War Vets Fighting Mad About Disability Benefits
Story by Kim Bowman Posted 10/18/02 6:40:49 PM

Congress is considering changing a law that dates back more than 100 years, but the White House calls that fiscally irresponsible. At issue, are the benefits disabled veterans receive.

The Senate passed a bill to pay for defense programs next year, and agreed to use some of that money to also give disabled veterans disability benefits. To this point, disabled veterans only received retirement benefits. The Bush Administration says authorizing the disability benefits, at this point, is too expensive, when the defense budget is so important. Legislators recessed, which means the issue won't be settled, until after the election.

Some members of Congress say the issue was tabled, so that those running for office could "save face", and not have to vote against their President before the election. This is yet another reason why many veterans say they're are upset over the issue.

There are more than 24,000 veterans now living in Arkansas. Regardless if they retired healthy, or wounded, many say they're tired of fighting this battle over benefits.

Bob Pucik served 21 years in the Air Force, "I went to Vietnam, spent a tour over there."

He spent nine more years flying commercial cargo, then was grounded because of an irregular heartbeat. "Because of that, I couldn't fly, couldn't get my medical certificate back."

Now, his current call of duty: helping career military disabled veterans collect disability benefits. "I see a lot of veterans that come in here that are really kind of hurting."

Pucik continues to work, because he can't collect retirement and disability pay, which many veterans say is an injustice. "We're going to get madder than a bunch of hornets, before it's over", explains Nick Bacon, the Director of Veterans' Affairs.

Their 100-year-old complaint: they say if a postal worker is bitten by a dog, retires, then collects disability pay -- as all other federal employees can -- then, why can't the men and women fighting for our freedom do the same? But, until the bill is passed, Pucik and other veterans will not hang up the issue. "There's overwhelming support in the House and the Senate for this priority", Congressman Vic Snyder, a Vietnam veteran, tells News 4 Arkansas.

Now, some veterans say this issue would have helped them decide who to vote for in November, but since Congress is out until after the elections, they're not sure who to support.

Watch KARK News 4 for more on this story!

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"Events in our past seem to slip further away with time. But what happens when they circle back and meet us head on....in the present? Before we allow ourselves to be consumed by our regrets, we should remember the mistakes we make in life are not so important as the lessons we draw from them.." Outer Limits(Last supper)