Retirees demand restoration of promised health care benefitFrom: "Bruce K. Melson" <email@example.com>
following article appears in the 8 Aug 2000 Wichita Falls, Texas
Record News, City/Region section page 4A.
declare war on the government
demand restoration of promised health care benefits
Veterans have declared war to restore free health care benefits they
they were promised and the front line is a little closer to home.
A billboard campaign, which brings attention to the broken promises
issues a call to arms for veterans to contact lawmakers, has moved
Fort Worth, making it the third in Texas and fifth in the nation.
"We're getting stronger and stronger," said Ward Coston,
the Retirees Coalition and The Retired Enlisted Association.
But the battle is being waged by only a fraction of the retired
who are being cheated out of free health care, Wichita Falls,
vice president Terry Reed said.
"The few of us who are carrying the load are charging up a hill
other troops behind us," he said.
More than 100 veterans turned out for the billboard's unveiling,
vets from North Texas and Southern Oklahoma, as well as form
and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The billboards -- which depict four aging military vets with the
"Military Retirees Fought For Freedom, Now Congress Denies
Health Care" -- is the latest weapon in a battle to call the
hand on the promise made to those who served 20 years
Paul Miller of Wichita Falls, a retired Army sergeant who spent 27
in the military before being medically discharged in 1998, said
billboard is great.
"The government needs to wake up and smell the roses. We do vote,
and we're a large number." he said.
Miller, the commander of the Military Order of Purple Heart Chapter
saw the same billboard on a trip to San Antonio recently.
A similar billboard that can be seen from the Pentagon in
D.C., reportedly has Defense Secretary William Cohen in an
Its caption reads "If You Think You Want To Make The Military A
"He thinks we're sabotaging his recruiting efforts," Miller
tickles me to death that someone finally sees the light, although he
won't do anything about it."
The billboards are now up in Virginia, Washington, D.C., El Paso,
Antonio and Fort Worth. Two more are in the works for Oklahoma City
San Diego, while plans are to have the billboards -- at $8,000 a
-- erected in every major city in the nation by the end of the
Coston, who has spearheaded the nationwide "Operation
a network of e-mail and letter-writing, is wielding this latest
like the commander of an armored division spearheading an attack.
"I advocate using any weapon as long as it's legal -- and by
mean legislatively, written or visual -- against anyone that is not
of health care for military retirees," Coston said. "I would
raise my hand against the government, though, I fought three times
the government. I would raise my hand against people in the
Meanwhile, the legislative battle is still stuck in a House-Senate
committee as lawmakers hammer out a compromise defense budget
includes provisions for improved health care for retirees, but not
free health care they want.
"We would like to see our bills in congress go before the full
Senate standing on their own merit and not tied to any other bill,"
Coston said the current legislation, which is part of the Fiscal
Defense Authorization Bill, could be in danger with President
holding the authorizing pen. Veterans feel Vice President Al
would be no different and are encouraging veterans to support Texas
George W. Bush for president through a veterans network on the
Reed has received a letter from Bush that he forwarded to everyone
the network. "We believe you are headed in the right direction with
to veterans healthcare," Reed wrote the governor.
"He (Bush) didn't come right out and say he would support us 100
Coston said. "We'd love for him to say that, but he did say he
reconstruction of the military and the health care system," he
Coston and Reed are recruiting more foot soldiers to take up arms in
health care war. "I'll take as many calls as I can get," Coston
sidebar also appeared in this article "More Information"
For more information about the veterans efforts, contact Ward Coston
For information on the billboard campaign, or to make donations,
Stringer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org