Western New York Congressmembers Brian Higgins (NY-27), Thomas Reynolds (NY-26), and Louise Slaughter (NY-28) have issued a joint letter to the Department of Defense urging reconsideration of military orders calling disabled veteran U.S. Army Specialist James Raymond back to active duty. SPC Raymond, who served in Afghanistan, was honorably discharged four years ago after suffering a knee injury that required surgery. During that same tour, SPC Raymond also lost complete hearing in one ear, injuries which earned him a ten percent disability rating by the Veterans Administration.
“Many of our returning veterans have sustained serious and permanent injuries as a result of their selfless service to this great Nation,” said Congressman Higgins. “These individualized circumstances must be weighed carefully when determining who is best suited to safely and effectively return to military duty.”
In the letter, the Congressmembers are calling for an immediate postponement of existing orders which will allow for SPC Raymond to complete his courses and graduate from the University at Buffalo. Furthermore, the lawmakers are asking for sincere considerations of what they believe will be a strong appeal by SPC Raymond against future activation.
"As a nation we owe all of our veterans a debt of gratitude that is beyond words," said Reynolds. "We must ensure that these brave men and women receive the benefits they have earned and the attention to their particular case they deserve. Specialist Raymond's case is no different."
"The continual redeployment of our soldiers is placing an excessive strain on our service members and their families," said Rep. Slaughter. "We owe the brave men and women who served overseas every consideration before returning them to active duty. At the very least, James Raymond should be allowed to finish his education."
Nearly 1.7 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001 – more than 592,000 have been deployed more than once. Nearly 29,000 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq since the war began.
The full text of the letter is below:
April 18, 2008
Major General Sean J. Byrne
Commanding General, Army Human Resources Command
200 Stovall Street, Room 7N29
Alexandria, VA 22332-0400
Major General Byrne:
We are writing on behalf of SPC James Raymond, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2004 SPC Raymond was honorably discharged from the United States Army with a 10 percent disability rating, and has recently received mobilization orders.
SPC Raymond lost hearing in his left ear and continues to suffer from a knee injury incurred during active duty in Afghanistan. Since his discharge he has experienced medically documented symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, which include alcohol abuse and a drug related incident. His medical records documenting these service-related ailments will be included in his appeal for exemption. Despite these circumstances, the Army has ordered Raymond to report to Fort Benning by May 18, 2008 for medical and mental evaluation, as a precursor to redeployment.
Beyond the disabilities he received while serving in Afghanistan, further complicating this matter is the fact that in the three years since he was discharged, SPC Raymond has been attending the University at Buffalo, and is on schedule to complete his Bachelor’s degree in December. In order to comply with the orders he received, he will miss this semester’s final exams and be unable to graduate. This will have a significant negative impact on his life even if he is not ultimately deployed.
In light of these circumstances, we respectfully request that Army Human Resources Command give full consideration to what we consider SPC Raymond’s strong argument for an exemption to his orders. While this appeal is being considered, we also ask that you immediately postpone SPC Raymond’s reporting date until June 1, after he has completed his final exams.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
__________________ __________________ __________________
Brian Higgins Thomas M. Reynolds Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress
Cc: Major General Galen B. Jackman; Chief, Legislative Liaison
Cc: Colonel Wanda L. Good; Commander, Human Resources Command, St. Louis