Are We Really Taking Care of Our Veterans?

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The Standard-Journal, Milton, PA

 

by Chris Brady

 

(Published March 11, 2014) – When it comes to being on the wrong side of issues, those in Congress — regardless of political affiliation — have proven that they are fully capable of at least a modicum of success.

Recently the Senate killed the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act of 2014.

There’s no real need to explain the purpose of the bill as its title states it pretty well, but for those curious, the bill would have repealed the reduction in military cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, expanded the caregiver law to all veterans, improved education assistance, expanded dental and medical care and would have opened 27 new health facilities.

A whopping 41 senators voted against it.

“Today, the Senate had a chance to put aside partisan politics and do what was right for the men and women who have sacrificed so much while wearing our nation’s uniform,” said Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion. “Instead, we saw the same political gamesmanship that led our federal government to a shutdown last fall. There was a right way to vote and a wrong way to vote today, and 41 senators chose the wrong way. That’s inexcusable.responsibility

“I don’t know how anyone who voted ‘no’ today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote,” Dellinger added. “Our veterans deserve more than what they got.”

“I personally, I have to say this honestly, have a hard time understanding how anyone could vote for tax breaks for billionaires, for millionaires, for large corporations and then say we don’t have the resources to protect our veterans,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman.

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As for those who voted against it? Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) … Actually it will be easier to list the Republicans that did vote for it — Jerry Moran, of Kansas; and Dean Heller, of Nevada.

The bill’s cost you ask? $21 billion over 10 years.

The cost of the bill was cited repeatedly by the above Republicans as they cast their votes against it, particularly Burr, the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The probability of adding more veterans to the system was also cited as a concern of Burr’s.

“We have veterans dying from long waits for basic, necessary tests like colonoscopies,” said Burr. “Veterans waiting for their disability claims to be processed know all about frustrations and delays at the VA, and adding more individuals to an already broken system doesn’t seem wise.”

Wow. Talk about a slap to the face of veterans. New health and dental measures and new facilities wouldn’t help? Perhaps ignoring the problem, as we have for years, will continue to help.

The condescending nature of this vote is overwhelming to anyone that has any experience with veterans and veterans’ causes.

There are men from Korea and Vietnam — ignored for decades — just now reaching out to the Veterans Administration for assistance associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or health care.

To have the millionaires of the United States Senate turn their backs on them yet again provides another chapter in this nation’s deplorable record pertaining to care of its military veterans.

Given the ridiculous spending this county’s Congressional members approve annually, including their own lavish $174,000 salaries and the additional thousands in perks and benefits, $2 billion per year to improve the treatment our veterans receive is a mere drop in the bucket.

Many of these same Republicans voted to spend billions to send veterans into harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A report issued in December by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) detailed more than $30 billion in wasteful spending during last year’s Congressional session. Let’s not forget that last year more than $85 billion was cut due to the sequester, which drained funding to programs like Head Start (God forbid we invest in education).

Here’s what your hard-earned tax dollars did fund last year:

• $500 million in beachfront property for millionaires via a U.S. Department of Agriculture Home Loan program. More than 100 individuals or families received loan guarantees for $500,000 or more to purchase a home in Hawaii.

• $3 million for a NASA program designed to explore how Congress works. I’m waiting anxiously for the results of that study.

• $53,000 for Maj. Nadal Hasson. You remember this guy, right? The Fort Hood shooter? Well, he’s still on the federal payroll. He’s earned $278,000 since he allegedly gunned down 13 and injured 32 in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas.

• Who can forget the $65 million awarded to tourism-related television advertisements in the wake of Superstorm Sandy? Congress appropriated $60.4 billion to areas pummeled by Sandy. I’m sure the people that really needed that money for things like walls and roofs appreciated the $65 million that went to television and advertising fat-cats.

• We lost $4 million when in October a crop of new $100 bills were soaked with too much ink. Oops.

As you can see, the money is there. Like Dellinger said, though, the care of our veterans is just another casualty in the game of political one-upsmanship.

Hopefully the concussion felt in the wake of this hit is a one-way ticket home for many of these irresponsible lawmakers.

Chris Brady is managing editor at the Standard Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]

Reprinted with permission

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