View Full Version : Frustrated Vets, Col Bud Day (MOH), Bush, etc.

01-07-03, 08:58 AM
Frustrated Veterans, Col Bud Day, Bush, etc.
by Dick G (Login Dick Gaines)
Forum Owner

Boston Globe Online: Print it!


Frustrated veterans accuse Bush of breaking

By Wayne Washington, Globe Staff, 12/22/2002

WASHINGTON - The leaders of America's most
prominent veterans organizations say that
President Bush is failing to honor past
commitments to military men and women even as he
prepares to send a new generation of soldiers and
sailors into combat.

The administration's support for rescinding
lifetime health benefits for World War II and
Korean War veterans and continuing problems at
veterans hospitals stand as proof, veteran
leaders say, that America is more than willing to
lean on its soldiers during times of war but
tolerates them serving as political props in

Coming after President Clinton, who avoided
service in Vietnam and had a strained
relationship with the military, veterans leaders
say they had high expectations for Bush, who
served in the National Guard and whose father was
a fighter pilot during World War Two.

''I'm terribly frustrated and extremely angry,''
said retired Air Force Colonel George ''Bud''
Day, a Republican who won the Medal of Honor and
was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam with
Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Day said Bush is violating his oft-repeated
campaign pledge to veterans: ''A promise made is
a promise kept.''

''Obviously, he didn't know what that meant or
he's too preoccupied to see that his word is
kept,'' Day said.

Many veterans are particularly galled that the
Bush administration has not backed away from a
1995 decision to rescind a promise of free
lifetime health care benefits for soldiers, who
from 1941 to 1956 had been told that if they
signed up and served 20 years they and their
dependents would get free care. The government
stopped honoring that pledge in 1995, and many
veterans 65 and older have been forced to pay for
benefits through Medicare, which now costs about
$60 a month and pays for 80 percent of medical
care after a $100 deductible has been paid.

Day has represented a group of veterans hoping to
get the free health care restored, but the US
Court of Appeals in Washington ruled last month
that the recruiters who promised the free care
did not have the standing to do so.

Officials from Disabled American Veterans, the
American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars
protested the decision.

The issue could become a factor in the 2004
presidential race because Day said he will ask
the Supreme Court to hear the case. Because of
the court's schedule, the case might not be heard
until late 2003 or early 2004 - if at all.

The Justice Department refused to make the
attorneys handling the case available for an
interview, and Justice spokesman Charles Miller
declined to comment.

Deputy White House spokesman Scott McClellan
would not respond to criticism of the Bush
administration's record on veterans benefits or
explain why the administration has supported the
1995 decision.

''President Bush has had a chance to rectify
this, and he hasn't done it,'' said Ronald F.
Conley, national commander of the American
Legion. ''Before we spend one dime rebuilding
Afghanistan and rebuilding Iraq after we bomb it
to smithereens, we ought to take care of our

Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, a decorated
Vietnam War veteran who is considering a White
House run in 2004, questioned the 1995 decision,
the current administration's defense of it, and
the November ruling.

''It is extraordinary to me that you give your
entire career in defense of this country and then
have to go to court to make the government keep
their promise,'' Kerry said. ''What's the message
we're sending to our troops around the world
today and those prepared to fight in Iraq? The
message seems to be, `Do your duty to country but
your country won't fulfill its duty to you when
you return home.'''

Hoping to get the president to disavow the 1995
decision on veterans health care, Day said he
used a Medal of Honor reception in June to ask
Bush about it personally.

''I said to him, `Mr. President, I'm Colonel Bud
Day. You know your campaign [promise], a promise
made is a promise kept, is being broken.' His
eyes just glazed over,'' Day said. ''He really
had no idea what I was talking about.''

With his wife fuming at her husband's directness
with the president, Day said he explained the
circumstances of the case. Lawyers from the
current Justice Department have defended the '95
decision in court, so Day was hoping Bush would
withdraw support for the case. Instead, Day said
the president told him, ''`Colonel, you really
need to talk to [Veterans Affairs Secretary
Anthony] Principi.'''

After pushing more with the VA, Day said he
''realized this was a dry hole.''

Veterans have experienced such disappointment
before. Rhetorical support for veterans has been
a staple of political discourse throughout the
country's history, but veterans have long
struggled to get promised benefits.

After fighting with poor weapons, equipment, and
uniforms to win the Revolutionary War, only 3,000
American servicemen received pensions. Veterans
of the Spanish-American War, disgusted with the
lack of care available to them after their
service, founded the VFW in 1899.

But benefits and care for veterans was still slim
by the time World War I ended. Veterans of that
war had seen their savings wiped out in the stock
market crash of 1929 and pushed for the early
distribution of monetary bonuses Congress had
authorized. They set up tents and huts in
Washington to make their point to Congress but
were forcefully evicted from the area by Major
General Douglas MacArthur in 1932.

The GI Bill of Rights educated and housed a
generation of soldiers in the 1940s and 1950s.
Free lifetime medical care was another benefit
for two decades of service.

Now, that free care has been ended. Veterans can
still be cared for at VA medical facilities, but
the wait for non-emergency treatment is long.
Citing a report indicating that more than 300,000
veterans are waiting for primary care
appointments at VA facilities, the American
Legion is launching a national campaign to alert
federal legislators to the problem. The American
Legion is sending out booklets on the problem to
its 15,000 posts and collecting personal stories
of ''backlogged'' veterans to tell Congress early
next year.

VA spokesman Phil Budahn said the agency does not
try to defend the delays veterans experience in
getting care. ''There's enormous frustration from
the secretary's office all the way down,'' Budahn
said. ''We just don't have the staff to see them
as quickly as we would like. We're fighting for
the best appropriations we can get.''

Togo West Jr., secretary of Veterans Affairs from
1998 to 2000, said the VA often struggles to keep
up with costs because health care is increasingly
expensive and the agency's clientele is older and
sicker than the general population.

''We don't ever get to do as much as we want for
veterans,'' West said.

This story ran on page A26 of the Boston Globe on
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

Further Info: Gunny G's -Lifetime (Earned) Medical Care Was Clearly Promised!!!

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