DOD DENIES DISABLED VETERANS SPACE AVAILABLE TRAVEL PRIVILEGES



"I am an imperfect human being. So are you. That's the way it is. Some imperfections are obvious. Others are not. When we see the imperfections in others, it touches us deeply, sometimes with compassion, sometimes with revulsion, sometimes with feelings of helplessness, but always with emotion."

Disabled Veterans are unjustly denied the Military Space Available Travel Privilege. Many reasons are stated for this denial, but the truth is based on emotion rather than reason. This denial by the DOD is analogus to "a mother cat who tries to hide or deny her deformed babies". This exclusion is also a violation of DOD Regulation 32CFR56. It could also be argued that Disabled Veterans more than anyone else have earned this privilege.

A line by line examination of this DOD Policy Military Qualifier Statement speaks for itself. My comments are included to show the distortions used in their policy statement. The DOD Military Qualifier line-by-line policy statement provided to disabled veterans when seeking info on their eligibility for Space A Travel are bolded in this example.

It should be noted that this exclusionary policy is solely a DOD decision. Congress has already given them the authority to grant disabled veterans the Space Available Travel privilege. .

. Department of Defense-Office of the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense For Logistics.- Military Airlift Qualifier policy statement titled "Space Available Travel for 100 percent Disabled Veterans."

Line 1 " The Department of Defense (DoD) greatly values the contributions of every veteran, especially those who have sacrificed their health in the service of their country. "

Comment: They value our contribution by excluding us from a privilege granted to over 7,000,000 others including the ROTC, public health , teachers, DOD employees, foreign military, the boy scouts, VIPs, etc

Line 2 " However, the primary purpose of the Department of Defense (DoD) space- available travel program is to provide active duty service members a respite from the rigors of military service"

Comment: The statement is only partially true. It is also a perk. Many space available flight seats are used by others for vacations, and free travel. .

Line 3 " This travel privilege is becoming increasingly critical to our active duty personnel, who are experiencing more frequent family separations due to the DoD's high operational tempo"

Comment: Not quite true. Compared to other times and other situations, the high operational tempo is no different or any more critical. No doubt the active military and retirees deserve this privilege. This is no justification for excluding us.. The Defense Authorization Bills of 1998, and 1999 provided funding for disabled veterans participation in the Space Avaialble Travel, yet is was totally ignored by the DOD.

Line 4 " The privilege is extended to retired members at a lower priority, in recognition of the fact that they may still be recalled to active duty, and as a reward for their many years of military service".

Comment: Does not sacrificing our health for our country qualify us for this "reward", or are we to be discarded because we are of no further use to the military?

Line 5 "The underlying criteria for extending the travel privilege to other categories of passengers is their support to the mission being performed by active duty military personnel, and to the enhancement of active duty Service members' quality of life."

Comment: When enlisting, the military promises to provide "quality of life" benefits to active duty personnel, and also to those who honorably retire or are disabled from their military service. Disabled Veterans have especially earned "quality of life" consideration by their physical and emotional sacrifiice. When you exclude a disabled veteran from a privilege granted to others , you are dishonoring us. You make us feel like "second class citizens". Its as if we have done something wrong for being disabled. DO YOU GET IT NOW?

Line 6 "In either case, veterans who are not on active duty or retired are not authorized space-available travel"

Comment: This statement is misleading. If you are military retired and have the space available privilege , are you not still a veteran? For instance, retired military are veterans. Also retired National Guard and Reserves are veterans. I do agree that Junior who attends college in Europe and uses space available to fly home each summer is not a veteran.

Line 10 "If the privilege were extended to the over 164,000 totally disabled veterans or other categories of personnel, the increases in numbers of people seeking space-available travel could overtax present resources and diminish the limited benefit currently available to active duty personnel."

Comment: This statement is a total distortion. Less than 10% of the 100% disabled veterans are physically able to fly. Except during summer peak periods, the space available flights are under utilized. The DOD should be looking for other interested groups like disabled veterans to justify the cost of the 11 Space Available Flight Centers, the chartered Patriot Express Commercial Airlines and the 20,000 military personnel that directly or indirectly support the Space Available Flight program.

Line 11 " "Already those currently authorized space- available travel are often disillusioned by the contrast between the promise of space-available travel as a benefit of military service, and the reality of the arduous conditions often encountered when they use the system.

Comment: This statement does have some validity. but should not be used a reason for denying us this privilege Most users are not disillusioned and do not consider Space Available flights arduous. The Air Force Times advertises the many advantages of flying the "Patriot Express" ( a space available major component) equating it to "First Class Commercial Travel". In most instances, the Space Available Program is a valued asset by those who use it. Even with its shortcomings, over 3 million military, retirees and dependents use it to do international vacations and shopping. Military base lodgings in foreign countries are used to minimize vacation expenses.It is a great opportunity to travel the world for little or no money.

To conclude, the Space Available Travel Privilege is a valuable asset. The exclusion of disabled veterans from this privilege is morally and legally wrong.  It also violates the DODs Regulations pertaining to accessibility to the handicapped.. It indicates a lack of compassion by some to those who have paid the greatest price while serving their country. This exclusion literally borders on the irrational, not reason, nor logic, nor fairness, nor legally correct. It does not matter if only a few disabled veterans will ever use the privilege, or that it complicates the life of the military. It is a major violation of Federal Laws governing the Disabled.

Ed Prifogle
gprifogle@cox.net