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Possible cuts have vets speaking out
Reduced medical benefits would hurt
Harold Butch Hemingway president of the Vietnam Veterans of America
The VVA's Butch Hemmingway - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
Recent reports of possible budget cuts to veteran health care benefits have local vets speaking out.
In Liberty County, vets like Harold “Butch” Hemingway, president of the Liberty Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and Steve Wheeler, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6602, say any cuts would be unfair.
They say their views line up with the concerns of veterans nationally.
Recently, President Obama’s administration has considered making veterans use private insurance to pay for treatment of combat and service-related injuries.
Wheeler said cuts to medical benefits would put added hardship on vets and their families, who often are already struggling. 
“The president is trying to cut everything out for us since he got in, he is trying to make us pay for Medicare and other insurances that we’re getting for free now a days,” he said. “They’ve taken everything away from the veterans and they can only take so much more.”
Wheeler said cuts would hurt.
“I am a 100-percent disabled vet,” he said. “When I returned from Vietnam, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a possible result from being exposed to Agent Orange.
“We have lots and lots of people who get Veterans affairs benefits here … look at how many retirees we have here in Hinesville.”
Hemingway said he hopes the administration and new VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will recognize the importance of taking care of “the backbone of America.”
“I don’t think that cuts should be made to benefits for veterans whatsoever,” he said. “They should find somewhere else to make the cuts.
“When I joined the Army in 1958 I was told that me and my family would be taken care of for the rest of our lives,” Hemmingway said, “and we weren’t. We were as long as I was on active duty. After I retired, everything was going on just fine, we got two COLA (cost of living) allowances … then all of a sudden they did away with the medical dependency.”
“If I did not have Blue Cross Blue Shield as a backup,” he said, “I wouldn’t have survived.”
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