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Veterans Are Better Off Than Before

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By the time this issue comes off the presses we will know in what direction this nation, region and state are headed for the next two to four years. The composition of the United States 113th Congress will determine whether we go forward, backward, or suffer from the same gridlock that we’ve endured for the past two years. I’m in hope that the number of those representatives in thrall to Grover Nordquist has been significantly reduced and that many of the freshman class of 2012—from either party—don’t view ‘compromise’ as a dirty word.

The question has been asked by the GOP’s nominees, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The answer given by most reputable economists has been a resounding “Yes!” But you wouldn’t know that if you listened only to Fox or AM Talk Radio. The truly amazing thing is that we are indeed better off than we were four years ago. The economy, in spite of GOP Congressional obstructionism, has been growing —albeit slowly. Housing starts in September nation-wide were the highest since 2008. Our relationships with the rest of the world’s nations are better than they were under the previous Administration and most of the men and women that were sent in harm’s way to faraway lands have come home. Those remaining in Afghanistan have a defined timetable to look forward to.

Services required for our returning service men and women have improved dramatically. The backlog is still large but efforts are being made to speed up the processing of claims. The VA’s funding has finally been increased commensurate with the demands of the years of war we’ve fought. That’s not to say that there isn’t much left to be done for our veterans, but over the last four years great strides have been made. But these gains can only continue in a positive direction if the President has another four years in office. Imagine the effects of the Ryan Budget on our veterans—veterans that aren’t even mentioned in that budget. Former South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler, a Republican with 22 years of service in the House and Senate and with two combat tours in Viet Nam, has endorsed President Obama in a nationally distributed letter, that said in part,  “And let me be clear: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would be disastrous for America’s service members, veterans, and military families.” 

 I have hopes that this information has been widely disseminated and that all veterans have finally voted in their own best interest rather than believing the ‘malarkey’ that the GOP has been handing out for over 30 years. 

I have hopes that the theory of “Trickle Down Economics” will finally have a stake driven deep into its black, specious heart. It didn’t work over 30 years ago during the Reagan administration. It didn’t work during Bush I or Bush II and it won’t work any better under another GOP administration. Those that have the wealth stay that way by holding onto it. They don’t take any risks that may adversely affect their wealth. Only through a progressive tax structure can the entire nation benefit. We must all pay our fair share if the whole country is to prosper over the long term.

If you are a woman I hope that you’ve seen the dangers that a Right leaning administration would present to you and your children. I don’t believe that government—at any level—should be involved in the highly personal and intimate decisions that any woman might make. Those decisions should be made within the family and in the hearts of those most affected without any governmental interference.

I’ve watched all three debates and I’ve seen the dismissive and disrespectful tone used by the GOP’s nominee towards women, minorities, retirees and the Office of the President. He does it when in private settings among ‘his kind of people’ and in public on a national stage. I totally understand that all politicians say things that they believe will garner support —and large donations—among the groups they address. What puzzles me is how they can say the complete opposite in a different venue and appear to be just as sincere. Someone once said, “When you can fake ‘sincerity’ you’ve got it made.” If this is true, the GOP nominee [possibly our newly elected President as of this publication] will have reached that level in spades. There is an old saying that goes, ”Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

On a topic closer to home I visited the newly relocated VA clinic in Ponderay in early September to make inquiries about a hearing test. My “What was that?,” “Say again, please,” and “Can you turn up the TV?” was starting to get old to friends and family. When I retired from active duty in July 1980 it was suggested that I go to the Spokane VA hospital and have a physical to ascertain if I qualified for a disability rating. It was found that I had significant hearing loss and tinnitus in both ears. This and some other minor anomalies earned me a 20 percent disability rating and got me a small monthly stipend over the past many years. 

In short order the local clinic had set up an audiology appointment in Spokane; I was tested and it was found that, while my hearing loss had not changed significantly over the past 32 years, thanks to some new programs I qualified for hearing aids. At a second appointment I was fitted with a pair of state-of-the-art devices. I also received instructions on the care and feeding of these small wonders; a set of replacement batteries and assorted kits and cases. The total cost to me —as a disabled veteran—for the hearing aids, batteries and kits: ZERO! If I had not been rated as a disabled veteran the co-pay would have been $50. I will also receive free batteries and other supplies with a simple mail-in or on-line request for as long as I need them.

The lessons learned here folks, if you are a veteran, are these: 1- we need to get off our butts; 2 - break out that old DD-214, and 3 - and talk to the good people on the second floor (there is an elevator) of the Kaniksu Heath Services Clinic on Hwy 200 in Ponderay (behind Paul Bunyan’s Burgers). The number of the Ponderay VA clinic is (208) 263 0450. If you’ve lost your original DD-214 a new one can be gotten online at www.Archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records.

I also made an appointment and got a free flu shot. While there I picked up a copy of the latest Department of Veterans Affairs “Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors” booklet. They are free for the asking. 

Until next month stay safe and remember our young men and women serving in all branches of our military—overseas and at home. They are the ones who ensure that we continue to enjoy the freedoms we have.

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Pat Jensen 12/16/2012 12:08:13
Good article
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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.

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