Disabled veterans treated poorly

If you feel like a second class citizen, you may be a disabled American veteran who is also a military retiree. It’s a shame that our government treats retired military personnel in the manner they do. A senator can draw a pension after only four years in Congress and, for some reason, become disabled during that time, then also draw disability pay. Neither one will interfere with the other, not like a disabled retired veteran who has to pay their own disability. The U.S. government deducts the amount of the disability from the retiree’s pension, but they give the disability pay a tax free status. Big deal.

Civil service employees have the same status as senators and there isn’t a job in either vocation that compares or has the dangers that the veterans have faced in their twenty or more years of honorable service to their beloved country.

I have never slept in a foxhole or hit the beach in an invasion but I have seen people hit by aircraft props, disfigured by malfunctioned arresting gear cables, or blown over the side and never found. Recently a sailor was blown off the flight deck from a ship off the San Diego coast and it took seven hours to locate and rescue him. There have been catapult shots too weak to maintain flight and the aircraft crashed at seas. Sometimes the ship will run over the downed plane and crew. No survivors.

When I was flying as a navigator, we flew over South Vietnam every day for about thirty days. All at slow airspeed and low altitude. During an intelligence brief we were informed that we were being fired at. This was in 1961, well before the phony Tonkin Gulf incident.

I know of no civil servant or member of Congress who has been separated from their families for extended periods but I know many service members who have. Congress has a bill in committee called Concurrent Receipt that will allow retired veterans to receive service connected disability pay without forfeiting a like amount from their retired pay.

The Speaker of the House is holding the legislation in committee because President Bush has said he will veto it if Concurrent Receipt is included. Congress could initiate a “Discharge Pension” and force the legislation to the floor for a full vote and if the president vetoes, override the veto. It appears the issue is being politicized because of the elections. If our government is truly concerned about our veterans, now is a good opportunity to show it.

Robert A. Barber is a disabled veteran who lives in Oak Harbor.

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