has been breaking news for and about military
people since 1977. After service in the Coast
Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior
editor with Army Times Publishing Company,
Tom launched "Military Update,"
his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994.
"Military Update" features timely
news and analysis on issues affecting active
duty members, reservists, retirees and their
families. Tom also edits a reader reaction
column, "Military Forum." The online
"home" for both features is Military.com.
Tom’s freelance articles have appeared in
numerous magazines including The New Yorker,
Reader's Digest and Washingtonian.
His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied,
on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of
Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held
prisoner of war in American history, is available
in hardcover and paperback.
Readers of Tom Philpott's "Military Update" column sound
June 24, 2005
All this talk about the Department of Defense not meeting their recruiting goals should be of no surprise. The trend will continue until the current administration admits fault in the way this whole deal in Iraq has been handled.
Lawmakers too share the blame. Congress passes a bill to give 3.1 percent pay raise to soldiers [next January] but at the same time they won't give drilling Reservists and National Guard members the opportunity to buy into TRICARE because it will cost $1 billion a year and because that money will be used to purchase new weapons for the National Guard and Reserve.
When did Reservists and National Guard members become responsible for the purchase of weapons to protect the country?
I'm serving in Iraq and my family earned it.
Army National Guard
After four years on active duty, I am now a drilling Naval Reservist. The push by Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) to extend TRICARE to all drilling members is a good idea.
As a reservist and fulltime student using the GI Bill, the only work I can get is part time, and the job offers no health insurance. TRICARE for the reservists like me would help greatly. My only health care option now is through the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) but the nearest VA clinic or hospital is two hours away.
TRICARE would allow me to see a doctor in the town.
Overboard on IU
I was a fraudulent enlistee at age 15 and served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. I am now a retired naval officer living part time overseas. I recently saw your column on the rise in the number of veterans rated IU or "unemployable." I found it interesting because of my personal experience.
I had a 50-percent disability rating from the VA but suffered TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attacks or mini-strokes) in December 2003. I was granted an increase rating, to 70 percent, in March 2004.
The reason for this note is that attached to the letter granting me the higher rating was VA Form 21-8940, "Veteran's Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability." I thought this was an error or a joke. Why would the VA offer a 76-year-old an increase in disability rating to 100 percent due to unemployability? It doesn't make sense.
Renee L. Szybala [director for operations of VA's Compensation and Pension Service who testified in May before the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission about a doubling in the number of vets designated "IU" in the last six years] should look into this farce and stop it!
I was going to go to the VA when I returned to the states and ask if they "are out of their minds." Naturally I never submitted the form.
I hope someone can convince the VA that this is a gross example of "fraud, waste and abuse." And I hope this letter helps to stop this silly practice. Please withhold my name.
I am nearing 20-year military retirement. I have been told that I could have a VA disability of 50 percent due to Chronic Sleep Apnea. There are other medical issues that may lead to a disability rating of 70 percent or higher. According to your recent column, "One of every four veterans with a 60 percent disability is now IU and paid at the 100% level."
My concern is that I feel I am employable. If I am rated with a disability that allows for the 100-percent payment, how will I be able to work to continue to support me and my wife at my current level of financial means? I need to work to be productive and support my family.
Petty Officer First-Class, USN
Veterans must apply for unemployability status. They do so because they are unable to work and need the additional compensation to support themselves and their families. You won't be rated unemployable if you can work. – Tom Philpott
I was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division from 1964 to 1966. I served in the Dominican Republic for 13 months. The result was so many skin disorders from the jungles and filth that to this day I must use anti-fungal cream three times daily to keep me from scratching my skin off.
I never put in for a disability rating from this but I started using the VA facility in Northport, N.Y. I was told use it or lose it because they have been closing so many underused VA facilities all over the country.
I like the care I get from the VA. I like the doctors. All the people there are very courteous and caring and I have written many letters of praise to their superiors. I am disabled but not from my Army service. I live on a fixed income of Social Security Disability and a small government pension, most of which is eaten up by my health insurance. I maintain it for my wife who has a severe heart condition.
Here is my complaint: For several years I did not pay for my medications from the VA. This past year they began charging me. I get seven prescriptions a month and pay $7 for each.
My income is low, but the VA says with my wife's small Social Security disability check puts us over the low income threshold by a few hundred dollars. I don't see why they would even use my wife's money to calculate this because she gets absolutely nothing from VA.
Is there any way I can get these people to not include my wife's small Social Security money in their calculations?
To determine eligibility for cost-free medicines for Priority Group 7 veterans -- those with no service-connected disabilities -- the VA does use a means test, measuring total household income and assets, including income of spouses and even dependent children.
A hardship waiver might be possible, however, if you are unable financially to cover inpatient and outpatient co-payments. Officials advise that you contact your VA facility's patient administrative representative to review your circumstances. – T. P.