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National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2593

  • monkey44
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We've had discussion here and there about the "DAV"s and the Golden Access Pass, now called something else -- America Beautiful pass, or something similar.

And, as with some other areas of government business, some of the "work" contracts are going out to private contractors or concessionaires ... and with the private sector moving in, the discounts move out -- because the private sector is not required to honor the Passes. I know some aspects of the national parks are now contracted "privates" now. Does anyone know if any congressional "thinking" about privatizing the national park and forest campgrounds is beginning.

In many areas, private contracts take over the job of what was once government employees -- I suspect this comes under the guise of meeting a budget -- remove an item form the budget, place it in the private sector and the cost disappears from the budget and the budget appears smaller ... the "subject" suddenly funded by the "user fees" ... supposedly illegal under some federal law, but a "duck by any other name, still quacks" ...

What might eventually happen when the private sector takes over the national campgrounds, and then decides that the passes are no longer honored ??? We DAV's suddenly lose another benefit ... half-off the CG fees - small fee, granted, but add all these little snips and it mounts up over time. Costs the government nothing, so the government continues allowing the benefit. But may allow the "new NP campground authority to degrade the passes -- mine says "for life" -- but it seems it might not be the case if privatization continues in the federal arena.

So, what does anyone think about this issue ??

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2601

  • utmtman
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I work for the national parks and the national forests as a volunteer every summer and they are not privatiziing anything that I have heard of or seen. With the exception of giving camping fee collections and campground hosting to several private enterprises to hire and control but they still follow under the parks and forest service system. They also turned over the control and operations of the gift shops to private enterprises to operate them for them but that goes all the way back to the 40's. I dont forsee anything changing more than that any time soon.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2603

  • monkey44
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QUOTE: "With the exception of giving camping fee collections and campground hosting to several private enterprises to hire and control but they still follow under the parks and forest service system."

This is what I mean by the first step -- once private enterprise gets a foot in the door, they always try to kick it open ... so the obvious next step would be "take over operation" and when that happens, out goes the discount if the procedure follows history.

The proposal might read something like -- "To the federal government, think how much money you'd save if we (private enterprise) managed the NP and forest campgrounds. YOU could fire all the gate and CG rangers and lower your budget." ... or some other such nonsense. And it often looks much better on paper than in practical application, particularly for the folks that use the facilities ... prices ALWAYS go up ... and services become minimized.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2604

  • larryf
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We worked last summer, and again this summer, for one of those "private enterprises" for a large portion of a National Forest. We (the company) manage, collect fees, clean, and almost everything else to do with all of the Forest Service campgrounds in our permit area (30+ campgrounds).

The company I work for has to pay for all supplies, paint, equipment, trucks, fuel, maintenance, wages, etc. (It costs us over $15,000 a MONTH just to have the dumpsters emptied at 15 campgrounds). The only thing we don't pay for in the upkeep of these campgrounds is long term improvements. We collect and keep all of the fees, EXCEPT that the Forest Service gets 20% of the gross (I think). Where I am, the Forest Service LOVES having us managing the campgrounds. They state we offer a higher quality of service than they provided prior to the permit system. THEY state their budget was so low, they couldn't keep the campgrounds in good shape. Since the company I work for has come in, the quality of the campgrounds has GREATLY increased, and the Forest Service is making money for almost no expense. (It's not quite this simple).

We do have a set of rules, regulations, and expectations from the Forest Service that we need to meet. We get weekly inspections by them. We also get graded at the end of each season. The company has a "special permit" to manage the recreaton areas and campgrounds. Usually, these are 5 or 10 year permits. If we don't obtain a staisfactory rating, most likelyt we don't get the permit renewed. The permit will be issued to another private enterprise. There's about 4 or 5 major private enterprises doing campground management, with dozens of smaller companies doing the same thing on a smaller, local level.

But monkey44 is partly correct. At least in our area, the private enterprise "can" decide NOT to accept the America the Beautiful Senior/Access 50% discount. It's no longer the government setting and collecting the fees. Although the campgrounds are owned by the Forest Service, the permit we get turns them over to the company. Basically, we're leasing the campground property from the government. Luckily, where I work, we do accept the discount cards for camping, but not day use parking.

If you'll notice, I think the new America the Beautiful Senior/Access passes state the discount "may" be accepted.

Don't flame me. I just work for this company, which is a good job for the summer. I see good and bad points to the idea of private enterprise managing these campgrounds. If not, the Forest Service would be forced to close many of the campgrounds. We already see this happening. And this isn't no sales hype from the private enterprise. The Forest Service in my area recently did a 5-year study of Recreation Management. They're closing 4 campgrounds, since they need major improvements.

I'm not trying to stick up for anyone, but there's a LOT more to this issue than the government simply turning over business to private enterprise. While we may not like all of the results from this practice, it may be the best option to keep campgrounds open for recreational use.
Larry Farquhar, USAF (Ret)
Owner/Operator of this website.
The Happy-Wanderers
Casino Camper Website

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2609

  • monkey44
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NO flame here, just trying to get discussion going on what happens to our benefits. And what happens is, it disappears.

Problem is, when a benefit disappears, no one ever replaces it in my fixed pension... What happens is we (retired, DAV) get a fixed amount every month, and we can spread it a little better when we have this benefit, which in fact cost no one anything to provide it -- I'm sure at least half-price certainly covers any paper or water I might use in the restrom etc ... but it helps in the long run when a pension raise each year amounts to 2.3% like this year, and then one more mini-benefit loss takes a part of that away - and if we're not otherwise employed.

And I understand it's not quite as simple as contract/work/keep open CGs etc ... but I also hope that maybe some of these private contractors would recognize that some of us already gave something up to earn that benefit, and in at least one sense, allows the contractor to remain in business -- and I'm talking here about recognizing those of us, and I mean all veterans - not just DAV - that keep the USA free ... When I read that back of my card, it says for the life-time of the holder ... and last time I looked, I'm still kicking around.

Now, they take that one away, the one that says "entitled" to a discount, and replace it with one that says "MAY" receive a discount. I still have my original card, but have been told by others that this card gets "confiscated" and the new one with "MAY" substituted ... mandatory. Once again, this is not my idea of recognition nor in any way fair to those of us that earned this and believed the card when it was issued. And, if they do take it away, there goes any "evidence" ... and this is not a just once in a while thing anymore, with benefits I mean ... it seems to be a continuous erosion -- medical co-pays rise, drug co-pays rise, commissary becomes "contract groceries" instead of actually run by on-base personnel -- so when does this stop??

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2614

  • Mustang03
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Just curious - if you still have your "original" card, that means you've still got the paper card that they have been replacing/"confiscating" on-sight for several years now. So how much are you using this benefit if you still have that card? :-

From our experience, we have yet to encounter a park where the gov't has turned over a formerly agency-run campground to a contract operation that now refuses to accept the card. I guess I just can't get excited about this.
B.N. Lavender
Capt. (LDO) USMC (Ret.)
Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.” Ronald Reagan

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2617

  • utmtman
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I still have my original card too and I have not been told I have to turn it in or exchange it at any park and I use mine quite heavily compared to most. I saw 8 or 9 parks in 2007 and half a dozen in 2006. As well as while working in the parks I have not been told to confiscate the old cards for new ones. I think you may have got some bad info Monkey44. Also if they were going to turn them over completely I would think it would have been done long time ago. Private organizations have been assisting in the running of the parks since 1944. Thats 68 years and like larryf said there are many enterprises handleing the parks. Example at Petrified Forest National Park there were two enterprises involved with assisting in the park. At Dinosaur National Monument there was one and it was different company completely from Petrefied. At Yellowstone National Park there are three different enterprises assisting them of which one of them is also at petrified. I hope that helps you to understand the system. If it were one enterprise only than you might have to wonder or worry but there are many and in some cases they have to bid the jobs with the park service and the low bidder wins.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2620

  • monkey44
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"So how much are you using this benefit if you still have that card?"

Because I often use the military campgrounds lately, and usually go only into the back-country NP campgrounds, I fill out the registration card, take my discount, drop the fees and add the card ID number, I don't often see actual rangers that collect payment. In a couple of instances, I've been denied discounts for access to a few private-run activities, and so expect that might happen to the CGs if the privatation continues.

Look what has happened to medical lately -- was once a time when I could go to any military hospital anywhere in the country and get care, or any VA facility. Now, I can't go to any military hospital, and have to jump through hoops to go into any VA hospital except my primary care ...

It's been a couple years since I've been in a national park -- partly because of medical issues -- but am planning another national camping trip now, and began to wonder as I see private vendors beginning to operate much more in the parks than in the past...

It's not such a huge thing -- half-price on a CG... but how long do you want to sit there and have your benefits reduced, one by one -- doesn't matter which one or how much ...

But I'm glad to hear that we still get to use the cards and maybe I'm asking a moot question --

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2630

  • utmtman
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If you read my post completely you would have seen how much I use that old card here it is again; I saw 8 or 9 parks in 2007 and half a dozen in 2006. I also camped at campgrounds throught utah, idaho and wyoming last year using my card much like you filling out the info, putting it in a envelope with discounts and my card number on the envelope and dropping it in their box. As for pick up of that money they have a cerified park ranger who picks those up anywhere from daily in heavy used parks to once every other week in other area not used as often. It cannot be collected or picked up by anyone but a certified park ranger. Except in areas that are handled by those private enterprises of which you have spoken. Also there are a lot of campgrounds where the hosts are not run by private enterprise but by the forest service and park service. You can find those jobs at volunteer.gov. The pay is usually a full hookup campsite. When private enterpises are concerned that also includes a five day a week paycheck.
As for VA and military hospitals, I am military retired and 100% disabled va and I have to go to the va I cannot use military hospitals. Most va will only see you in emergency room or your sponsor. Also I have noticed a few bases I have been to where the hospitals have shut down and they now only have clinics and any emergency care is sent to civilian local hospitals.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2632

  • monkey44
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I'm glad you use the old card, and hope we always get to use it in the future ...

Yes -- I know what you mean about the military hospitals ... my point was that when I was medically retired from USNavy (100% DAV also here), I could go to ANY military hospital anywhere in the country. Now I can't go to any military hospital anywhere, ever. That's what I mean about erosion of benefits. In addition, I could go to any VA hospital in the country, now, we have to go to our primary (unless to out patieint one-day clinic in an emergency)

So what has happened over the years, for those of you who are more recent retirees, or pending retirement soon -- the benefits that we had when we retired have been substantially reduced in that regard. And it continues as we move through the years ... a little here, a little there ...

I understand that the Feds are doing this to meet budget -- but so what?? They take away the benefit, but you can't legislate a reduction in my injuries -- they still interfere significantly with my earning a living in the real world. The contract I made was based on certain benefits and guarantees, and I'm 100% DAV from my service-connected injuries -- so, every time I lose a benefit, such as possibly even this tiny half-price camping fee, it just adds to other benefits that have been reduced over time ... a little at once doesn't seem like much -- but add it up over time and we really do lose a lot.

And I hope I'm not sounding like a jerk here, or just venting about this, or whatever -- I do actually appreciate my pension, and the medical care I do get. But, just trying to document a reduction in benefits that I always thought would be for the duration of my life because I (we all) earned those and appreciate that respect and recognition. And then we find out it's suddenly gone ... and I was concerned this one would disappear when/if the private sector becomes more active in the national parks camping system. It's just one small item that any private business would want to eliminate if they could ... and once again, I'm glad to hear this continues to be honored in campgrounds and plan to begin using it again soon now that I'm back in the camping mode...

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2638

  • bblhed
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monkey44 you make a really good point about erosion of benifits, especialy the medical, what is really strange to me is that after the VA spent a truckload of money to interconnect their computer system so your medical records are available at any VA they then said you can't go to any VA. That is government in action for you.

Anyway, lets get back on track here. I just got my America the Beautiful pass this past week, it's so pretty and shiny with a nice picture on the front of it and all. Ok, I like the way the card looks because it is still brand new. Anyway when I got it I had to go to an actual NPS (National Park Service) location as they are the only ones that are allowed to issue them at this time. I used my VA letter of compensation, and retired Military ID, it was a quick and painless process (the cute ranger lady was just an added bonus). While there I got the scoop (because I like you people) on giving up your old card for a new one from the cute NPS ranger lady. Here is what I was told.

If you have an old paper card they will honor it just like if you have the new plastic card.
If your old paper card is looking tattered they will ask (not force) you if you want a new plastic one.
Only locations that issue the new plastic cards will ask you if you want a new plastic card.
If you want a new plastic card all you need is the old paper card, and a photo ID.
For the foreseeable future older paper cards will still be honored.

Bottom line, if you have a paper card and really like it I would recommend laminating it if you want to keep it for the rest of your life.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2644

  • skyking8
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I probably am going to be the spoiler in this thread. But here goes. Flame me to your heart?s content. It?s electronic and it won?t be that hot.

If a private contractor who actually knows what the hell they are doing, or hires employees like Larry, in making major improvements in the quality of the facilities, then I will forfeit my half price discount. Personally, I would absolutely love to have my hands on and control a nice COE park with FHU. If I did, I guaranteed that none of you would be getting in for $9/day - disabled or not, senior citizen or not. But you?d be getting a 9-10 rated C/G for less than $20/day. Try finding that on the commercial market or even in a MCG!

I am also a disabled vet. Other than the likely probability of the monthly checks, I have no expectation of getting C/G freebies or heavy discounts on the back of American taxpayers. However, just so you know that I?m not entirely stupid, I don?t turn them down when available.

If the federal, state, or local government campgrounds aren?t breaking even, then the taxpayer is paying the freight. And because of that, when budgets get tight, don?t expect the campground to be available. Average taxpayers want curbs in their subdivison and trash pickup 2-3 times a week instead of campgrounds that don?t make money. Anyone who doesn?t understand that premise is missing the overall concept of reduced benefits and/or the American free enterprise system. Either that or they haven?t driven up to a government park and found it to be closed.

And with absolute respect to everyone who thinks that we?ve ?earned? some RV specific and special place on the list because of the disability, I?d like to know if you get a discount at the golf course, bowling alley, or movie because you are disabled? Let?s just thank God and be happy that we have all of our body parts and are standing above the dirt to be able to complain about the issue. I certainly am.

Yes, I agree with everyone that a discount should be available, but I?m not going on record as insisting on it at the expense of a closed government operated C/G. There are others out there, many young Rving families who are our future, that enjoy and need them more than we do.

Jeez, it sounds like a bunch of spoiled brats here. We, as retired military members, have far cheaper health care costs than the majority of the private sector, better retirement checks (with annual raises I might add), commissary privileges, and so much more I could list than would far exceed the word count on this website.

If you can?t afford the extra few bucks because of privatization then sell the rig or boon dock at Wally World. Either that or you can volunteer as a camp host to cover the extra cost. Maybe you might even consider getting a part time job in the camping industry. You might find that either is fun and a worthwhile method to maintain the lifestyle that you enjoy by being into RVing.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2645

  • cheldreth
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SkyKing:

I could not say it any better than you have said it.

I too am a disabled vet and I am thankful for everything that has been provided for me. Life is not perfect. In fact, life is hard, but the truly happy person deals with this fact.

I am setting at a campsite 100 yards from the Atlantic Ocean for $15 a night with no discount. Where else can you do that? For $40 a month I have better health insurance in TriCare Prime than I could ever hope for. I shop at the PX and commissary and save 7% off the top because I do not pay sales tax.

I do get discounts on many things but I do not think I deserve them, but I appreciate them when they happen. I accept the random acts of kindness that come my way when someone recognizes my service to the nation.

The biggest benefit that I receive is that I am a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in our nation. There is a fraternity of those who have worn the uniform and served when othersran the other way or hoped not to be called. When you are on a military post you a member of that exclusive group of people who were willing to raise their right hand and agree to make the ultimate sacrifice if called upon to do so.

But we are truly the fortunate ones because we are still here. Most WWII vets if you asked them if they were heroes, they will tell you that the heroes were the ones who never got to come home.

So we have the greatest benefit of all right now. We have served and are still serving but in a different capacity. Being able to serve is the greatest honor I will every be given.

My benefits whatever they maybe are the recognition of a grateful nation.

By the way, I never saw an addendum to any contract I may have signed that gave me a firm list of what to expect. Having now retired from both the Army and my school district, I know that what I receive today is far more than I could have in most civilian retirements. I do not know what I will receive tomorrow but I have not been disappointed in the past. I do not anticipate being disappointed in the future.

If you expect things in your life to be bad, that is what you will receive.

Ronald Reagan told a story that is most appropriate. He said the pessimist will see a pile of horse dung and see it as something bad that must be cleaned up. The optimist will see the same pile and will say that there must a pony around here somewhere. I prefer to go looking for the pony.

Is this a GREAT country or what!!!???

Curt
Curt Heldreth
Retired US Army
Retired HS Teacher
Copilot: Mary, NC Guardian ad Litem
Activities Director: Roscoe the Beagle
2006 Bounder 35E
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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2647

  • sdianel
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we too have the old card and have not been asked to turn it in. We camp in COE parks all the time. We have never been denied the discount in COE parks. We even asked a park ranger if we had to turn it in and get the new card and they said no.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2650

  • monkey44
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I guess no question is as simple as it first appears...

Some seem to get me wrong here -- as I do absolutely appreciate the benefits I earned here and everywhere - and the key work here is "earned" like every other retired and DAV. But, once again, when someone (usually a civilian) says to me "You get free health care, how, lucky you are" ... I want to punch them -- because to tell the truth, I don't feel lucky. It is not free -- we, all of us veterans and DAV, paid for and earned each and every benefit ... and some of us paid more than others ... and as a 100% DAV for over forty years, most of that time would have been my prime earning years in the civilian world, and would have earned me a ton more money than I have now, and a lot larger pension.

But, you know what, I did it because I believe in it, and in the freedom we have in this country, and would do it again in a heartbeat, even if I knew that result -- and never complain about my condition, because that's the price some of us pay to serve our country. It's the nature of the game.

And during those forty years, the average raise have been pretty minimal -- the COA equal -- and over those same years, some of the benefits have been removed or cancelled. So, I do have a problem with any benefit - once given - then taken away. And that is my whole issue here ... take something away that says "entitled for life" -- like that means nothing. And when you take a tiny piece of "benefit" away, each a little at a time, then add it up, it becomes a much bigger pile ... even if it is dung.

So, it's not about whether the campgrounds survive or fail, or live up to the expectations of the private sector -- if the campgrounds need financial help, then raise the price for everyone, don't just subtract a discount from the DAVs ... it's about whether or not a promise means anything to the veterans.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2651

  • monkey44
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"Let?s just thank God and be happy that we have all of our body parts" and are standing above the dirt to be able to complain about the issue.

"Some of us don't have all the body parts ..."

But aside from that issue - let me say that I absolutely and without a doubt appreciate the benefits and the pension ... and enjoy camping and RV'ing and all the things I do ... and I thought I was asking a pretty simple question here that has jumped into something much bigger -- as if by "stating a fact" (some read that complain) that I don't appreciate the benefits that remain -- nothing farther from the truth -- I do worry though that some of our benefits disappear as we move on through the years.

Cheldreth Quote: "The biggest benefit that I receive is that I am a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in our nation." And this is one of the most absolute truths that's ever been 'so well stated' ....

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2652

  • rvgrammy1953
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I'm the Disabled Vet here and the DH is the 24yr. Army retired....Skyking8 said it all....we have never been turned away from any VA Hospital while Rving and the military hospitals, if they can't help you, they have done a wonderful job referring to who will treat you well....we haven't done the Park system yet so only go by what others have told us.....the Golden Access/America the Beautiful card....we have used alot as there are still military CGs out there who honor them......yes, our benefits have been reduced, but like your personal Budget sometimes things have to change......What we don't do is go into places demanding stuff that we think we deserve.....great way to turn off the folks who are there to serve you as a retiree/DAV.....they have rules to follow themselves and try very hard to accomadate you.....I am probably rambling on here, but since we are camphosting this winter we see alot of this and of course, have heard it all......

RvGrammy

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2653

  • monkey44
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I hope no one is misreading me here -- this is never a demand on my part, demanding is not in my character -- if the park or facility says no, I simply go away and find another area. No big deal ... I'm out to have fun, not an argument in a "no-win" situation, but what this brings to light is whether or not the "size" of the benefit matters. Once agin, this has blown way up from what I thought was a simple question about NP discounts ... not so simple it seems -- and once again, all our benefits are appreciated, no matter what they are ...

And it seems few really care about a loss of a $6-$8 or so discount for a benefit you thought you could use ... but what happens if you suddenly lost your medical benefit ?? That gets pretty costly and of course, would be a huge fight in congress and everywhere else ... but it still "a benefit" you thought you had (have?) -- and it seems to me that the cost of what you lose suddenly becomes an issue -- rather than the fact that "a benefit" is lost -- and maybe the little benefits aren't worth the effort.

Most of us would probably rather be camping, I'm sure, than debating with the "structure" about it.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2690

  • skyking8
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Monkey> I apologize to you or anyone else who might have thought that my generic remarks were intended for them. That was not the case. When I wrote the words ?spoiled brats? that was a very poor choice of words. Knowing that this method of communication is not face to face with the ability to interact, I should have picked another phrase. But excepting that mistake, I will stand by my original evaluation of the situation.

Yes, Curt, this is a Great Country.

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Re: National Parks and DAV discounts 13 years 5 months ago #2691

  • monkey44
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Hey Rick -- we all say things that are misinterpretated by some, and also say things that don't mean what we really mean -- I've done it myself, and jump out of my skin when someone comments and I think -- wow, I didn't really mean it that way ... no offense taken here, or ever anywhere unless someone actually puts my name on it directly --

But, to mention your (skyking) earlier quote: "I have no expectation of getting C/G freebies or heavy discounts on the back of American taxpayers."

This benefit is not really on the backs of the taxpayers -- one of the few that isn't actually. This cost no one anything -- it's just a less rate for camping.

We use the restrooms, maybe, but can use them even when not camping. So we DAV's just get a little less personal cost for this experience -- which is one that I enjoy more than anything else I do, accept my family time of course.

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