Dear Max

Dear Max–

I hope this letter finds you well, but given the state of the postal service these days my hope is simply that it finds you at all. Maybe this is why nobody writes letters anymore. So–if this has indeed found you–know that I’m also sending my love to Anne and the Mongol Horde. Pet the dog while you’re at it. Have a glass of vino.

Not much new here, sadly–so I might as well just answer your question about how it’s going with the paper.

We did a story recently on a veteran who, though on 100% disability, was elected to the state assembly. Apart from his pledge to work across party lines, his platform was strictly that he is a combat veteran. I was told his disabilities were that he can’t read, write or remember properly. Sterling qualities in a representative! On top of his salary, the guy gets $3349 a month from the VA: Who says the VA isn’t doing enough for its patients?

Nobody whom I’ve talked to down here can believe it. It’s almost unanimously seen as fraud, akin to falsely claiming whiplash after a car accident or–while on disability–getting caught playing volleyball or something. I saw the dentist last week and, not having anything to say for myself, told him about it. My own opinion is that the representative should decline–or donate–his benefits while drawing a salary. That, I told him, would be greatness.

“Greatness and money,” the dentist said, “don’t often intersect.” Then he said I could probably keep my teeth for the next six months, at least: so–hooray!

Less celebratory have been some of the letters to yours truly. It’s as though this representative–or maybe his chief of staff–put out the word to slime us online. So about a dozen vets (of course)and, so far as I can tell, even an aunt of the representative has written the editor.

But–Christ on a bike!–isn’t putting the information out there what a newspaper is supposed to do?

Get this: This disability he collects is not like in the real world, where–once you’re no longer disabled–your disability ends. No. This disability, apparently, goes on for so long as the vet is being treated. And, because medical records are confidential, nobody will ever know if that still holds true. Of course he’s “perfectly competent” to hold office. But in the doctor’s office? He’ll have to be permanently addled to collect his $40k per year; if he’s not, the way I understand it, the mere fact that he’s getting treatment will suffice. But how are we ever to know if he’s even getting treatment?

How are we to know if he’s been helped and/or cured or not, or if he is compromised or competent? This strikes me as a pretty sharp practice.

The good news is that his term is only two years. The bad news is he’ll likely be re-elected. He’ll probably run unopposed.

We’re digging on this, Max-o, but anything to do with veterans is the 4th rail of American politics, and I don’t yet know how we’ll ever get to the bottom of it. What I do know is that nobody would give a damn if, instead of being a vet, this guy drove a truck or something. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what he did in the National Guard.

So, yes–he was deployed overseas–but not in the infantry. Still.

Speaking of driving a truck, what this guy did on being elected was to run out and buy himself a $75,000 pick-up truck. His salary from the state assembly is $109,000. I figure, after all the usual deductions, that his annual cut of this is actually closer to $68,000 or so. I wonder if he drives this gas guzzler back and forth from Sacramento.

Fiscal responsibility!

Hell, Max–you can see why he’s sucking that disability boob. He has to grab as much as he can in his two years–in the off chance he’s not re-elected–just to make his truck payment alone. And it’s our money. It’s all our money. His salary, the VA benefits…What a fine spirit of service! The only thing we can’t confirm absolutely is whether or not he’s also raking money in from Wounded Warrior–but at least that’s not taxpayer money. No. Those are honest donations from good people who think this whole shooting match is on the level.

Max, I can see you sitting there with your wine–and you know we have nothing against veterans. My uncle was a vet. It’s just that I don’t quite feel this guy’s constituents are being squarely accommodated. Something seems up!

And it seems that more than just this might be up. Nothing illegal here so far–but the smell test? No siree. Like I said, we’ll keep digging.

That’s what newspapers do–investigate and point things out. I don’t suppose I have to point out to you that now you owe me a letter…Or do I?


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