VFW’s Tradewell Issues Qualifed Apology for “Betrayal” Remarks

Thomas J. Tradewell
Thomas J. Tradewell

Update: See VFW Criticisms of Health Insurance Reform Law Unfounded.

– “In some ways, [apology] is worse than the original statement,” said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, who said he remains unsatisfied. –

VFW Head Apologizes

By Rick Maze – Staff writer

The commander of the nation’s largest organization for combat veterans has issued an unusual apology for stating that President Obama’s national health care reform initiative is “betraying” veterans.

Thomas Tradewell Sr., national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, issued a written apology for his earlier criticism of Obama and Democratic leaders for failing to include language in the final health care reform bill that specifically exempts the veterans health care system from its effects.

Just as the House of Representatives was about to vote on the final national health care reform package March 21, Tradewell issued a statement that read: “The president and the Democratic leadership are betraying America’s veterans, and and what makes matters worse is the leadership and the president knows the bill is flawed, yet they are pushing for passage today like it’s a do-or-die situation.”

In a March 25 statement, Tradewell, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, said he “apologized for using too harsh of a word. But I did not apologize for our strong advocacy on the issue.”

If his statement ended there, he might have been fine with key House Democrats. However, his statement of apology went on to explain, again, why the health care bill concerned him.

“In some ways, it is worse than the original statement,” said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, who said he remains unsatisfied.

“We believe there is nothing in health care reform that harms veterans health care. If there is something in there, we will fix it,” Filner said. “We don’t see any problem, and if any problem comes up we will fix it right away.”

Democrats were upset by the timing of Tradewell’s original criticism as much as by its substance. His March 21 statement was widely circulated by Republicans who were fighting to block the health care bill, and led to a rushed effort to secure votes for the bill’s passage by obtaining statements from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki that the bill would not degrade military or veterans health care.

“We were in a situation where one or two votes could have made a difference,” Filner said, complaining that the VFW issued its statement of opposition without talking to Democratic leaders, even though there had been several meeting at the White House and in Congress with veterans service organizations to assure them that no one was trying to cut their benefits.

Tradewell’s follow-up statement that Filner said was worse than the original calls the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “flawed, not because of what it provides but because of what it does not protect.”

Tradewell said the bill does not include specific language exempting military and veterans programs from provisions of the reform bill.

While Tricare for Life and care for disabled veterans are mentioned in the law as meeting requirements for acceptable coverage to avoid new penalties for individuals who do not have adequate health insurance, the law does not mention other Tricare programs by name and does not list all veterans health care programs, including benefits for dependents and survivors.

“All DoD and VA health care programs should have been written into the original bill, and the VFW will never apologize for trying to influence legislative language that does not protect those hard earned healthcare programs,” Tradewell said.

Filner said specific mention of every excluded program was considered unnecessary, but added, “If something happens, we will clear it up.”

He said a fix could be as easy as having Gates or Shinseki issue a statement being certifying that health programs meet the minimal standards required by the new law.


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