Bureaucracy steals too much of vets' time | May 30, editorial
Benefit process clear and prompt
In my experience, the headline of this editorial doesn't hold up. The state of Florida furnishes employees to handle all of the paperwork. You sit down with a human being, describe your conditions, and the benefit specialist files your claim through its computer system. The only additional time required of the veteran is a visit with a physician to evaluate whether the medical condition merits benefits.
The application process is quite transparent. In a few months, you receive a letter either confirming or denying your claim. The system moves much faster under emergency conditions. For example, I lost medical coverage several years ago. I went to the Veterans Affairs Department for the first time and left that day with vital prescriptions that I needed.
When pensions are graduated according to the percentage of disability, there are strong financial incentives for people to complain if their claims are denied. Unlike the recent story of a Social Security administrative judge who awarded 100 percent of the claims brought before him, the VA does deny claims that are not meritorious. Perhaps these are the people who call the Times and complain that the VA is heartless and inefficient.
William L. Bassett, Clearwater
Bureaucracy steals too much of vets' time May 30, editorial
Horrors of war are to blame for veterans' problems
I find it reprehensible that your editorial writer parrots U.S. Circuit Court Judge Stephen Reinhardt's assignment of blame for the dramatic rise in suicide and attempts among veterans. He castigates the VA rather than the leaders at the highest levels from the White House to Congress and the Pentagon who are responsible for the actual source of posttraumatic stress disorder: our recent wars of choice and multiple deployments to combat zones.
It is the horror of war, not waiting for compensation, which causes the "unrelenting byproduct of combat" long after soldiers leave the battlefield. How dare you imply that the Veterans Affairs Department deliberately delays services expecting "needy vets to die, often by their own hand, before they get what the country owes them."
Since Eric Shinseki became secretary, the VA has hired an additional 3,500 mental health professionals, bringing its total to nearly 21,000. Currently, the VA is evaluating 95 percent of its veterans with PTSD and other mental health issues within 14 days. The VA's budget for mental health programs has risen to more than $5.2 billion, and President Barack Obama is requesting $6.2 billion for fiscal 2012.
You need to make a distinction between waiting for treatment and waiting for compensation.
Sally F. Martin, Tampa
Troubles dogging Pinellas shelter | May 31
Stop the needless deaths
We should be appalled at this situation at Pinellas County Animal Services. It is putting 11,000 animals down a year. Broken down, that is 917 monthly, or 30 every day. The sad truth is that these numbers are not as high as those at other shelters.
The plight of these animals lies in the community's hands. What can we do to stop this hideous practice of throwing our pets away? Spay and neuter your pets. Do not buy a pet from a store; more than likely it is from a puppy mill. Donate to or volunteer at a shelter.
Margaret Stambaugh, Palm Harbor
Climate perfect for rate hikes | June 1
Question the science
Floridians are about to see another increase in their property insurance. Insurance companies believe the state is becoming more vulnerable to storm damage, but this may not be a simple cause-and-effect scenario.
Let's ask a few questions. First, on what does the industry base its quasi-scientific predictions on storm frequency, intensity and path? Many rely on an organization called Risk Management Solutions, which recently developed computer models based on the forensic analysis of $18 billion in insurance claims. But why do so many companies rely on this one source? Who funds RMS, and does the insurance lobby play a part in its decisionmaking?
And if RMS data is peer reviewed, do any of those peers have investments or financial interests in the insurance industry? We needed to ask these questions in the 1990s, when oil companies paid scientists to turn climate change into a political, rather than scientific, issue.
Kurt Loft, Tampa
Tahrir provides lessons for Israel, Palestinians | May 26, commentary
Pie in the sky
Though it is probably giving the Palestinians more credit than they deserve, let us agree that in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict both sides are equally intractable. I use the word "conflict" advisedly because before any serious peace talks of which Thomas Friedman writes can begin, the conflict must be resolved first.
Unfortunately, the otherwise knowledgeable journalist offers nothing but pie-in-the-sky platitudes that only underscore the complexity of the seemingly insurmountable Middle East tangle. His egregious conflation of Benjamin Netanyahu's statesmanship with Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship is just one of many rants in the terminally nonsensical article.
The Tahrir revolt, in Friedman's words a metaphor for Arab hopes for freedom and democracy, is floundering and very close to adding another woe to that beleaguered region. Guess what? The Egypt-Israel detente is about to become a thing of the past. Have you thought of that, Mr. Friedman?
Jerry Rawicki, Seminole
The pain of teacher evaluation | May 31
Enforced discipline needed
Marlene Sokol's excellent article on the non-renomination process in Hillsborough County schools points out the dilemma in the evaluation process. But it also reveals a more basic problem that neither the teachers nor the principals can solve by themselves.
According to the article, a teacher whose students are performing well above the district average would be fired for a lack of discipline in the classroom as defined by the principal. But what are the disciplinary tools at the teacher's disposal? My guess is that if all that can be offered as help is to "maintain eye contact" and "write class rules," the failure of the school board to provide enforceable discipline policies is more than a part of the problem. It is the root of the problem. And I doubt that the Gates grant is going to fix it.
When parents won't, and society can't, enforce a reasonable understanding of discipline, it should come as no great surprise that a teacher and a principal can't either.
Peter D. Klingman, Tampa