaller group of more seriously disabled veterans.

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Re: Bush Screws Vets Again [Re: EchoVortex]
    #1943684 - 09/23/03 10:15 AM (13 years, 1 month ago)

yeah, fucking evil republicans!

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Re: Bush Screws Vets Again [Re: Phred]
    #1945161 - 09/23/03 06:32 PM (13 years, 1 month ago)

I'll wait for a bill, then contact my senators. AZ senators aren't likely go go for this in any case, but writing them can't hurt.

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