Free meals for vets; Pick your fave Texans goat.

 Some national corporation are thanking veterans this year by putting their money where the veterans’ mouths are.

 But showing appreciation for those who are serving or who have served this year will not be limited to free dinners from Golden Corral on Monday,  November 16, and Applebee’s on Wednesday evening (Veterans Day).

 Lowe’s is offering a 10 percent discount on in-store merchandise up to purchases of $5,000 from Nov. 6 through Veterans Day. This is according to media reports I have seen. I saw nothing on their Web site about it. I would call first and ask if interested. Home Depot is likewise offering a 10 percent discount through Veterans Day. Check the Web site article for lists of limitations.

 I am unsure how long any of these corporations have shown their appreciation for veterans other than Golden Corral. The buffet and grill restaurant has held the Veterans feast for the past eight years. Their Web site notes they have served more than 2.1 million meals to active duty military and veterans during these occasions.

 Applebee’s requires some kind of proof of service such as a picture of the veteran in uniform, military or retired military ID card, DD-214 or veterans organization card. Their list doesn’t include a VA patient ID card, so I wouldn’t count on that getting you a free dinner. Applebee’s is also offering a limited number of items on their menu for the gratis meal — six to be exact — but they all look pretty good.

 Golden Corral does not require proof of ID. I still would take some though. You never know if your waiter understands the rules and having your papers in order might avoid having to get a manager and making a scene. I have been only once for Golden Corral’s meal, a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t asked for an ID.

 A number of other restaurants and businesses are giving free or discounted meals or merchandise across the country including, or did so over the weekend. Some of these also honor those uniformed folks serving in public safety such as police, fire and EMS. You just need to check around and see, I suppose, because I don’t have a full list. I wish I did.


  Disappointing would be an appropriate word to describe yesterday’s Houston-Indianapolis game.

  The Texans came in with a respectable 5-3 record for the first time in their history against the undefeated Colts. Still, there was no way the Texans could beat Indianapolis, right? Well, even though they weren’t throwing hand grenades or playing horseshoes, they almost pulled off an upset. Even more, the Texans should have won this one.

  A big examination was taking place on Beaumont-Houston’s ESPN Radio, the Ticket, this afternoon, as to the blame for the Texans 20-17 loss to the Colts. It was a controversial fumble at the Colt’s one-yard line by Houston running back Ryan Moats, said some. It was flat out turnovers and stupid penalties, said others. It was kicker Kris Brown, still others said while you could almost see heads nodding through the many radio receivers throughout the Houston-Beaumont area.

 Brown could easily be seen as the goat that ate the chance to knock off the Big Dog Colts. The Colts saw their lead cut to a narrow margin at the end of the first half when the Texans’ kicker perfectly nailed a 56-yard field goal. Brown, coming into the game, had a perfect extra point record and he left with that intact at 25-for-25 upon leaving Indy. He wasn’t exactly Mr. Automatic with 9-for-13 coming into the game but neither was he Mr. Aromatic. That path to Mr. Smelly quickly changed in the estimation of some Texans fans when Brown had a chance to send the game into overtime. 

 But just as plane crashes hardly ever have one cause, neither do lost football games. Somehow the clock quickly ticked off until it was stopped at one second — amazing in itself that Houston didn’t lose because of poor time management. Brown seemed like a sure shot for a 42-yarder to tie after kicking one a very respectable 56 yards. However, the ball went up and up and just freaking missed the goal with a veer to the left.

  Well, Coach Dan Kubiak thought his team did okay considering they were playing Peyton Manning’s Colts. I have to say I feel the same way although, as I mentioned before, I am very disappointed.

 As for one goat. It wasn’t Kris Brown. It wasn’t one play. It wasn’t the refs. It wasn’t Moats’ fumble. It was all of those wrapped up with penalties that were just dumb, though as I have noted  here before I sure as hell couldn’t have done better.

 The Texans now are neither down nor are they out. They have to play the Colts again at the end of this month and beat them. They have to beat the Titans again the week after next week’s bye. That theoretically should be easy against a now 2-6 team that only picked up its second win just yesterday by beating the equally lackluster 49ers. But theories are like a**holes, everybody’s got one and every once in awhile something goes wrong with them. Then you got your Rams, Seahawks, Jaguars and Dolphins in no particular order followed at the end by the Patriots. The Patriots. Yes.  Uh-huh.

 So the Texans can still make the playoffs. Hell, they could go to the Super Bowl. I mean anything can happen and does happen in football, just look at Terrell Owens or John “Sandy Baby” Riggins — remember the latter’s drunken encounter with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor? Perhaps those aren’t the best examples.

VA to open care to about 250,000 new vets

If you are a military veteran who has thought about signing up for veterans health care but couldn’t, and if you don’t mind socialized medicine, then you just might be eligible now for VA care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs suspended opening up health care to so-called “rich” veterans in 2003 because of budget constraints. These are the vets who do not have disabling illnesses or injuries that are related to military service but whose income is above a set threshold. The income levels are geographically-based and an enrollment calculator for benefits can be found here. Don’t let the word “rich” fool you. It’s certainly not a $100,000-$200,000 level.

Dr. Blase Carabello, acting director of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, said the rule allowing the addition of about 250,000 additional veterans for health care should take effect June 30 “if the regulatory process proceeds smoothly.” That is always a big “if” when dealing with the VA or most any other federal branch.

Congress opened the VA health system in 1996 to veterans other than those with service-related disabilities or the indigent. Poor funding and an explosion of veterans seeking health care closed the system to new enrollees under the Bush administration in 2003. Those, such as yours truly, who were already enrolled were grandfathered.

It is true I bitch about the VA health care system sometimes. It is certainly not a perfect system and it isn’t the best model for a socialized health care. But to be fair, it does pretty well  in most places with the funding it receives. Each VA regional system is a little different from the other, although they have indicated that they want to fix that. If you are dead-set on one type of medication, you aren’t always going to get it in one VA system but might in another. Some systems, hospitals and outpatient clinics are exceptional. Some are dreadful.

But when the VA is all that you’ve got then, well, it’s all you got. Like just about any service of any kind in the United States, if things aren’t working well for you then you need to raise 10 kinds of hell and you might just get your feelings across. The same goes for dealing with the VA.

Houston VA: Ve Vant to see your papers!

If you are going to the Department of Veterans Affairs complex in Houston beginning Wednesday, July 29, you better have some official VA identification — either for employee or patient.

Houston VA officials said in a press release hot off the mojo wire this afternoon that all vehicles entering the complex will be stopped and occupants will be required to show some form of  VA identification. Required is a VA identification badge, VA parking tag, veteran identification card or an appointment letter.

The massive ID check for the busy complex which includes both the VA Regional Office and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Hospital is an attempt to reduce unauthorized  parking at the center, which is located in Houston’s busy Texas Medical Center.

Anyone who has ever been to the Houston VA hospital can appreciate the difficulty in finding parking, especially in the mornings. This seems to be a problem at many VA hospitals. But such an identification check does raise questions. If the check is at the entrances to the center, what effect will it have on traffic, especially those cars headed on Holcombe Boulevard in the mornings for the many different Houston hospitals? What about the veteran from Podunk, Texas, who left his appointment letter at home, 100 miles away? What about the veteran who is going to the VA for the first time to enroll for services and has no ID, only his proof of military service? Finally, what about the many veterans who are not going to see this little notice because the majority of the news media, especially outside Houston, are not going to report such information?

It kind of makes you wonder. But hey, I did my part. If you have any questions, call the Houston VA police through the main hospital number, and good luck getting through. It can be quite challenging to call someone at the Houston VA hospital. Then again, patience is a necessary virtue for VA patients.

The road to good intentions is paved with, well?


Congress — on occasion — passes laws that have some good or at least a good intention.

One would hope, at least, some good intentions spurred lawmakers to add riders to the Defense Authorization bills in 2008 and 2009 which expanded the ability for veterans who are not in uniform to render a hand salute.

In the past, only members of veterans service organizations who wore their organization’s official headgear were traditionally allowed to hand salute during the National Anthem, according to an article on Veterans and other civilians not in uniform  — likewise a tradition — normally place their right hands over their “hearts” in lieu of a military-style hand salute for the playing of the anthem and other flag-related activities.

Thanks to an amendment in the 2008 Defense Authorization Act retired military members and veterans can now give a hand salute whenever the U.S. flag is raised, lowered or passes.

A 2009 amendment to that fiscal year’s defense bill allows out-of-uniform military personnel and veterans to render a hand salute during the National Anthem.

Now the growing number of people in the U.S. who have no connection whatsoever with the military and even some veterans themselves might wonder why would such a law be passed?

The answer is that there was  obviously some sentiment among veterans and military retirees, not to mention some of the powerful veterans organizations, for codifying such a practice. Why? I don’t know. It seems as if the law lacks some practicality insofar as enforcement is concerned.

Let’s say you are at a high school football game. The National Anthem is played and the colors are presented on the field by the local Junior ROTC drill team. You, the veteran, are wearing a big pair of horns on your head because your team is the Longhorns. Now do you do the hand over your chest or give the military hand salute?

Okay, say you give the hand salute. A local cop sees you comes over and starts grilling you about being in civvies and giving a military-style salute. You say it’s legal now. The cop said he never heard anything about it. You say: “Trust me.” The cop says: “Okay. I’ll trust you if you can show me some ID proving you are a veteran.”

Now one might think such a request would be easy. But it isn’t necessarily all that simple.

You, the veteran with the longhorn hat, spent your four years and got out of the service. You have your DD-214 form which proves your service — somewhere — although it is not on your “person,” as the cop who questioned you might say. You didn’t retire from the service so you don’t have a military retiree ID card. You don’t go to the VA for health care so you don’t have a VA identification card. You don’t belong to the VFW, American Legion, DAV or any other veterans organization. Basically, you are SOL to use a good old military acronym until you call up the county clerk in the next state where you filed your DD-214 after getting out of the service and ask her to send a copy to the local authorities.

Now that scenario about the ball game and the hassle by the cops and all the trouble is a lot of hyperbole. Heck, I have no idea as to whether there even is any enforcement mechanism in laws which let you honor the flag with that sharp, five fingers (if you got ’em) salute with the tip of your index finger next to the right eyebrow.

If I ever gave a military salute, it would probably be in a situation in which other veterans might do the same thing, say at some kind of veterans program or maybe a funeral with military honors.

Personally, I have always thought the hand salute is pretty cool. It is a sign of respect unlike so many others, which carries with it non-verbal cues aimed toward the object or individual one is saluting.

For instance: You salute an officer you don’t know. You are saluting his position and authority. You salute an officer you do know and like. You are saying: “Hey, what’s happening bud?” without being insubordinate. You salute an officer you know and don’t like. You are saying: “I respect your rank. Now chuck you farley.”

So just remember when you see a civilian saluting the flag or during the National Anthem that Congress gave this man or woman the right to wear their civilian clothes and give a good old military-type hand salute, one each, because of the sacrifice these folks made for their country. As to whether they are really veterans, I guess you’ll just have to take it on faith. Or ask to see some ID, at your own risk. You certainly wouldn’t want to get gored by those horns.