Veterans Angry at Government About Disability Benefits Cuts - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

03/19/03 - Tyler

Veterans Angry at Government About Disability Benefits Cuts

"In all those years of flying -- 24 hour missions and everything -- I lost quite a bit of my hearing."

Jim Wills is clearly disabled. He's hard of hearing, he's on oxygen, and he has flashbacks to four bitter campaigns in Korea.

"When the battle's over, they're through with us," he says, not of the enemy, but his government. Jim is just one of millions of veterans caught in a system that's always short on money.

"Now I'm seventy years old. [Soon, the government] won't have to do anything. I'll be passing on," he says.

In the next fiscal year, a House resolution proposed $844 million in cuts for veterans' medical care. It's a small percentage of the total, but at a time when the cost of health care is rising.

"The cost of war doesn't end when the last battle is fought. It's taking care of veterans after the fact. And in my case, I've been retired 31 years."

For those years, he's received his Air Force retirement pay, but the law says every dollar he gets in VA disability comes right out of his retirement.

"I still get the same amount of dollars, but one check comes from the VA and one comes from the Air Force."

It's called Concurrent Receipt. Congress has abolished it for those who are sixty percent or more disabled or have a purple heart. But the change hasn't taken effect yet. Frustrating, says Jim.

"We've got people scattered over the world, and we're giving money to other countries by the billions, but we can't fund the warriors. We can't take care of the warriors."

Everyone in uniform today is his brother and his sister. And he hopes things will be different for them.

Congressman Ralph Hall (D-Rockwall) is a co-sponsor of a bill that would eliminate the Concurrent Receipt restriction for all disabled vets.  It has yet to reach the House floor.

Reported by Morgan Palmer

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