- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

In 1966 my friend Fred was sent to Vietnam and survived a year as a door gunner on a U. S. Army “Huey” helicopter gunship. You won’t hear it from him, so I will tell you that Fred had one of the most dangerous jobs possible in that long ago and divisive war. While Fred’s ship went down more than ten times in action, he came home without a scratch.

Welcome home Fred Dague — and thank you.

Unlike Fred, in 1970, after observing my 18th birthday in Marine Corps boot camp, I was fortunate enough to draw duty in sunny southern California.

We both kept our promises to our nation.

Like our fathers, as young recruits, both Fred and I were promised lifetime free medical care by our government as a benefit of our service.

We are learning that this is not our father’s America.

As “50 somethings,” Fred and I have both applied to the Veteran’s Administration for those promised medical benefits.

In 2004, both of our applications for that promised free health care were denied.

The response from the VA reads in part: “Each year, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs determines which priority groups will be enrolled in the VA health system ? you are not eligible for enrollment or VA health care for most conditions.”

Fred and I have been placed in the “Priority Group 8g” [www1.va.gov/visns/Visn02/vet/benefits/table.html] which means that we applied after January 2003, earned over $31,000 last year, and have no service related ailments — thereby disqualifying us for the free medical care we were promised as young men.

Priority Groups are the result of the federal government’s budgetary shortages. Veterans without service-connected health problems are now held up to a means test to determine eligibility for VA medical benefits. For now, we can both make do without the promised care, but many of the approximately 200,000 other category 8g veterans cannot.

So much for the promise. So much for priorities.

For Fred, myself and the other vets who are denied or offered limited medical care from our government, these priorities are difficult to accept while we watch millions of illegal aliens not only demanding, but receiving taxpayer funded free medical care at American emergency rooms and clinics.

There is no “means test” for the free health care provided for anyone — from anywhere in the world — who can illegally cross our intentionally unsecured borders and get within 250 yards of an American emergency room. It’s the law.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1985 (EMTALA) is a law that is vigorously enforced.

We are taxpayers, Fred and I, so to us, it is a little more than ironic that as veterans, we are paying for health care for millions of illegal aliens while we are not eligible for that same promised free care from our own Veterans Administration.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Modernization Act of 2004 included one billion dollars to help reimburse American hospitals for the federally mandated health care that they must provide to illegal aliens. It included nothing to help Priority Group 8g veterans.

Priorities indeed.

Because illegals and their criminal employers seem to have a better lobby than American vets in Washington, our nation is keeping the promise to the illegal aliens. This definitely is not our father’s America. We are no longer certain it is our America.

With millions of illegal aliens pouring into our republic each year and tens of thousands of brave young American troops defending borders all over the world, we cannot help but question which of the promises being made to our future vets will be kept.

We can’t help but wonder how giving illegal aliens and their employers amnesty — no matter the label used — will discourage more illegal immigration. It clearly didn’t twenty years ago.

The same people who have decided which promises to keep have also made a decision on which of our laws are enforced. Not that anyone asked, but if it is a matter of priorities, in our search for a better life, Fred and I would much rather see the laws that apply to border security and illegal immigration enforced ? and the VA Priority Groups ignored.

If it is a matter of priorities

D.A. KING

Mr. King is president of the Dustin Inman Society, a Georgia-based coalition of citizens dedicated to educating the public on the consequences of illegal immigration.

On the Web: www.TheDustinInmanSociety.org


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