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Letters to the Editor: Tuition assistance; sexual harassment

Mar. 25, 2013 - 09:50AM   |  
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TUITION AID IS KEY

The March 18th article, “The demise of tuition assistance” clearly demonstrates our leaders’ detachment from reality.

The military has always acknowledged higher education makes better servicemen and leaders. Tuition assistance is the essential program that allows troops to receive this higher education.

Elimination of this benefit would require individuals to self-fund their education, causing possible financial stress and hardship. Although the funding has been restored for this year, the future of the program remains in doubt.

We need to ensure TA remains — maybe cut some dollars to our “allies” in Pakistan. Just think, if they had given up bin Laden five years earlier, we could have saved $900 billion vs. the $50 million that the TA program costs.

Lt. Col. Ralph Sigler (ret.)

Oak Island, N.C.

During my time in Congress, I have valued every opportunity to meet with and learn from our nation’s heroes. In particular, I am humbled by the strength and resolve of those who were permanently injured or disabled in the line of duty. It should be assumed that the full weight of the nation would be behind these individuals and their families. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

More than a decade ago, I learned that Congress has repeatedly forced the bravest men and women in our nation — retired, career veterans — to forfeit dollar-for-dollar their retirement pay if they also receive disability pay for an injury that occurred while serving.

This practice is simply wrong. We owe it to our veterans to do better, and so I began working to legalize concurrent receipt of disability and retirement benefits. In 2003, I was proud to lead Congress in passing a 10-year phase-in of concurrent receipt for military retirees whose disability is 50 percent or greater. Now we must fight to close the gap for our nation’s heroes with a disability rating less than 50 percent.

In February, I introduced The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2013. This legislation will permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rating less than 50 percent to receive both their military retired pay and full disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This legislation will provide much needed support for the remaining disabled veterans who do not qualify for this earned benefit. Without passage of this bill, wounded warriors will fail to receive the care they were promised.

I am committed to correcting this unfortunate error, and I hope others will join me. We must always stand up for the men and women who become wounded or disabled in service to this great nation. I urge my colleagues in Congress to strongly consider this proposal to ensure American heroes are never abandoned.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Washington, D.C.

After reading the story “DoD screw-up hits Marine hard in the wallet” [Feb. 18], I found it hard to have any serious sympathy for Lt. Col. [Harold] Burke. I would have had more sympathy if he had applied for the Homeowners Assistance Program immediately after getting PCS orders. Instead, he chose to gamble on possibly making a profit from having a rental home, and it backfired on him.

BAH for that area was somewhere around $2,600 a month for an O-5 with dependents at the time he chose to purchase a house for $805K. Although his actual mortgage was $644,000 due to his initial down payment, that is still a large monthly mortgage payment. He said when they purchased the home, it was their dream home. But when the value declined, he said they weren’t sure if they would return to the home. Bottom line is he chose to take a gamble on the housing market and it backfired.

Unfortunately, his sister is now suffering for loaning him $185,000. Yes, he did base part of his decision on bad information provided by the HAP office. But I can’t help but wonder if he had purchased a more reasonably priced home in the first place, would he be in his current financial position?

Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Eisner

Interlochen, Mich.

ENDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT

In regard to the March 13 “Battle Rattle” blog posting, “Sgt. Maj. Barrett tells Marines to step up, stop sexual assault”:

Wow. The sergeant major made the case against sexual assault much stronger (and far more effectively) than I expected.

On the related subject of sexual harassment, however, I think it is an uphill battle.

I’m 35 now and have gone through college and become far more educated and “tame,” if you will.

I’m not sure how I would have received messages about sexual harassment when I was 18 and in a line company. We were about as inappropriate as you can be, but that was back in ’95, so surely it’s not as bad now as it was.

That said, a friend of mine went in as an officer within the past eight years and he was assigned to a non-infantry unit.

There were women Marines there in pretty high numbers, and he said he was amazed at the inappropriate things he’d see happening between both officers and staff noncommissioned officers with female junior enlisted Marines. Higher-ups were getting busted down and written up like crazy, and still it had little effect, according to him.

In the end, you’re putting men and women together, often in faraway lands, and you’re testing every bit of discipline that they have — and that goes both ways; both with the higher ups and with the junior Marines who may look up to and admire their leaders — read, be attracted to. …

This is certainly not a problem that fixes itself any time soon. It will probably take a decade, at least, and it will almost certainly never be eradicated.

Former Sgt. Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

DoD CUTS AFFECT CHILDREN

The cuts in the Defense Department budget will affect the children of active-duty personnel and the personal budgets of those families.

Department of Defense Education Activity schools are funded out of the defense budget. Any child attending a DoDEA school may soon be impacted by these cuts. The rumor we hear at Camp Lejeune is that the schools may go to a four-day school week.

My child receives special education services, and this may impact the services he receives at school. Additionally, this will affect all families with children attending DoDEA schools in that it will require parents to find an additional day of day care, at the families’ cost.

Gunnery Sgt. Brian S. Dumbauld

Camp Lejeune, N.C.

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