Local News

Some Veterans Claim Government Not Fulfulling Promise Of Free Health Care

Posted November 22, 2002

— This week, thosuands of veterans in North Carolina learned they will not get what they thought was owed to them -- free health care. Congress said it would simply cost too much money at $6 billion a year, but veterans say their service to our country is worth it.

Marine Corps veteran Frank Alender has survived three wars. He served in Korea, the Dominican Republic and in Vietnam, but here in the United States, Alender is fighting a different kind of battle -- the fight for free health care.

"Most of our Congress have never been in the military and they don't understand," he said.

A federal court of appeals ruled promises of free medical care for military personnel who served more than 20 years will not be honored. The ruling affects all retirees who entered the service before June 7, 1956.

"One of the selling points of the military career that I would have the medical care that once I retired, that I would have that for a lifetime," Alender said.

So instead, Alender is depending on Veterans Affairs benefits for his hearing loss and eyesight problems, but he said some veterans, like Army paratroopers, have even greater health concerns.

"Those are not soft landings and you find them crippled because of their hips, their knees and their ankles," he said.

After the ruling, some federal judges say they hope Congress will make good on their promise, but Alendar said he is not holding his breath.

"We want people to go, but then we don't show our appreciation for what we do," he said.

Some veterans said they plan to appeal the court's decison. Alender served in the Marine Corps for 21 years. He admits knowing what he does now, he would still do it all over again.

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