To the editor:
During the Vietnam War when the Buddhists wanted to make a point, one of them would douse himself with gasoline and set himself afire. It got the world's attention. Russel Pentecost of Leavenworth had been trying unsuccessfully for years to make a point, and he felt no one was paying attention. His point was the U.S. government wasn't keeping its promises to veterans. On July 22, 1999, he tried for the last time to get our attention. The man who adorned his pickup with a large sign which said, "One worthless U.S. veteran," put a bullet first through his wife's head, then his own. Russel Pentecost was not a deranged Vietnam Vet. He had fought in World War II and Korea, and retired from the Army after 20 years service, fully expecting his country to keep its promises, especially about health care and retirement benefits. According to him,
and many others, those promises were hollow. For two days on page one, the Journal-World led with a story of Russel Pentecost's murder/suicide.
One of the issues Pentecost was concerned about was what has come to be called "concurrent receipt." A solider injured in the line of duty and disabled is compensated for that disability, but if that person also retires from the armed forces, their retirement pay is cut by the amount of disability pay they receive. Bob Dole didn't spend very much time in the Army. He was wounded and awarded 100 percent disability pay for loss of the use of his arm. However, if he had remained in the Army and retired, his retirement pay would have been cut by the amount he received for his disability. But because he retired from the Senate, he gets both his 100 percent disability from the Veterans Administration, and 100 percent of his pension from the Senate. I personally wrote to Mr. Dole when he was running for president and asked him to lead the fight for other retired vets, like Russel Pentecost, to also get 100 percent of their retirement. He didn't even answer my letter.
So, now Senator Brownback, Congressman Moore and even Vice President Gore, say they want to do something for vets. That's akin to saying they want to something for motherhood. Get specific. Take the leadership by offering a piece of legislation that would allow disabled vets to enjoy what Bob Dole enjoys, 100 percent of their pensions.
And drop the name "concurrent receipt." No one can remember it. Call it the Pentecost Bill. Russel will hear you loud and clear, and the death of "One worthless U.S. veteran," won't be in vain.