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Don’t wait till they’re dead to give vets honors and benefits

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
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Don’t wait till they’re dead to give vets honors and benefits

My husband, Clifton Fred Walden, died on April 16, 2011, from a service-connected illness. He had iscemic heart disease related to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. He died never receiving the Veteran Administration [VA] disability benefits that he applied for 10 months earlier. It’s my understanding that veterans are waiting up to two years before their VA claims are being processed. This is a tragedy. It was a tragedy for my husband, and is for every veteran who desperately needs help.

Ten months after Cliff died, I received notice that the VA had determined that he died of a service-connected disability and that I, as his surviving spouse, will be receiving survivors benefits. Essentially, I’ll be receiving the benefits that he would have been eligible to receive had he lived. I also received an American flag from the funeral home and a very nice letter from President Obama thanking me for my husband’s service in Vietnam. I am in tears, still, at the injustice of this, and still trying to wrap my head around how horribly wrong the unfolding of these events seems to be to me.

Why did it take so long for the VA to process Cliff’s disability claim? The stress of the financial situation that he was in at the time he applied for the benefits could have been somewhat alleviated if his benefit claim had been quickly processed. Why did Cliff not receive a letter from the president thanking him for his service to his country? Why did he not get presented with the American flag as an honor of his service? Too little, too late, for Cliff and for every veteran now waiting for their claims to be processed.

My husband served two tours in Vietnam when he was barely out of high school. He suffered with physical ill health, PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and alcoholism throughout his life as a result, but he never asked for a handout or for help from the government. He worked hard all his life, he entered treatment and became sober, he received a bachelor’s degree and went on to help others with mental illness and drug addiction.

As long as he could work, he felt like a productive and useful member of society. When Cliff became too ill to work at age 56, it was devastating to him, not only to his self-esteem, to no longer be able to work and provide for his family, but to then have to ask for help. We lost our dream home at that time, due to the loss of his income, despite a futile attempt to modify our mortgage with our bank. That unfortunate experience actually increased our stress and worsened our financial situation.

The process of applying for benefits was a long and stressful one with multiple doctors visits, paperwork to be filled out, letters back and forth from the VA asking for “more documents,” more tests, more waiting, month after month of waiting. The stress of this, the financial strain and loss of dignity, I believe, took its toll and hastened his death, making the last year of his life like a nightmare he could not ever wake from.

He told me multiple times that he wished for death, and I wear the sadness of the last year of my husband’s life like a coat that I cannot take off. I would like to know why those who have fought for us in our wars languish in despair waiting for an answer, waiting for a letter, waiting for help.

These are the heroes that deserve to be at the head of the line, not last. These are the men and women who fought to keep us all safe and free. My husband deserved better. It’s too late for him, but there are so many more waiting, waiting, waiting for the help that they deserve from all of us, and the president.

Beth Lacy

Schenectady

Where are Gillibrand’s protests against Silver?

Gov. Cuomo wants to clean up corruption in our state. Well, how about starting with Speaker Sheldon Silver? By doing so, [it] will tell us how serious he is about corruption.

And where are the vociferous protects from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who seems to be more concerned about sexual harassment in the military than what Silver is doing with taxpayer money to pay women for their silence on sexual harassment.

And no outcry from New York Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk and all the men and women in the Assembly.

Come election time, hopefully all you voters out there will not vote for supporters of Silver.

Shirley Guidarelli

Rotterdam

Car commercial message a real helmet-scratcher

So, I am watching this commercial for a luxury car and notice at the bottom of the screen it says: “Professional driver, closed course.”

This gets me to wondering: Why do they need a professional driver to drive a car that they want to sell only to amateurs like me? I watched the rest of the commercial and then I understood.

Well, even though is was being driven by a professional, this car could not be stopped in a straight line. Every time the driver stepped on the brakes, the car skidded sideways in a cloud of dust, or maybe it was smoke.

Good thing it was a closed course. When Mr. Professional finally does get out of the car, darned if he wasn’t wearing a helmet. I’d be wearing one, too, if I was driving a car that stopped like that. They must come as standard equipment with the car.

Anyway, he takes off his helmet and he’s sweating bullets. He even has to dump a bottle of water over his head to cool down. Who would pay over $50,0000 for a car without air conditioning? Maybe I am not getting the message here?

I’ll probably buy a Buick, if I can find one that is small enough for an ordinary-sized guy like me.

Bill Mactiernan

Schenectady

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comments

August 6, 2013
3:44 a.m.
janesjoys says...

Love your letter and your point, Bill!

August 6, 2013
7:41 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Beth Lacy, my condolences to you and you're family. We seem to have lost our way in America when it comes to our military.

August 6, 2013
7:44 a.m.
gina99 says...

Shirley Guidarelli- Sen Gillenbrand is in the same place as Assemblymen Steck and Santabarbara. Hiding until the crisis passes by. Don't expect machine politicians to bite the hand that feeds.

August 6, 2013
9:44 p.m.
jjhehir says...

Beth Lacy, my condolences to you and your family, on the death of your brave and noble husband. It does seem as this country has lost its way.
I too have had experiences with the VA when I cared for my cousin, a Navy veteran of the Korean War. They are the worst.
Bill Mactiernan, your letter is the funniest letter I have read in a very long time. You should send it to the car company.

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