This is another post from Mrs. Grossman. EF had asked us to hold it back to see how things played out with the VA. Well, after nearly a month, it’s all still relevant. So here’s one more from a very astute Mrs. Grossman.
Eric Shinseki, the current patsy and sacrificial lamb, has been forced to fall on his sword at the altar of grandstanding politicians. This is nothing more than an effort to cover up their own failure to protect America’s veterans. It is a game of ‘smoke and mirrors’ being played out in the political arena during an election year. Since the scheduling issues at the Phoenix VA came to light, the VA has been in the middle of a major scandal, and politicians have wasted no time in attempting to capitalize on that scandal. Professing their outrage, they are scrambling to prove their concern and introduce legislation to ‘fix’ the problems of the VA, as if these are brand new issues, and they just found out problems exist. The truth of the matter is that Congress and the Senate had been aware of these particular issues for over a decade, and probably back as far as the Vietnam War. Where was the ‘oversight’? There have been many bills introduced, over the years, yet, here we are. As always, one major issue appears to be funding the VA to provide the resources required to take care of the growing number of veterans in need, and provide the benefits they earned. The same politicians that give away billions of dollars in foreign aid, can’t, or won’t provide enough funding to take care of America’s veterans. There always seems to be more than enough money to fund war, and send Americans to die in those wars, just not enough money to take care of those Americans when they come home.
If you look at the individual voting records of our politicians, it becomes obvious which of them really care about doing right for our veterans and vote on the merits of a bill, and which vote only along party lines.
Senator John McCain, who should have been the first to be aware of the problems at the Phoenix VA hospital, since it is in his district, voted no less than ten times since 1993, and failed to vote four times, against bills to benefit veterans. Senator Jeff Flake, new to the Senate, voted against one bill to benefit veterans, and while in the House of Representatives, voted against bills to benefit veterans no less than thirteen times, failing to vote twice. Richard Burr voted against no less than nine bills to benefit veterans, failing to vote one time, since 1999. Senator Tom Coburn voted against bills to benefit veterans no less than fourteen times since 1996, failing to vote one time.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who voted to pass no less than fourteen bills to benefit veterans since 1993, and did not miss a single vote on veterans issues during that time, introduced a bill (the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act) which greatly improves VA benefits and resolves many of the current issues, in February 2014. The Republicans attempted to use that bill as a point of leverage to force sanctions on Iran that would have imperiled the ongoing international nuclear talks, and had absolutely nothing to do with helping our veterans. It was just another attempt to blackmail the Senate into giving them their way. Fearing sanctions would endanger the delicate negotiations Senator Harry Reid blocked the sanctions, so the Republicans blocked the bill, altogether. Senator Sanders is re-introducing that bill, at this time. It would be wonderful if the Republicans would choose the welfare of our veterans over their political agenda, but I’m too much of a realist to believe in that possibility. Remember, they forced the government to shut down because they could not get their way, proving themselves to be masters of ‘cutting off America’s nose, to spite her face’. Of course, it is never a Republican’s nose that gets sacrificed. It is always someone else that must pay the price, and in this case, it is our veterans.
ADDENDUM……THE TAPDANCE CONTINUES
According to an article in the June 5, 2014 Huffington Post, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator John McCain announced a Bipartisan deal on the Veteran’s Health Care Bill. According to Sanders, the bill would allow for construction of an additional 26 VA medical facilities, provide $500 million for the VA to hire new doctors and nurses, make it easier for the VA to fire personnel and allow an appeals process for those firings, set up a two year trial program to allow veterans experiencing long wait times (or who live more than forty miles away) to go to private doctors, provide veterans aid for college, provide resources for victims of military sexual assault, update rules allowing spouses of veterans killed in battle to take advantage of post 9/11 GI Bill, and establish a presidential commission to work with the private sector to develop better technology for the VA.
Sanders also said in that article that he would have preferred that proposal went further, but “…given that he and McCain ‘are people who look at the world very differently’ their compromise is a major success.” He also said “I hope we will be back on the floor to continue the effort to deal with the many unmet needs of veterans. But right now we have a crisis, and it is imperative that we deal with that crisis.”
Well, that was a fast compromise, and very convenient for McCain, since the scandal reflected badly on him, due to it breaking in Phoenix, and questioned his competence for allowing it, if he was aware the problems (and since he is the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which has held dozens of hearings on VA issues, it is natural to assume that he was aware), or if he was not aware, then he failed to know what was happening in his own state. The compromise came just in time for McCain to attend “a community forum on the allegations of gross mismanagement and neglect of veteran’s health care in Phoenix”, and announce that “Key senators have reached an agreement on a bipartisan proposal to address the delays in getting health care for military veterans,” according to Reuters.
Of course, in that same Huffington Post article, McCain did encourage other senators to add any amendments that they thought might strengthen the bill, but urged that they don’t allow “politics to get in the way of urgently needed legislation.” In an era where politics seems to get in the way of EVERYTHING, McCain is surely aware that his open invitation for additional amendments is bound to further arguments, delays, and possibly prevention of this bill ever passing. Remember, the bill has to pass the Senate, AND the House of Representatives (who hates funding anything), before it can be signed into law by President Obama.
I believe Senator Sanders has been consistently sincere in his attempts to help America’s veterans. His voting record proves that. I am not so sure about Senator McCain’s intentions. This bipartisan deal came very quickly, but means very little if the bill is not voted on or passed. Remember, Republicans are notorious for blocking bills to benefit veterans, and McCain tends to vote his party’s line. However, announcing this deal gives the impression that he is a champion of veterans, and very good for campaigning in this election year. And if the bill had failed to pass, he could have always blamed Obama.
Ref Huffington Post – Posted 6/5/14 by Jennifer Bendery “Sens. Bernie Sanders, John McCain Announce Bipartisan Deal On Veterans’ Care Bill”
Ref MSN News – Posted 6/5/14 by Reuters “Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal On Veterans’ Healthcare”
Ref Congressional Negotiators Strike A VA Reform Deal