Poor Treatment of Returning Veterans

Online readers respond to "A Soldier's Story," July 31, by Margaret Downing.

Troubled vet: As an Air Force veteran, I am troubled about the lack of investigative journalism used by you the writer and the editor of the Houston Press. It is not the base or the National Guard that determines a member's disability benefits. It is the VA. It is public law written by the U.S. Congress and available via the Internet. As a veteran, I know that to be eligible for severance pay per the regulation, I have to have six years of continuous active duty without a break in service. Did you review the continuous active duty service of Jason Franco? Maybe he isn't allowed severance pay.

As for free TRICARE, Franco would've had to have been deployed within six months prior to his discharge — you can see the information on the TRICARE Web site. You stated in your article that he last deployed in 2002. So, it is already obvious he's not entitled to TRICARE. TRICARE does not continue indefinitely for any service member after they are released from service. The VA are the people he needs to talk to, not the Air Force, because at this point Franco is a veteran, not a military member.

You state that Franco is "somehow convinced that he should have been given a medical retirement" and then state the number of years required. You were right, there. Why didn't you do the same investigative journalism work for the rest of the claims in your article?

It is unfortunate that some service members think they were done wrong. When the law states the member isn't eligible, it's the law. It is what it is. If you or Franco don't like it, work to have the law changed.

Comment by Air Force Vet from Galveston

Help him: It's so sad that someone who risks his life for our country gets this kind of treatment. No wonder there are so many homeless people who are war vets. Irony is, this country is spending millions and millions on causes in other countries and is oh so worried about everything but its own. The government needs to realize that people like Jason Franco risked their lives for this country and now he needs help — not help, but what he deserves. My God, he developed cancer by being in the service. I hope this gets the attention of people and we open our eyes and see what's really happening with our troops. Thank you, Jason, for what you did while in the service. God bless you and your family.

Comment by B from Houston

From Franco: I want people to know that I am the Jason Franco in the article. I am here to comment back in response to the previous comment made by "Air Force Vet." As you can see, I would never hide behind a name to not be ­recognized.

First of all, this article was meant to inform people of what goes on in the military behind closed doors. As a veteran, you should be ashamed of yourself. I am not doing this to get any type of benefits at all. Unlike you, I am doing this for every veteran, past and present, who knows he was wronged when he was discharged but can't prove it, and to let parents be informed what their own kids might endure after getting hurt while in service.

The difference that separates me from other veterans that have been done wrong by the military is that I have the paperwork and e-mails from the individuals named, in their own writing, to prove it. For all the veterans reading this — they were sloppy, and I caught them!

The "Air Force Vet" says that "she" (because I think I know who wrote this) was "troubled about the lack of investigative journalism used by you the writer and the editor of the Houston Press." Well, Downing ran into the same problems I encountered when I was being discharged on Family Day from the base. She called, but nobody would talk to her. How could you expect her to get the full report when she was treated like I was when I was being discharged? (And before you try commenting back that this did not happen...I have thate-mail also.)

As for the severance pay, you asked whether Downing "review[ed] the continuous active duty service of Jason Franco." Wow...look at this...I have other e-mails from several army officials saying I should be eligible for severance pay.

You really do need to update yourself with benefits for military personnel. Per TRICARE, members are eligible for transition assistance for up to 180 days from discharge if they have an honorable discharge and are a part of operation Iraqi Freedom. I was a part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, so I deserve six months of TRICARE for my family.

I applaud Downing for her article about me.

Comment by Jason Franco from
Houston

Thanks, Jason: Let us not forget that we Americans would not have the freedom and prosperity that we do without the Armed Forces. I thank the Lord every day for the men and women who put their lives at risk to protect us. How can we allow this injustice? Jason, we have you and your family in our prayers.

Comment by Martydecarlos from Sugar Land

Unbelievable: I am a 100 percent service connected veteran, and I want to say this is atrocious. I can't believe Franco was treated this way. I can't believe his chain of command would allow such an injustice to transpire.

Further to the Air Force Vet who wrote the first comment — I was given 60 percent disability by the Air Force, so yes, it can be up to active duty and the National Guard to determine disability. Granted, the VA deemed me 100 percent, but my initial rating was given by the U.S. Air Force.

I've spoken with Franco personally. He's entitled to be angry, and I think we all should give that to him. He got cancer, for Christ's sake. He didn't smoke. He didn't do anything wrong. He served his country honorably and for it, got cancer and nothing else. Seems just a bit unfair to me.

I think Texas senators should get involved with this. I think they could probably get to the bottom of what happened, so they could address those in charge and ensure it doesn't happen to any others.

I commend Jason for bucking the system and stepping forward to share his story. I'm ashamed to say I know of the people involved. I'm ashamed to say I have family in that unit.

Comment by Shelly

Ashamed: As a military veteran myself, I am saddened and ashamed that this is how those who protect this country's freedom are treated. As true, proud veterans of the United States military, we are supposed to support one another and help our fellow soldiers, marines, airmen, and seamen in any way, shape or form. I'm ashamed of the higher-ups who tried to hide, lie and cover up things. Of course, if this was the situation with any of them or their family members, things would have had a completely different outcome. God bless you, Jason, and your family. I truly hope this goes all the way to where it needs to in order for some changes to be made.

Comment by Vicki from Houston

Not surprising: I would like to say how shocked and appalled I am by this article, but I cannot. We all know how poorly our military men and women are and have always been treated. What is shocking to me is that there are still individuals willing to risk their lives for the sake of this country knowing how vets are treated. I honor their integrity for doing something I know in my heart of hearts I would never want my sons to do — hypocritical of me, perhaps. However, I would never be able to find peace if such an injustice was ever done unto either of my boys. I know I am not the only mother who thinks this either, and it scares me to even contemplate drafts being enforced.

This has been and will always be an ongoing battle for our veterans, which in itself is shameful. I hope this is not the end of media attention. My heartfelt appreciation and gratitude goes out to all men and women in the military, as well as their families — not just in times of war, but throughout the entire year.

Comment by Kathy from New Jersey

Correction


A Wrong Note

In the August 7 issue, we misidentified our BayouSphere subject, John Evans, who was the winner of our Best Songwriter category in this year's Houston Press Music Awards.

The Press regrets the error.

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