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Something (Not So) Different Part 6: Only Almost Not Commented On Stories

Written by veterans  |  26. August 2008

It's been two months. Here, once again are items, this time six, from the recent past's news I believe should be shared. What am I almost not commenting on: Over 29, You Should Be Fired, You're Too Old; Die, Yes - Register For Vote, No; I'll Gladly Pay You Today For 10+ Times As Much From You Tomorrow; Good Enough To Die On Foreign Shores, Not Good Enough To Visit Any; One For Me and One For Me, Two For Me and One, Two For Me, Three For Me and...; Have It Done For Free, Not Our Government's Way. You just can not... make this stuff up. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 1 - Over 29, You Should Be Fired, You're Too Old VA SECRETARY PEAKE'S REMARK SMACKS OF AGE DISCRIMINATION -- Says VA needs young, tech-savvy workers: "Getting rid of some of those older-age guys in the work force is not that bad. It gives you the opportunity to move forward." I guess VA Secretary James Peake has never heard of age discrimination. Maybe Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake misspoke. Peake said in an interview that he was happy when younger workers handled benefit claims because they had more computer skills that their older counterparts. Then this quote: "Getting rid of some of those older-age guys in the work force is not that bad. It gives you the opportunity to move forward." We wonder what some of those "older-age guys" think of that. What Peake forgets is that it takes knowledge and experience to understand VA rules and regulations, and make proper disability claims decisions. Some young kid isn't going to coax the answer out of a computer. Is this Peake's view of the entire VA? Get rid of the "older-age guys" and replace them with younger, less experienced, lower paid workers? I sure hope VA employees jump all over this and let the Secretary know what they think of his mindset. But, on the other hand ... maybe some of those "older-age guys" should go. How old is Secretary Peake, anyway? Doesn't look a day over 90 to me. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 2 - Die, Yes - Register For Vote, No HELP OUR VETERANS VOTE, WHAT IS THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS THINKING -- James B. Peake issued a directive that bans nonpartisan voter registration drives at federally financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. As a result, too many of our most patriotic American citizens -- our injured and ill military veterans -- may not be able to vote this November. There are thousands of veterans of wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan who are isolated behind the walls of V.A. hospitals and nursing homes across the country. We have an obligation to make sure that every veteran has the opportunity to make his or her voice heard at the ballot box. The VA offers two reasons to justify its decision. First, it claims that voter registration drives are disruptive to the care of its patients. This is nonsense. Veterans can fill out a voter registration card in about 90 seconds. Second, the department claims that its employees cannot help patients register to vote because the Hatch Act forbids federal workers from engaging in partisan political activities. But this interpretation of the Hatch Act is erroneous. Registering people to vote is not partisan activity. If the department does not want to burden its staff, there are several national organizations with a long history of nonpartisan advocacy for veterans and their right to vote that are eager to help. The federal government should be doing everything it can to support our nation's veterans who have served us so courageously. There can be no justification for any barrier that impedes the ability of veterans to participate in democracy's most fundamental act, the vote. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 3 - I'll Gladly Pay You Today For 10+ Times As Much From You Tomorrow "REDUX" IS A VERY BAD DEAL FOR SERVICE MEMBERS -- The REDUX (the Military Retirement Reform Act of 1986) program takes advantage of service people who are in financial distress or easily lured by cash-in-hand. Thousands of military members entering their 15th year of service continue to be enticed by a wily government offer: a $30,000 bonus if they agree to take a deep and permanent cut in future retirement benefits. The offer, called a Career Status Bonus, takes advantage of service people who are in financial distress, or easily lured by cash-in-hand, or who fail to grasp the amount of retirement dollars forfeited over their lifetime. The government's goal in this offering is to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in future retirement obligations. It works well but at service members' expense. Indeed, it might be argued that no payday lender outside a military base ever ripped off a member as severely as the government has done with this bonus offer. Consider a typical enlisted member taking a $30,000 bonus that, after taxes, is worth $25,500. If the member retires at 20 years as an E-7 and age 38, the lifetime retirement loss is $344,400, or 13 times the value of the bonus. In order to offset this loss, the enlisted member would need to invest the bonus, averaging almost a 17% return for over forty years. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 4 - Good Enough To Die On Foreign Shores, Not Good Enough To Visit Any GOVERNMENT WON'T GIVE DECORATED VIETNAM VET A PASSPORT -- Homeland Security says his birth certificate isn't valid because he was born in a house. A military veteran is frustrated tonight with the federal government. He served his country in the Vietnam War, but said the same government he fought for won't issue him a passport. Because of 9/11, requirements are tougher to get a passport. Even though this veteran can get onto any military base in the country, he cannot get a passport due to homeland security. The State Department has denied his application for a passport due to Homeland Security rules. The reason: his birth certificate isn't valid because he was born in a house. They said it was no good because it wasn't registered at the courthouse. He just hopes he gets the passport before he dies from illnesses suffered while serving in the military. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 5 - One For Me and One For Me, Two For Me and One, Two For Me, Three For Me and... VA TO OUTSOURCE IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW G.I. BILL BENEFITS: THE NEXT STEP IN PRIVATIZING THE VA -- Secretary Peake: "...The decision has been made to seek private-sector support to implement this new program... We intend to move quickly to select a contractor..." When Sen. Jim Webb (VA) was pushing legislation for his New G.I. Bill, the VA worked diligently to defeat the measure. "The anticipated high benefit cost ... and the anticipated administrative burden associated with this bill are all problematic," said Keith M. Wilson, director of the education service for the VA. Daniel Cooper, the VA's undersecretary for benefits, in Congressional testimony, said "The complexity of eligibility rules, anticipated cost, and administrative burden associated with this bill are all problematic." Cooper also spoke of "significant administrative costs." You get the idea. The VA did not want this bill to pass and if it did (and it did), they did not want to administer the program ... even though that is what the VA does ... administer veterans' benefits programs. Now, we have learned that the VA is going to outsource the administration of this program. This is just the next step in privatizing the VA. This outsourcing concept makes no sense. The VA argued that the costs of administering the program would be "problematic." So, they want to outsource it? Give it to a contractor who will charge way more than it would cost the VA to do it? The VA said implementing the program would be an "administrative burden." How can that be when the VA already has benefits people on staff who know how to administer such programs? This is just a giveaway ... another way to put money into a private contractor's pocket ... and move forward with privatizing the VA. This Week's Almost Not Commented on Story 6 - Have It Done For Free, Not Our Government's Way REPLACEMENT MARBLE FOR TOMB OF UNKNOWNS JUST SITS -- Donation of marble chunk creates problems for the government because it is free and has not gone through a pricey bidding and specification process. The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery has been cracked since the 1930s. Retired Glenwood Springs car dealer John Haines' hope of donating a giant chunk of snow-white marble to the federal government to replace the cracked Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is stalled again, and didn't even rate a mention in a 34-page Department of the Army report to Congress this week on replacement and repair options for the deteriorating tomb. Haines' donation creates problems for the federal government because it is free and has not gone through a pricey bidding and specification process. "It's not doable. A citizen can't just give us any piece of marble and say, 'This is what we'll use to replace the tomb,'" said Thurman Higginbotham, deputy superintendent of Arlington. But Haines' marble isn't just any marble. It was cut from the same Yule Quarry where the original gold-veined marble for the Tomb of the Unknowns was mined nearly 80 years ago. The tomb replacement piece was cut after a nearly five-year search for an unflawed piece that would look like the original. "We would think the government should seriously consider any donations to the taxpayers." Meanwhile, the free, room-sized block of marble gracing a hillside near Marble draws some curious tourists who snap pictures in front of it. Haines said if it can't be used for the tomb, he has the option to sell it back to the quarry, where it would be cut up and sold for other projects. "I understand how the government works," Haines said. "But there comes a point when you just say 'to hell with it.'" --- Regards, Walt Schmidt

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