• 32°

Veterans look for relief as the hit polls

America's freedom has been defended by millions of veterans. Now, veterans want someone to defend them.

Tuesday's election is important to some Lawrence County veterans who believe that their rights and concerns have been neglected nationally and locally.

Recent issues that concern veterans include increased co-payments at veterans' hospitals, poor response on insurance and disability claims, Bush's recent proposal to withhold $1.3 billion in funding and the Department of Veterans Affairs directive to not publicize information about available benefits.

"From what I have seen, there is not anyone out there that is working for

veterans," Ron McFann, commander of the Purple Heart Chapter 765, said. "It is election time, but after the election is over, what is going to happen?"

McFann said veterans must band together and let their voices be heard.

A good start would be to abolish co-payments completely and make claim responses in reasonable time limits.

"I filed a claim and it took 4 years before I heard anything and 6 before I saw any results," he said. "It is down right ridiculous."

McFann said that although some progress has been made, he does not see any big changes on the horizon and has not heard much talk about veterans in the campaign debates.

Vietnam veteran Stephen Saunders, commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 51, said he thinks that more can and should be done to care for veterans.

"We have already seen that we have made very little, if any, progress in the last four years," he said. "It is time for a change."

Saunders said he is encouraged by some of the candidates that are running and hopes they understand that "the buck must stop this year."

"I am seriously disappointed with those in office," he said. "I have seen too much heartache from empty promises."

"We need quality care for our health problems," he said. "We are just asking for our needs to be met."

Saunders agrees that disability claims are far too slow and said that too

much emphasis is placed on money.

"It took less time to arrest, try, convict and execute Timothy McVeigh than it does to get a disability claim."

Bob Griffith, local administrator of Veterans Services, said that while this election is very important, things are not as bad as some people think.

"Veterans are fairing better today than they have in years past," he said. "The overall sentiment of veterans is that things are good. Some expect things that cannot be done."

Griffith said veterans are receiving good service in the hospitals where co-payments are as low as $7 for a prescription. However, he agreed that claims often take too long.

Regardless of political affiliation, getting out and voting is the most important thing, he said.

"If they think they are not getting good representation they should vote on the person they think will do the best job," he said.

Griffith said that the most recent representatives are no better or worse than those in the past.

"(Elected officials) usually do all they can," he said. "But there is always room for improvement."

From a local standpoint, State Senator Mike Shoemaker and U.S. Representative Ted Strickland have sponsored bills supporting veterans' services and their opponents in Tuesday's election also say that taking care of our veterans is a high priority for them.