Letters to the editor - 5/20/03

May 20, 2003

Tax cuts will hurt veterans' programs

To the editor:

The declaration of a complete military victory in Iraq seems close at hand. We must now demonstrate a continuing commitment to helping rebuild Iraq and shaping a new government that will promote freedom and prosperity for the Iraqi people, as well as provide security and stability in the region.

And while we honor the skill and bravery of our American troops and the sacrifices they have made during this conflict, we must also demonstrate a commitment to support them as they return home to their jobs, their families and their lives.

Currently, more than 235,000 veterans in America are experiencing waiting lists of six months or more just to get an appointment in VA hospitals and clinics. Many of these veterans need prescription drugs or diagnostic tests that can prevent their conditions from worsening.


Now that thousands of new veterans from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are about to enter the VA system, it reinforces the critical need to ensure VA has the resources to provide the medical services and benefits our veterans deserve. I recently co-sponsored a bill that would provide mandatory funding for VA health care. And I can assure you that I will continue to fight for adequate funding for the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

As the senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, I have also cosponsored legislation to allow disabled veterans to collect disability benefits and their retirement benefits concurrently. More people are choosing to make careers out of military service and deserve a suitable retirement, regardless of their health or medical conditions. I will keep making the case for "full concurrent receipt" in Congress.

Senate Democrats did get increases passed in combat pay and the family separation allowance, which is paid when a service member has to be away from his or her dependents for more than 30 days due to military orders.

This month I introduced legislation to extend veterans' long-term care benefits by five years. The current congressional mandate to provide this care, through nursing homes or community-based health services, is set to expire in December. As our veteran population grows older, VA must make sure it is able to meet their needs for long-term care. Preserving long-term care for veterans must become a priority issue for VA.

I also supported an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill aimed at providing over $1 billion for modernizing equipment, weapons, and technology used by the National Guard and Reserves. This funding would have provided the new C-130 radar system that our West Virginia Air National Guard has needed for years, and would address SINGARS radio system shortages in our West Virginia National Guard. However, the full Senate rejected this amendment.

While the Bush administration pushes for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for corporations and people in upper-income brackets, even modest improvements in VA health care and military benefits must be fought for tooth and nail. I remain committed to fighting for the benefits of veterans and active service members because I believe America has an obligation to support our troops at home as well as abroad.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller
Washington, D.C.

Values eroding

To the editor:

I enjoyed reading George Will's article, "Race is losing its relevancy." Race relations still appears to be a very touchy subject.

I was born in London, England, in 1920, came to the states with my husband after the "war to end wars" was over. Our first house was in Philadelphia, Pa. He was employed by The Beck Engraving Co.

Our first friends were German immigrants who left Germany after the 1914-19 war to end wars was over. She was an excellent cook and he was a top class journeyman.

"Big business" is obviously responsible for the awful conflagrations. Television, now, does much to stir opinions in the wrong direction.

I am 83 and very content to be so. The sense of values is so very awry and the young people are heavily influenced by the modern media.

Educational standards leave much to be desired when college is essential to learn the three "R's."

Iris J. Gibson
Fort Detrick, Md.

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