On December 9, 2015, a group of concerned veterans who support Dr. Ben Carson met at Tommy’s Ham House in Greenville, South Carolina at 7:00 a.m. to discuss issues that concern veterans. Before the event began Mr. Doug Wavle had shared stories of his experience in the military where he was in a hospital with Senator John Glenn who was an astronaut at the time.
The event was the idea of Andrew Holt of the Dr. Ben Carson campaign who said the meeting was an information gathering session which allows him to report the concerns of military veterans directly to Dr. Carson. To name a few of the attendees, they were Michael Middleton, Colonel Christopher M. Bourne, Colonel Mike Stahl, First Sergeant John M. Serpa, Jim Cramer, Doug Wavle, and Michael Hurlong. Afterward, Mr. Holt said that he had spoken to Dr. Carson and he vehemently thanked everyone for coming out to the event. At that point, Michael Middleton asked everyone to bow their heads and commenced a breakfast prayer. Everyone had ordered a delicious breakfast which Tommy’s Ham House provides to the public on a daily basis.
Michael Middleton opened the meeting by addressing questions and comments. A special operations member who served in the Army for twenty-three years and toured Iraq had suffered a broken neck and a hip fracture. His rehabilitation had not been successful. The Veteran’s Administration said his injuries were not related to his service in the military. Colonel Mike Stahl of the United States Marine Corps said that in the past he had worked for the Texas Veteran’s Commission. According to Colonel Stahl, benefit checks of veteran recipients were terminated without notice. He said that during the first two tiers of the administrative appeals process, the veteran would be arbitrarily and capriciously denied Veteran’s Administration benefits. It’s not until the veteran reaches an Article III judge that the case is considered with competence.
Colonel Stahl called for the revamping of the entire administrative appeal procedure. He asked that Dr. Carson hire intelligent people to give him a proposal on how to legitimately hire and fire civil servants who unnecessarily make the appeal process frustrating. Colonel Bourne said that two years into the administrative appeals process is considered quick by today’s standard of measurement. In addition, Colonel Bourne stated that there is an “enormous investment in people.” To say go somewhere else would be a loss of investment.
Michael Middleton provided statistics which reveal that there are 319 million people in America. Of the 319 million people, 28.9% are veterans which equates to 92 million veterans in America who are protecting 227 million civilians. In the State of South Carolina there are 417,554 veterans in total which equates to 2.2% of those in the military that are from South Carolina. That’s a huge number when you consider that we have 50 states. The Department of Homeland Security hires 46% of the veteran population. Today, 80 members of the House of Representatives have a military background. In fact, U.S. Representative Mark Sanford and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham are the only two elected officials with a military background in the House and Senate from the State of South Carolina.
Next, Mr. Middleton discussed a concern with the declaration of war. According to Mr. Middleton, the last time a declaration of war had been declared was in World War II. The United States Constitution guarantees that, “Congress shall have power to . . . declare War.” U.S. Const., art. 1, sec. 8. From a strict constructionist viewpoint, Mr. Middleton believes that the words in the U.S. Constitution must be given the force and effect that our Founding Fathers intended. However, on the opposite side of the spectrum there are those who view the United States Constitution as a living a breathing document which requires adjustments as society changes. The life of the law has come from these two competing schools of thought. After September 11, 2001, Congress authorized the extension of the President’s war powers to include that he can unilaterally declare a preemptive strike against any country that presents an imminent threat against the United States of America.
Colonel Chris Bourne said, “Boots on the ground” is a phrase that “rubs me the wrong way!” Because, “inside those boots are sons and daughters.” It is dehumanizing to refer to our men and women who valiantly serve our country as items as opposed to the human beings that they are in their respective field of service.
Mr. Middleton spoke about a 401k styled compensation system is coming to the military. According to Jim Cramer, the 401k option is being offered now. He said young people love this new option and he would have liked to have participated in this new system. He wondered if those who are now retired would be grandfathered into the system. Colonel Stahl said the 401k option takes effect in January of 2016.
The Veterans Coalition Meeting was one of the most interesting meetings this contributor has ever had the honor to cover. Dr. Carson’s team was brilliant for coming up with the idea of getting civilians and veterans together to directly hear from these heroes of war regarding a revamp of Veteran’s Administration. The discussion regarding the Executive’s War power authority was very enlightening and substantive. It is strongly suggested that Dr. Carson’s team hold more of these meetings as the community needs to hear directly from its veterans. The Veterans Coalition Meeting was both professional and educational.