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Warm Fuzzies from the 112th Congress

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This month’s article, and the next two, will be coming to you from the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. As I mentioned last month it has become my habit to flee the cold, snow, ice and general dreariness of North Idaho winters. I’ve been doing this for the past eight winters and will probably continue for as long as I am physically able to do so. It is one of the few remaining pleasures given to us older folks—the ability to not have to endure those things that we don’t want to.

So, thanks to the wonders of modern communications, I’ll be sipping a cold beer on the beach while you are reading this. Ain’t it wonderful to be living in the 21st Century? 

The 112th Congress has been in session now—as of this writing —for a couple of weeks and so far it doesn’t look good for either the veterans’ community or the American people as a whole. The new GOP majority in the House has fulfilled its main campaign promise by passing a bill that seeks to overturn the Health Care Reform bill passed by the 111th Congress. The fact that the number of Americans now in favor of that bill has been steadily rising has zero impact on the path chosen by the GOP. The only reason the House didn’t pass that bill as its first order of business is the tragedy that occurred in Tuscon. It seems that even the GOP recognized the fact that some thin veneer of decorum must be maintained. 

Speaking about that tragedy in Tuscon, one must wonder about the quality and wisdom of the gun laws in Arizona. Any state that allows an individual to purchase a weapon and ammunition when the U. S. Army wouldn’t even consider trusting that individual with a gun must take a look at this. With our recent history of incendiary rhetoric and lack of civil discourse it is almost inevitable that some less-than-stable individual would take a ‘suggestion’ from the various ‘voices’ that permeate our AM airwaves and perform some heinous act. We must all be ready to take complete responsibility for our individual actions. On the other hand those ‘voices’ must also take responsibility for the actions precipitated by the words that those ‘voices’ speak.

As to other new bills introduced in the House effecting veterans and their dependents there are many. Some of them are of what I call the ‘Warm & Fuzzy’ variety. These are bills that don’t really do much except to serve as a sop to some small group. 

My favorite of the current crop of ‘Warm & Fuzzy’ bills is the one introduced by Rep. Finer (D-NY) that gives a ‘belated’ thanks to the Merchant Marine sailors of WWII. Yes, this is indeed a ‘belated thanks’—almost 70 years belated! Hundreds of men lost their lives along the East Coast of  North America and in convoys to Great Britain between 1939 and 1945. I remember hearing stories from some of the old-timers in Florida about watching ships being torpedoed offshore of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. One has to wonder how many of these sailors are still alive to appreciate this National “Thank You.” [It should be noted that Rep. Filner is the senior minority member of the Veterans Affairs Committee—he was Chairman in the 111th Congress—and has introduced approximately eight bills of benefit to veterans so far this session]. 

Another of the Warm & Fuzzies is the bill introduced by Rep. Speier (D-CA) to grant benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs to certain members of the Filipino military and Philippine Scouts for service performed during WWII. Again, better late than never, right? Of course our Congress has long been slow to recognize the value of service in any armed forces. Maybe that is because so few have actually worn a uniform of any kind in this current generation of legislators.

Of the over 20 bills introduced so far (as of 1/17/2011) of interest to veterans in this young 112th Congress over half have been introduced by the minority party. The one I’m going to watch with some interest is H.R. 238, introduced by Rep. Emerson (R-MO) that seeks to create a refundable credit to military retirees for Medicare Part B premiums paid. As of January 7 this bill was referred to the House Ways & Means Committee. It has no co-sponsors and that usually indicates very little support for the measure. We old military retirees need all the perks we can get. 

After all, we have given more to this country than the vast percentage of citizens. I have heard it said that less than 7 percent of the American population has ever served in the military. I suspect that number is actually going down with the passing of approximately 1,800 per day of WWII veterans. Currently, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our best and brightest are doing more for this country than all the weasels that work on Wall Street.

I have just tried to get an update on H.R. 238 but my Internet connection has failed—unfortunately, this happens with some regularity down here. But I will not get upset or angry. I’ll simply go get another cold one and try again later. A couple of things to remember down here—One: The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, controls Mexico’s communication system; and, Two: Down here we don’t have the same sense of urgency that there is north of the border. We simply say, “Tranquilo hombre, es no importante,” and lean back in our chair.

I will try to get updates on all the bills mentioned in this article and have them ready for next month. Until then take it easy, try to stay warm and don’t hurt yourselves out there doing those things that a North Idaho winter demands you do.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

Tagged as:

veterans, health care reform, Tuscon, Merchant Marine, H.R. 238

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