Thursday, March 15, 2007

"This Is Your Weapon; This Is Your Gun"

I read a number of self-titled gun blogs. Most of the links come from PDB. It may be a little late in the parenting process, but I want to know what he is reading; who is influencing him besides his parents. Stupid notion, I know; he is what he is and we helped enable that.

Some of these blogs are rather negative and I don't go there. Most are well written, are adamant about supporting 2nd Amendment rights, and informative about various firearms and their history and function in battle, hunting and target use. Check these out: Tam, Colt, and Lawdog.

Why I'm not linking to liberal blogs is because those I have read are illiterate, poorly thought out, and totally wrong footed. But I digress.

Back in the last century '67 I got drafted. The first day of army basic training we were issued M-14s. After a lot of lecturing, instruction, and exhortation, the 1st SGT/DI got in front of the whole company and chanted this:

"This is your weapon (holds M-14 over his head),
This is your gun (grabs crotch)
This is for killing (brandishes M-14)
This is for fun (grabs crotch)"

I guess they were trying to drive the civilian out of all of us. Anyone who called the weapon a gun in hearing of a DI did push ups; or they had to drop into what was called the "front leaning rest." This is the start position for a push up; try maintaining that position for five minutes or more; agonizing. Weapon, rifle, firearm were all ok. NOT GUN!

So when I read these "gun" blogs, I can't help thinking weapon and push ups.

I have never owned a firearm. When I was eleven, my grandfather got me a Daisy Pump BB Gun. It was fired by a heavy spring-loaded pin. It had a magazine that fed the bbs. It was so hard to cock, that I had to put the butt on the ground and use both hands to chamber a round. He had a single-shot .22 that I got to fire once in awhile.

My next exposure to firearms was the army, and then later when PDB was on his own. I still like them; they have their place; they have provided me with some recreation and some close times with PDB.

So, "gun" bloggers, especially ex- or current military members, is it a weapon or a gun? Has anyone else heard that weapon/gun chant? Mr. liberal wants to know.

BRB is Write (and wants some answers)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Oh Deer, Poor Deer, Bless Their Hearts

The early Spring road slaughter is on. I have in the past chided my hunting neighbors for not reducing the herd enough to keep the deer off the roads. To all the Nimrods I live near, I apologize.

Some sidebar, background is in order here. We live near a city in NC with a major university (in fact, there are four colleges that call this place home) with a major medical school, hospital and athletics department. We live in the county about 4 miles from THE MALL. Four to ten miles farther out are woods, creeks, farms, rural churches, rural dwellers, and RAMPANT DEVELOPMENT.

It is this development that is causing so much road kill. Roads that the animals used to cross safely, now have much more traffic. Folk who used to live in the city now live and drive in the country, and they haven't a clue about how to behave around farms, animals, rural school buses and mail delivery.

The developments, large and small, have occupied pastures, and destroyed woods; they have diverted natural drainage and eaten up a few small parcels of wetlands. They are rapidly turning our rural area into suburbia. I guess that's what they want.

I hope the deer just move to remoter regions of the state. The neighbors may have to go farther afield to hunt; I may never see them again passing through the small wood behind our house. But to see them dead in ditches is obscene.

BRB is Write (and mourns the land and its inhabitants)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

One More Word on Veterans

I try not to get too political in these musings. But the treatment, or lack there of, of our Vets has me ticked off. The problem is systemic. You can look it up. In this day and age there is the very popular sentiment of "I've got mine, let them get theirs;" or " It doesn't effect me, so what is the big problem?"

Indifference is the problem. Go to this blog, scroll down to the take titled Politics: An Interesting Take. Read the comments. Follow the link to Mauser Girl and read her post on Walter Reed and read the comments. Except for my comments, all have tried to lay blame on past administrations, criticized the press, and said, it's the army, so what.

Laying blame doesn't get better treatment for the wounded. Every administration since the VA was formed is to blame. The military is to blame. We, the people, are to blame. If we are not directly affected, we don't care.

Those that defend our freedoms deserve better. However one views the press, at least they brought it to light to the general public.

BRB is Write(and still angry)

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Rest of the Article

It appears that the link to the veterans' bulletin sends us to the Feb 15 update. This article is from the Mar 1 update, which I get via e-mail. Hopefully they will update the site soon.

This is the rest of the article:

"Under the separate disability payment systems of the Defense Department and the VA, a higher VA rating does not necessarily translate into more money, and forgoing military disability retirement also means giving up lifetime commissary and exchange privileges, military health care and other benefits.While the number of soldiers placed on permanent disability retirement has declined in the past five years, the number placed on temporary disability retirement with medical conditions that officials rule might improve so they can return to work over time or worsen to the point that they must be permanently retired has increased more than fourfold, from 165 in 2001 to 837 in 2005. Troops on temporary disability leave convalesce for 18 months while receiving reduced basic pay. After that they are reevaluated and either returned to duty, or rated for separation or permanent disability retirement, or sent back to temporary disability for another 18 months up to five years. Along with paying them reduced wages during that time, the eventual reevaluation often leads to downward revisions in their disability ratings and lower disability payments. Service members' conditions must be deemed stable before they receive a permanent disability rating, unless they are rated at less than 30%. In that case, they are discharged with severance pay whether they are in stable condition or not. If their conditions then worsen, they'll receive no more money from the military.

"Compared to the overall size of the defense budget, disability retirement costs are relatively small. In 2004, the military paid more than $1.2 billion in permanent and temporary disability benefits to 90,000 people, the GAO said. That does not include the costs of lump-sum severance pay (up to 24 months of basic pay) given to 11,174 disabled troops that year in lieu of disability retirement pay. The Pentagon was unable to provide data on severance costs, the GAO said. In 2005, Ellen Embrey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection and readiness, told House lawmakers the reason for the comparatively large numbers of troops placed on temporary disability was actually to keep end strength up. A premature medical evaluation board decision, she said, "may negatively impact the individual's ability to continue serving." Col. Andy Buchanan, the Army Physical Disability Agency's deputy commander, said the system is not as bad as government reports have led people to believe. "It really is a fair process," he said. "It's wide open. We have nothing to hide." Buchanan also said he had "no visibility" on the costs related to disability retirement pay, so he doesn't know if the budget is going up or down. He said he gives medical evaluation board adjudicators one instruction: "Do the right thing. That's the guidance I give them. There is absolutely no attempt on the part of the Army or this agency to deny soldiers any disability benefits or to push them off on the VA. [Source: NavyTimes Kelly Kennedy article 24 Feb 07 ++] "

That denial sounds rather hollow to me. If some one says "We have nothing to hide," let the search under the rocks begin.

The recent changes of command at Walter Reed suggest that there is much to hide. More light needs to be shed on the shameful treatment of our returning wounded. I think that the light will reveal more than rats and cockroaches in out-patient rooms.

BRB is Write (and wants justice and honor for our vets)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Support Our Troops--Support Our Vets?

I receive this bulletin twice a month from an organization that reports on all things pertaining to veterans and their special interests. Much of it is only useful for service retirees, but they also keep track of bureaucratic decisions and policies that affect all vets. They report, they don't judge. They document their information and give sources.

Given all the publicity recently to Walter Reed Med Ctr. and the poor conditions for outpatients, this bulletin may seem small potatoes. However, further on in the article they report delays of unconscionable proportions that are realities facing disabled vets.

Read the paragraphs below, and read some more from the bulletin and then decide how much the government and its attending bureaucracies are "Supporting Our Troops."

The troops fight for our country and then have to fight at home to get their benefits. I think that the treatment the soldiers receive from their government and even from the army in which they served shows the indifference, if not outright contempt, those organizations have for those that served.

Read the bulletin and decide:

"ARMY DISABILITY RATINGS: According to veterans' advocates, lawyers and services members the Army is deliberately shortchanging troops on their disability retirement ratings to hold down costs. In support of this the Inspector General has identified 87 problems in the system that need fixing. "These people are being systematically underrated," said Ron Smith, deputy general counsel for Disabled American Veterans. "It's a bureaucratic game to preserve the budget, and it's having an adverse affect on service members." The numbers of people approved for permanent or temporary disability retirement in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have stayed relatively stable since 2001. But in the Army, while in the midst of a war, the number of soldiers approved for permanent disability retirement has plunged by more than two-thirds, from 642 in 2001 to 209 in 2005, according to a GAO report last year. That decline has come even as the war in Iraq has intensified and the total number of soldiers wounded or injured there has soared above 15,000. (Emphasis mine)

"The Army denies there is any intentional effort to push wounded troops off the military rolls. But critics say many troops being evaluated for possible disability retirement accept the first rating they are offered during their first informal board. Dennis Brower, legal advisor for the Army's Physical Disability Agency, acknowledged as much, saying only 10% of soldiers request a formal board. If they were to request a formal board, and then appeal the decision of that board, they would receive higher ratings. The system is complicated, "unduly so" the Rand Corp. think tank said in a 2005 report, and the counselors who advise troops often have insufficient training or experience. Service members also assume that after months spent in a war zone, the military will look out for them, critics say. Those who try to navigate the process beyond their initial evaluation face long waits, lost paperwork and months or even years away from home as they try to complete the process.

"If they receive a rating of above 30%, they receive disability retirement pay, medical benefits, and commissary privileges. Those rated under 30% they receive severance pay and no benefits. Many eventually give up and take their chances with the VA, which may give a higher rating for the same disability."

I don't normally blog about things political, but this has got me rightly ticked off. I am a vet, and, thankfully don't have a service connected disability that I have to fight for. (If you don't count significant hearing loss in my right ear. I ran hundreds and hundreds of 7.62 rounds through my M-14. In the 60's, in training, the only folk who had hearing protection were the DIs and the range marshalls.)

I once wanted to work for the Veterans' Administration to try to help vets less fortunate than I. But now I see that if I had, I would be just another bureaucrat having to delay and deny benefits to keep my job.

BRB is Write (and weeps for our returning wounded; they faced one enemy and paid the price. Now they have to face friendly fire.)