Public Employee Press
Bush policies target
Soldiers left behind
Budget cuts target veterans hospitals
and benefits, soldiers combat pay and more, while billions of dollars
flow abroad to rebuild Iraq.
Judith Arroyo (above) with shipmates heading for Iran, right before
the fall of the Shah, 1979.
War at Home
By JANE LaTOUR
At every possible photo op, President Bush pays public homage to the sacrifices
made by the countrys veterans. But actions speak louder than words.
The Bush administration has consistently worked to downgrade benefits
and services to veterans and active duty soldiers.
The White House budget for Veterans Affairs cut $3 billion from VA hospitals.
The administration proposed hitting Priority 8 veterans those treated
for non-service-related illnesses with a $250 annual
charge. The president also wants to ban Priority 8s who earn over $26,000
a year from VA hospitals, turning these facilities from a right bestowed
grateful nation into a welfare benefit.
The administration recently beat back a bipartisan move to put $1.3 billion
of the $87 billion additional budget for Iraq into VA hospitals to treat
the wounded. Veterans make up 9 percent of the national population and
28 percent of the homeless population.
Soldiers in battle zones fare no better with this administration, which
is trying to cut $75 a month from their imminent danger pay
and $150 a month from the family separation allowance. Bushs 2004
budget also proposes $1.5 billion in cuts to military family housing.
Nurse hits hospital closings
Public Health Nurse Judith Arroyo, the 1st vice president of Local 436,
enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1971 as an Aeromedical Technician. She
flew on military evacuation missions from Vietnam out of Clark Air Force
Base in the Philippines. In 1984, she transferred from the 72nd Aeromedical
Evacuation Squad to the Air Force Reserve.
As a nurse, she finds the cuts to VA facilities particularly troubling:
Its the responsibility of the government to take care of the
injured. Theyre closing the hospitals when the need is increasing.
The VA hospital in Manhattan serves 30,000 veterans. Yet the administration
has it targeted for closure.
For Tim Young, a Local 1505 member and former member of Laborers Local
376, the closing represents disrespect toward Americas war veterans.
This is the biggest facility in New York City and it has the easiest
access, he said. Its a hardship for disabled vets that
really cant get around. I still have it pretty good.
Timmy Young was one of the soldiers medically evacuated from Vietnam.
Drafted at 19 in 1969, he served as a radio operator for a year, in Da
Nang and other hot spots. Wounded three times, he received the Purple
Heart and the Bronze Star, one of the nations highest military honors.
For years, he suffered from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress syndrome
and paid for it with many personal losses. Mr. Young feels that the government
has reneged on its obligations to veterans.
Some vets like myself, we have to pay for health benefits at the
VA hospitals. Now I have a bill for over $1,000. A lot of us, we get these
bills and we tear them up! The government owes us this much for our service,
When I got out of the service in the Vietnam era, you received GI
benefits. Now, a GI has to pay half of their college costs. Vets on disability
are getting less money than we did. Theyre doing the vets of today
wrong, he said.