Originally created 02/03/03

Veterans deserve better health care



As of Jan. 17 the Veterans Administration suspended enrollment for so-called higher-income veterans. The suspension is to last through 2003.

Congress ordered the VA to open health care to nearly all veterans in 1996. Some veterans have a co-pay for their medicine and doctor visits.

VA Secretary Anthony Principi wants us to know he has a son in the Gulf who may have to deploy to Iraq. I want to remind Mr. Principi that freedom is not free. His son has not been wounded or killed. At this point, he hasn't even been shot at. Some veterans were and "won" a purple heart.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, says this decision (suspension) underscores the need to develop long-term solutions to VA health-care funding. If my memory hasn't failed me, the VA officially came into being in 1930. This is 2003. Mr. Smith needs to define "long term." Mr. Smith and Mr. Principi need to be reminded of the VA's grand old slogan, "At the VA, we are putting veterans first."

A few years back veterans were given the impression that when the VA became an official member of the president's Cabinet, our health-care entitlement would improve immensely. Well, la-de-da!

I read where President George W. Bush cut pay raises for federal workers, which also means Civil Service employees at VA hospitals, and his No. 1 "go-fer," Andrew Card, announced a bonus program for Bush political appointees under the guise of a merit-reward system, which allows for awards of $25,000 or more. If veterans have a friend in Commander in Chief Bush, we sure don't need any enemies.

By the way, have you noticed that American flag pin that Mr. Bush wears on his lapel? He got it from the General Services Administration. Taxpayers paid for it.

Richard D. Renew, Martinez, Ga.