John Bury’s reader commentary (“For many veterans, the war is not yet over,” May 2 Times-News) painfully illustrates the plight many veterans and military retirees must endure just to garner a morsel of the medical attention which was pledged when we signed on that dotted line; raised our right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey the orders of the President and officers appointed over us (till death do us part, Amen).
If there is any segment of our society that is worthy of entitlement, it is those men and women who serve in our armed forces.
There once was a time when any honorably discharged veteran who possessed a blue “retiree” ID card could walk into any military medical facility and receive treatment regardless of how or when the ailment was contracted or inflicted.
Some time after the first Gulf War (circa 1991), that door was slammed shut on all Veterans and retirees when DOD implemented TRICARE.
This breach of faith not only cut off access to military hospitals for veterans/retirees; but forced active duty members to pay an annual insurance type premium just to gain access to military medical care for their spouse and children.
Another promise of indirect compensation broken by some pencil necked geek in Congress just to save a buck.
I can still hear the career counselor back in 1979 who convinced me to reenlist and make the Navy a career; “You serve 20 years and retire honorably, son; you’ll get a pension and medical benefits. The Navy takes care of its own, shipmate!”
That promise of indirect compensation (a bunk, three squares a day, commissary and exchange privileges, and access to medical and dental treatment) made earning a meager $280 pay check every two weeks worthwhile.
That trust I put into my shipmates pledge back in 1979 was broken by some nameless politicians and bureaucrats in Washington who corrupted the systems of retirement benefits to pay for scams and pork to line their pockets and constituents back home.
This betrayal was complete for me in 1999 when I retired after 24 years to discover that there was no dental benefit, no optical benefit, no prescription drug benefit, and NO medical benefits (unless it was deemed service related by the VA).
In other words, if I have an ingrown toenail that becomes infected; it’s my responsibility. But if I can prove that my heart attack in 2010 was due to 22 years of service as a tactical air controller, then the VA might step in.
I find it appalling that young men and women are enlisting today with the laughable assortment of educational, medical, and pension benefits presented as enticements to serve and defend.
This betrayal by Congress is nothing new. General Washington wrestled with Congress to properly arm, cloth, feed, and ironically enough, to honor its promise of benefits and pensions to Revolutionary War Veterans.
230 years later, the same snakes and weasels that infested the halls of the Congress in Philadelphia are still dealing in lies and deceit today. Happy Veterans Day, everyone.
CPO John R. Walker, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Cold War, tanker wars, First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm)