LETTER TO MY SENATOR

Jug's Note: Since 1958, I have known, served with, and greatly respected the writer of this letter to a Florida Senator. Please read it in its entirety and you will probably agree that it hits the bullseye! My concern is, “Will it actually be read by the Senator, and if so, will he take any positive action?” What's your guess?

9 October 2006

Senator Martinez,

I am confident your recent visit to the war zones was helpful. There's much to digest to fully comprehend what our young people in a combat zone must face up to as well as their countenancing the incredible circumstances when politicians seemingly fret more about the rules of engagement and terrorist prisoner's treatment than the lives of these young men and women.

I must tell you how I deem the Senate's efforts to reduce the armed forces personnel to a half a percentage point below the Federal workers. The Senate majority's action is outrageously unforgettable.

As I reflected on the legislative process this year, I saw… as usual… the Senate on one side of a military or veteran benefits issue and the House on the other side. This has all the earmarks of being a repetitive sham.

For instance, the Senate enjoys credit for fixing the inequities existing in the SBP and the DIC. The House's muteness on the same issue… well what's there to say in its defense? Issue… may it rest in peace and escape the attention of the electorate! The Senate supports the current TRICARE pharmacy co-payer's share. The House wants to raise these payments to more than Wal-Mart is willing to charge all of their customers. Ironic isn't it. Another impasse. It's the House's turn to be the good guys by seeking improvement in the Guard/Reserve health coverage. Oops, the Senate opposes it. The plus in such a modus operandi… is it gets nothing passed. Ergo… money saved… perhaps thus facilitating another bridge binge to nowhere. On the brighter side, one chamber garners the bragging rights… and the other is trusting to a few, if any, reading the fine print.

If this grim appraisal is not the case, please explain how people of one party can avow a platform… yet respond to the needs of a deserving community in the negative sense. This political administration would now not be in office had it not been for the confidence we Florida veterans bestowed on your collective and individual word.

In the 30 years and 5 months I have been retired, I have paid $111,151 to the Survivor Benefit Program. When I enrolled in May 1976, there was no talk of my wife not getting paid 55% of my retirement if that was the amount for which I signed up. There was no credence to the eventuality that Congress would vote for detrimental changes in the ground rules a few years later. Nor was there any briefing advising me my wife would lose her social security benefits (she taught school for 22 years so we could provide our childrens' college educations) to the income she would receive on my death. There was no mention that DIC payments would not be paid to the career miliitary's widows whose husbands died from one or more of those disabilities. And there most assuredly was no proviso that my social security pension would make up a good portion of the 55% of the payments to which she would be tendered. To be frank, sir, that's a considerably different package and protection that I thought would be the case. The fact is the SBP has been a financial success for the government. How many other programs can be so identified?

I am 77 years of age. I am 100% disabled by combat-related injuries. I am unable to assist my 77 year old wife in what I should be expected to do for her. I can't even protect her in an emergency. Do you have any idea how I feel given this sense of weakness? After all those years of service and sacrifice, is she another of the many who are merely statistical realities of how and where our monies can be saved for other more worthwhile endeavors.

My lady has been a Navy wife and mother from 2 June 1951 - 1 October 2006 which is when our eldest son retired from the Navy. She raised our five children by herself… on one occasion… for two consecutive years in my absence. She was not a complainer. She kept her concerns, worries and fears to herself while I was in Vietnam. As with so many other wives, she pledged herself to her husband, her children and the United States Navy.

She is a spouse among thousands who will be discriminated against if changes and fairness are not legislated against the long term inequities of veterans and military wives benefits. These long standing oversights by those whom we depend upon for fairness are nothing less than ignoring the sacrifices of women who bore the stresses of not seeing, being with… even hearing the sounds of their husbands voices… not for weeks… not for months… but for years. Are these ladies any less deserving than their counterparts who wed civilian husbands in the federal government employment? Is fair and equal treatment under the law a myth for those who have dedicated their lives to the service of our nation? I am unsure.

If you are not, you should be aware that Federal workers are immune from these discriminatory treatments. Why is this so? Tell me, Senator Martinez,it's not because our people in uniform are not unionized. You, sir, and your 534 colleagues in our Congress are and should be our advocates. In the event this particular responsibility should linger in limbo, our degradation in American society is assured. I know of no other community in these United States who suffer the same or similar adverse separation from the norm. Don't treat our successers… the All Volunteers… as mercenaries. They are not our foreign legionnaires. These young people serve so that other young people can enjoy the freedoms and opportunities so readily available to them. Never have any of those of us who have served in combat will ever forget that freedom is not free.

I sincerely hope, Senator, that your staff makes this message available to you. I'm not a single voice in the wilderness. I have served on Congresswoman Brown-Waite's Veterans Advisory Board since it was established. She and her staff are unaware of this message. I intend to share it with her at our advisory board's meeting later this month.

I am a life long Republican… unable for nearly 30 years to boast of this because of the uniform I wore. If I'm wrong in what I've postulated, please correct me. I am sincere in my desire to distinguish right from wrong in these aforementioned grievances.

Should I receive one of those off the shelf responses which address nothing but thanking me for sharing my concerns, I shall know it's 'business as usual'… and setting another pace in the crew's stroke isn't worth the effort.

And finally, Senator, I ask you to insert this plea in the Congressional Record accompanied by your reply.

Thank you.

With all due respect to you and your office,

John C. MacKercher
Captain, U. S. Navy (Retired)
Falls Court
Weeki Wachee, FL 34613
lejacle@tampabay.rr.com

JUG'S 2ND NOTE: Fast response from the Senator's office was not surprising, nor was MacKercher's reaction to it:

From: Jack MacKercher
To: Mel Martinez@martinez.senate.gov
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 4:25 PM
Subject: Response to your recent comments

Senator Martinez:

This reply is exactly what I expected to receive, but hoped it would not be something taken as it is from the shelf.

I wrote you a serious message which addressed very specific issues. Not a single one was answered.

Your staff did both of us a disservice.

At a time when Congress is losing more of the public's trust… and immorality should be the cause of special concern to the Republican party, it's unwise to treat those who have supported you in your election to the U. S. Senate as people who don't care about their federal government and how it is failing in its responsibilities.

Your staff has disappointed me and indirectly so have you.

Sincerely,

John C. MacKercher
9445 Ruby Falls Court
Weeki Wachee, FL 34613

—Original Message—
From: Mel Martinez@martinez.senate.gov
To: lejacle@tampabay.rr.com
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 2:16 PM
Subject: Response to your recent comments

Dear Mr. and Mrs. MacKercher:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Fiscal Year 2007 (FY2007) Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations Act. I appreciate hearing from you and would like to respond to your concerns.

As a U.S. Senator, my highest priority remains winning the War on Terror abroad and safeguarding our families here at home. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the brave men and women of our armed forces who so courageously responded to the threats posed by tyrants and terrorist organizations around the globe.

On September 7, 2006, I supported the DoD Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5631), which passed the Senate without opposition. This bill appropriates funding for the operations of the DoD. This legislation had previously been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 20, 2006. H.R. 5631 was subsequently signed into Public Law on September 29, 2006 by the President Bush. This vital legislation includes over $436.6 billion dollars for defense purposes, including $366.6 billion in regular, baseline funding and $70 billion in additional appropriations.

In an effort to continue providing the best possible care for our servicemen and women, the law authorizes a pay increase for members of the Armed Services. We also joined our colleagues in the House of Representatives in ensuring that TRICARE fees and copays for under-65 military retirees will not increase

It is absolutely imperative that we fully support the ongoing military operations of the War on Terror as well as the men and women of our Armed Services at home and abroad. As we build towards a democratic Iraq and as we work to secure our nation, we must provide our troops whatever they need to protect themselves and complete their mission.

Legislation such as this appropriations act helps to close the procurement gap that has occurred over the last two decades. There is still work that needs to be done to ensure that the spending for defense and national security related issues is brought to the levels that will allow more rapid procurement of vital defense platforms that have been underfunded for too long.

As we continue our work in this session of Congress, please know that I will work with my colleagues in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Bush Administration to fully fund our national defense and support our men and womoen in uniform.

Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. If you have any additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. In addition, for more information about issues and activities important to Florida, please sign up for my weekly newsletter at http://martinez.senate.gov.

Sincerely,
Mel Martinez
United States Senator

**Note: PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS E-MAIL. If you would like to reply to this message, please contact me through my website at http://martinez.senate.gov.