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The Patriot Ledger
Posted Nov 19, 2008 @ 07:03 AM
QUINCY -
During the course of a 21-month presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would derail the amount of legislation passed on behalf of Washington, D.C., lobbyists, many of whom are former government officials.
Although he's taken a step back from that posture, he hopes to limit the role and influence of special-interest groups.
Still, jobs, according to Politico.com, would be available to lobbyists, but not within the sphere of their private practice. In other words, an energy industry lobbyist would not likely be hired to work for the Department of Energy.
Given that position, Obama should take a hard look at Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake, who earlier this year proposed outsourcing the administration of new post-Sept. 11 G.I. Bill benefits.
The VA has since reversed course, announcing last month it would rely upon its own work force to set up the information technology programs needed to implement the educational benefits of the G.I. Bill.
The plan was not well-received by veterans' groups, who loudly protested against the proposal.
Peake was an executive with California-based QTC Management Inc., a private corporation that provides compensation and pension examinations for the VA. The chairman of QTC is former VA secretary Anthony Principi.
If Obama is serious about limiting the influence of special interests, he should consider nominating Tammy Duckworth, a decorated and disabled veteran of the Iraq War and the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Duckworth was serving as co-pilot of a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. As a result of the attack, she lost both legs and partial use of one arm.
Despite what could have been a major personal setback, Duckworth has moved forward with her life, making an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2006 and still serving as a major in the Illinois National Guard despite being offered a medical retirement.
Duckworth may also be a sentimental favorite as a "hometown" pick given that she, like Obama, represents the Land of Lincoln.
Other candidates being considered for the position is the incumbent, Peake, and Max Cleland, a former U.S. Senator from Georgia and a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War.
And while he's taking applications, President-elect Obama should consider sending David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, packing. Chu, a career federal service employee, is no friend of veterans.
In a 2005 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Chu said Congress had gone too far in expanding military retiree benefits.
"The amounts have gotten to the point where they are hurtful. They are taking away from the nation's ability to defend itself," Chu said.
Now he's at it again. The Department of Defense has instituted a policy, based on a memorandum written by Chu, according to Disabled American Veteran Magazine, that "Limits the number of injured and disabled service members who would not have to repay their military disability severance pay before they could receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs."
Chu's memo redefines what qualifies as a combat-related injury, despite the intent of Congress's passage of the 2008 Defense Authorization act, which allows combat-related special compensation for injuries received in a combat zone or duty performed in combat-related operations.
In his memo, Chu defined combat-related injuries as "a disease or injury incurred in the line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict."
In short, by changing Congress' policy, Chu has cheated a large group of veterans out of compensation they earned the hard way, including many who would be eligible for combat-related special compensation.
Finally, to my fellow Marines, wherever you're serving, happy 233rd birthday.

Bruce Coulter is the editor of the GateHouse Media newspaper Burlington (Mass.) Union and a retired, disabled veteran. He may be reached at [email protected].

http://www.patriotledger.com/opinions/x75553931/Obama-should-move-to-improve-treatment-of-veterans
 
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