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I spent some time the other day talking with a Vietnam War veteran. He acknowledged that the welcome back to the U.S. for soldiers today is a lot different than during the Vietnam era -- but he wasn't concerned about that old news. His major area of concern was that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan aren't getting opportunities to return to jobs that pay enough to support their families. Minimum wage jobs just don't cut it, he said. Companies need to give preference to hiring veterans, he suggested. Recent news has addressed another problem -- the delay in receiving benefits due veterans -- and this is affecting not only those recently returning, but those as far back as World War II. Yes -- World War II! Case in point. Shiner's Ray Wiese lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor and more than one plane crash during World War II, but he may not survive much longer. Now 96, Wiese's health is declining and within the last year or so, he's finally stopped living alone and is in an assisted living facility where he can be more closely monitored and assisted. And, of course, it's not free. His daughter Sharon Jurica explains the situation. "It cost $2,700 a month. My father's retirement and what little Social Security he gets only comes to approximately $2,100 a month. Needless to say his savings are being eaten up very fast at this rate. He applied to the Veterans Administration for assistance," she said.
The paperwork was first filed in August 2012. The necessary paperwork went to the San Antonio VA office, which subsequently was closed. The VA then asked for all the paperwork again, which was sent in. Jurica called and emailed the VA asking for help in expediting the request. "They asked me to fill out hardship papers and said that that would bump him up the waiting line, and they are still saying there is no guarantee they will assist him with anything," Jurica wrote in an email to the Advocate. "In March we received all the same forms to fill out again. This time they requested additionally a synopsis of Naval service, doctors' records from the time he was in service and affidavits from his fellow service members that he did serve at Pearl Harbor and during the war," Jurica said, noting that the Navy should have her father's medical and service record for the more than 25 years he served. Proof he served? Medical records from 70 years ago? Are you kidding me? Jurica said her dad believes the VA is just waiting for him to "kick the bucket" and then they won't have to do anything. The most recent "excuse" from the VA is that Wiese's file isn't digitized and the application cannot be completed until that happens. "I understand the tangled web of bureaucracy and its necessity to weed out those who really do not need assistance," Jurica said. "But I have here a man who served his country faithfully, one of the last remaining survivors of Pearl Harbor, if not the oldest one, a man who has never held his hand out for even so much as a Band-aid and he cannot get assistance to continue to live what is left of his life with some dignity and respect which I feel he has very much earned." I agree. Help Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Wiese live the rest of his life without worrying about how he is going to pay his bills. Help him now.