Military feature: Veterans say medical benefits major issue in election

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Bill Maciejewski, the senior vice commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post no. 3280 in Clovis, said that the next president should provide more for veterans and those currently in the service.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3280 Commander Vernon Luce said veterans benefits are an important issue in the presidential election.

He said wounded veterans from conflicts in the Middle East need the benefits when they return home.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Luce said he doesn’t qualify for full medical benefits because he only served one tour.

“All I get from them is a free flu shot,” he said.

Vice Commander Bill “Ski” Maciejewski pointed out members of Congress receive medical benefits after their terms even if they only served a four-year term.

“I don’t get that, and I served 20 years,” he said.

Maciejewski said the next administration should improve how veterans are treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals, referring to the conditions at Walter Reed.

He said VA hospitals, such as the medical center in Albuquerque, are understaffed, which affects when veterans can schedule appointments.

“That’s where I think they should concentrate,” he said.

He added that candidates should also support veterans receiving free college education.

Railroad worker and Vietnam veteran Stan Bucklin said he was concerned about the war in Iraq. He said the next president should look at an honorable way to exit the country.

Bucklin, who served in a non-combat role in Vietnam, said he doesn’t agree with proposals from either candidate on how the Iraq war should be handled.

“I don’t know if there’s a right way,” he said.

Maciejewski said the next presidential administration should decide withdrawing from Iraq based on the country’s ability to support itself.

“We should get troops out as soon as practical,” he said.

Maciejewski, a veteran of the Gulf War, declined to reveal his choice for president.

While Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain can get veterans’ votes because of his war record, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposals and his endorsement from former secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell can win over veterans as well.