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Something (Not So) Different Part 4: Only Not Commented On Stories

Written by veterans  |  21. April 2008

Another occasion I feel the need to share several of the past week's news. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 1 - Put Them In Jail POLITICIAN USED "DONATIONS" TO PHONY VETS' GROUP TO PAD SLUSH FUND -- New York veterans are angry: "If we did something like that, they'd put us in jail." Veterans are putting on their "war face" in the wake of a published report that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office used a phony veterans group to park more than $422,000 of taxpayer money in what is being called a $4.5 million "slush fund." According to the published report, the amount was "set aside" between 2007 and 2008, by listing 30 phony groups on the city budget, as receiving grants. Since 2002, more than $17 million has reportedly been doled out by the speaker through similar means, according to reports. Former Speaker Gifford Miller (2002-2006) has not responded to numerous calls from the media. The ploy gave "the speaker a stash of cash with which to thank or pay off politically important allies or cooperative council members," a council source is reported to have said. The vets aren't satisfied with reports that two top aides were "forced out or resigned," or Quinn's reported claims that she "blew the whistle" on the practice and is co-operating with the investigation. Repeated calls to Quinn's office were not been returned as of press time. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 2 - The Right To Vote, Wasn't That Part Of What We Fought For VA MANDATE: NO VOTER REGISTRATION ON PREMISES -- Secretary Peake calls voter registration "partisan." Senators cry foul. I feel this is plainly and simply voter suppression. The act of registering someone to vote is NOT "partisan." Period! So, we must ask the question: Why doesn't the VA want veterans to register to vote? Is it because they don't want veterans to vote? That appears to be the answer. Veterans Department Creates Roadblocks to Voter Registration for Injured Vets. On the same day the Pentagon's commander in Iraq told the Senate that new troop withdrawals could not considered for months, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake told two Democratic senators that his department will not help injured veterans at VA facilities to register to vote before the 2008 election. "VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission," Peake said in an April 8 letter to Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John Kerry, D-Mass. He was referring to a 1993 federal law that allows government agencies to host voter registration efforts. Peake's letter was the latest response to a year-old request by Kerry and Feinstein to give veterans using VA facilities the opportunity to register to vote, just as people who apply for a driver's license are given that chance at state motor vehicle agencies. Veterans who have not previously registered, as well as registered voters who move, must reregister with new addresses in order to vote. By not helping the injured veterans to do so, it is likely that former soldiers seeking care at VA facilities will lose their right to vote in 2008. Scott Rafferty, an attorney based on Washington, D.C., who has fought the VA in federal courts since 2004 over the right to assist vets, including the homeless, to register to vote at a VA campus in Menlo Park, Calif., said Peake's contention that the VA didn't have the resources to register voters was not credible. "It is a ridiculous position," said. "Because in today's world, with the internet, there are not significant costs to a voter registration program. You are talking about one additional piece of paper when you are talking about the processing of an incoming veteran ... They want to keep veterans cloistered and politically inactive." This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 3 - You Can't Make This Stuff Up... 20 Years! VET'S WIDOW GETS VA BENEFITS 20 YEARS AFTER HUSBAND'S DEATH -- VA finally rules Andrew Grimes' death was related to Agent Orange exposure. Widow says 'I feel more at peace now' Vietnam vet's illness linked to combat; Grimes died in 1988. Almost 20 years after his death, the Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized that an area Army veteran had a valid claim to service-related disability benefits. "I wish he could've been alive to have it," said Virginia Grimes, the widow of veteran Andrew Grimes. She will receive a service-connected death benefit compensation in light of this recognition. Her husband, a Gibson County native, fought in Vietnam and Cambodia and had began filing paperwork with the Veterans Administration in 1987 to get benefits after he became ill. He died at age 40 on Dec. 5, 1988, after The American Legion Magazine had featured him in a story about Vietnam veterans' filing for disability. Grimes said her husband always believed his declining health and a rare lymphoma cancer were results of his exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange during combat in the jungles of Cambodia in 1970. She filed several times on behalf of her husband over the past two decades. With each new filing, new evidence was required. "The years were just passing by. ... I had been denied so many times," she said. Response letters to her filings in the past said "what you have sent is not sufficient enough." Finally, last year Grimes looked at all the paperwork she had and found something she had not sent in before. It was her husband's autopsy report along with an article off the Internet about the type of cancer he had. "If I had not agreed to the autopsy, I never would've gotten it," she said. That was apparently the new evidence that turned everything around. Grimes hopes her experience will give hope to others. "Anybody that is filing that is sincere, just don't give up," she said. Last April, her husband was among 77 veterans honored posthumously during the ninth annual "In Memory Day" for their non-combat injuries and emotional suffering caused directly by the Vietnam War. That recognition, sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, was for veterans who were not eligible to have their names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. --- Regards, Walt Schmidt

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