Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds thinks that it is time the federal government stopped asking questions of its aging combat veterans.
The Clarence Republican gathered several World War II and Korean War veterans in the Dulski Federal Office Building Monday to announce introduction of a bill to extend health benefits to them by means of a simple affidavit.
"The fact that records are either missing or incomplete shouldn't put the onus on our combat veterans to do the work of the (Department of Veterans Affairs)," Reynolds said. "And this legislation will make it the VA's responsibility to provide care and services based on that veteran's claim, unless the VA can prove they are not entitled to that care."
Reynolds said his legislation would ensure that combat veterans of both conflicts would receive benefits and care for injuries or conditions that are now difficult to document.
"During those wars, it was extremely difficult to track and record combat-related injuries during armed conflict," he said. "Often, a soldier would be sent back into battle, even after sustaining an injury. Decades later, the lack of accurate or complete records is resulting in those combat veterans' being denied care. That's plain wrong."
Reynolds announced a companion bill to exempt blind veterans from a quirk in the Social Security law that penalizes them for receiving financial aid from the state. While the State Legislature last year increased by $41.67 a month the annuity created for blind veterans in 1913, he said, the Supplemental Security Income program penalizes anyone making more than $512 a month.
"Under current law, blind veterans may actually lose part of their Social Security benefits for receiving a small annuity from New York State," Reynolds said. ". . . We need to fix it."
Veterans activist Joe Hoover, who said he left "bone, blood and flesh" in the Philippines during World War II, said such legislation is appreciated and needed.
"They're always talking about the budget," he said, referring to federal officials in Washington. "Well, when we went into combat, and in our foxholes, we had no signing bonus, and we had no thing called a budget."