Daily Archives: August 3, 2004

Injured Soldiers Denied Disability Pay

Capitol Hill Blue is reporting that nearly a third of the National Guard soldiers and Army reservists injured in Iraq are being denied disability, and at least one soldier says Army physicians falsified his medical records to do it.

Jesus Oliveras, a chief warrant officer in an Augusta, Ga., reserve unit, was among those ordered back to duty without compensation.Oliveras said doctors wrote on his records that he had a hearing loss. He contends they gave little recognition to his real problems: debilitating back and shoulder injuries. Despite those injuries, the maintenance technician volunteered for service in Iraq.

“At times I felt lousy, as a second-class citizen, especially coming from a war zone,” Oliveras said. “They sent us to fight an enemy and when we returned, we had to fight another enemy – us.”

Less than 10% of the injured reservists who apply for disability get it, a lower ratio by far than any of the other ‘regular’ military services.

Lavoda Anderson of Ninety-Six, S.C., said she suffered a life-altering injury to her back while under fire in Iraq last year. In constant pain, she was jolted anew when the Army calculated her compensation for medical retirement at $13,400.”I feel I was treated very unfairly,” said Anderson, who did not return to her prewar job as a dialysis technician and is raising her 4-year-old daughter. “I didn’t get adequate care. I feel like I’m useless most of the time.”

Brower, the lawyer for the Army disability agency, said, “You can’t give higher disability ratings to soldiers who you feel emotionally deserve it. It would be nice to give every soldier 100 percent (disability), but as a taxpayer, you might not like that.”

As a taxpayer, we’re going to end up paying $$$500Bil$$$ for this war, but we wouldn’t support using some of that to support shanghaied soldiers injured in our behalf as opposed to, say, Halliburton’s outrageous overcharging for its minimal and shoddy work in Iraq? Bullshit.

Spc. John Ramsey, a deputy sheriff in Orange County, Fla., had medical bills in the thousands of dollars and was dogged by creditors. Meanwhile, the state and federal governments fought over responsibility for his shoulder injuries suffered in Iraq.”My wife and I and two kids were put through hell because of this,” Ramsey said.

Sgt. John Beard of Jacksonville, Fla., who returned from Iraq with shrapnel wounds in his back, legs and face, said he painfully waited in long lines for processing. On one occasion, confronting an irritable soldier handling pay records, Beard said, “I snatched my orders out of his hands and left.”

Staff Sgt. Dwayne Fitzpatrick of Orlando, Fla., won his appeal of an initial offer of a one-time, $23,000 severance payment. He qualified instead for a disability payment of $1,300 a month.

“They dangle some money in your face, so many soldiers will take it and run,” he said. “They low-ball everybody. I’m looking at the long term.”

We’re ‘low-balling’ troops injured in our war and high-balling war profiteers? What’s wrong with this picture?

Is Barack Obama For Real?

Barack Obama, whom few outside Illinois had ever heard of before last week’s speech, electrified both the convention and the country. I heard it on the radio while I was at work, and a couple of minutes into it I actually stopped working to move closer to the speakers in order to hear it better–something I didn’t do with Kerry or Edwards or any of the other speakers. It was a visceral reaction to a talented orator who was saying things I had desperately wanted to hear a Democrat say for almost 20 years, and saying them passionately, hopefully, and forcefully, but it was also an intellectual reaction: he made sense, and he did it without the usual political promises and cliches.

I knew who he was, vaguely, but only because Bert at ThatColoredFellasweblog, who lives in Chicago, had his picture up and is a big supporter. I knew very little about him and reserved judgment on a lot of Bert’s raving because he’s an obvious fan and fans are rarely terribly objective; some aren’t even rational–Dean ran a smart campaign most of the time but he isn’t the Second Coming of FDR by a long shot, and you wouldn’t know that listening to his still-angry fans. After hearing Obama for myself, however, I can see where Bert is coming from. The guy’s intriguing–smart, personable, knowledgeable, and yet with a connection to ordinary people and their problems that seems to go a lot deeper than something he thought he would throw into the speech that night because it sounded good.

So is this guy for real? Maybe. MoJo loves him.

Make no mistake, an Obama victory in his Senate race would be a major victory for progressives (and with the Republicans still unable to find a challenger, that outcome is all but assured). He opposed the Iraq war from the start, supports universal health care, wants to renegotiate tariff-free trade deals to include environmental and labor standards, supports affirmative action, supports importing prescription drugs from Canada, supports civil unions, and opposes George Bush’s tax policy. In the Illinois state Senate, he supported tax credits for low-income families and has called for business tax incentives to reward only companies that create jobs in the U.S.

Andy Sullivan is trying to make him out to be a conservative.

What he emphasized [in his speech] was another theme of this conservative convention: that the country must and can unite. It’s a brilliant maneuver to pose as (and exemplify, in some cases) a force to overcome the divisions within the country, divisions that make all of us frayed and often testy in a time of grave danger. America is deeply thirsty for a black leader who is first and foremost an American leader; and for any leader who can reach out to both sides of the culture war. Obama struck many conservative notes: of self-reliance, of opportunity, of hard work, of an immigrant’s dream, of the same standards for all of us.

You have to stop and take note of a guy who can impress MoJo and Sullivan with the same speech. He’s being compared to Paul Simon for his policies and his integrity, which is a hell of a comparison if you know anything about Paul Simon, the legendary liberal Senator and one of my favorite politicians of all time.

I still don’t know if Obama is for real, and probably only time will tell for sure, but so far it’s looking good.

Quote of the Day

Terrorists are going to blow up Newark? They’re not going to blow up Newark. In the first place, if they blew up Newark, nobody would be able to tell the difference.–Randi Rhodes