CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I retired from the Army in December 2012 with 20 years of service. Since my retirement and return to my home state of West Virginia, I have been unable to obtain suitable employment to support my family. I have 20 years of experience in operations management in the military including two deployments to Iraq and an additional 10 years of construction experience. I have been unable to secure adequate work in even simple part-time jobs that I am overqualified for.
I am currently working with the VA jobs program in hopes of securing employment. However, applications I have submitted have been unsuccessful, including those at nationally-advertised military friendly employers that seek the unique skills military veterans bring to the table.
Adding insult to injury, the military pay system DFAS (the Department of Finance and Accounting Systems) is taking 40 percent of retirement pay for a clerical error that happened 20 years ago. I have been waiting for the Veteran Administration to determine my final disability compensation percentage for two years, and the housing allowance for my post 9-11 G.I. Bill benefits have been cut by 75 percent. As a result, my family and I are desperate and unsure how we will manage to survive for much longer without losing everything.
I have been working with Rep. Nick Rahall's office in hopes that a solution may be reached, and his staff has been extremely helpful; however, we are in a daily fight with creditors as our unpaid bills continue to grow and our income shrinks monthly. With winter fast approaching, I cannot help but be tormented, not being able to afford adequate heat, water, food and clothing that will enable us to make it through even a mild winter.
Although I am not usually one to complain, I have reached a breaking point. I am absolutely disgusted that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration find it acceptable that education benefits, retirement pay and service-connected injuries and illnesses compensation be withheld without explanation, accountability or giving the benefit of doubt to the retiree. It would seem that this would be the very least they could do for the years of duty before family or self, respect, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage. We dedicate years of our lives to completing the mission regardless of when or where it may be, sacrificing ourselves and our families to answer the call of duty without question, recognition or personal gain. In return, we expect the same, only to be tossed to the wayside as cannon fodder. I find this to be a truly disgraceful way for our sacrifices to be recognized.
I challenge everyone who finds this treatment to be disgraceful to contact state and federal Congressional representatives and demand that these laws be changed and that more sustainable living wage jobs are desperately needed in West Virginia, especially here in southern West Virginia, so others will not have to suffer as my family and many more are suffering now, jobless and destitute in West Virginia.
Comer lives in Fayetteville.