Thursday, October 9, 2008


John McCain has one of the WORST records in Congress when it comes to supporting legislation that will help returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. In a recent study, the Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Against the War (IAVA) gave McCain an "F" because of his abysmal record in Congress of supporting Veterans.

McCain talks BIG but he doesn't back up his talk with ACTION in the Senate.

Here is a report from Veterans for Common Sense on the status of how Veterans are being treated (or more appropriately not treated) by the Bush administration, John McCain and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

On July 17, 2007, Jim Nicholson announced his resignation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, effective no later than October 1, 2007. Nicholson cut and ran just as veterans and Congress were gathering pitchforks and torches in a broad based effort to evict him.

The few veterans and elected officials who pay close attention to VA healthcare and benefits policy exhaled in relief as Nicholson, who had no relevant qualifications, said he would finally quit.

Most expect him to return to partisan politics and run for office in Colorado.

Only a few months on the job in early 2005, Nicholson fell flat on his face before Congress by claiming VA had enough money. He returned a few months later begging for $3 billion in emergency funds, much of it to care for our 230,000 wounded, injured, and ill from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars already treated at VA hospitals.

Sadly, Nicholson wasn’t served well, either. His top aides knew about the Walter Reed Army Medical Center fiasco during the summer of 2004. Yet our wounded warriors needlessly suffered for two more years until the Washington Post amplified the superb reporting by Salon’s Mark Benjamin, forcing the military and VA to start addressing the problems.

This sad morality play was driven by the enormous pressure from the White House to keep VA spending down in order to preserve President George W. Bush’s tax cut for the rich, who enjoy unprecedented wealth as hundreds of thousands of our homeless veterans sleep on the streets every night.

Using two key measures, Nicholson’s disastrous record of corruption, cronyism, and devastation at VA is far worse than FEMA’s “Heck of a job Brownie” after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

First, when a veteran needs healthcare, VA must provide it immediately, without question, and without waiting. Jonathan Schulze, who earned two Purple Heart medals, committed suicide in 2006 after three failed attempts to get care for his Iraq War – related PTSD.

Second, when a veteran needs disability compensation, VA must provide it immediately, without bureaucratic hassles, and without endless waiting, so they can put food on the table, pay the rent, and take care of their family. Jason Stiffler was kicked to the curb in 2003 by the military and VA, subsisting on a few hundred dollars a month after getting wounded in the Afghanistan War. Nicholson took a wrecking ball to VA. Pity on the state that wants to elect someone with such an abysmal record.

If Nicholson was the captain of the ill-fated Titanic, then he relished, with extremist religious zeal, the orders from Karl Rove and Grover Norquist to sail VA into an iceberg and drown VA in red tape. In the midst of disaster Nicholson approved $3.8 million in undeserved cash “performance” bonuses while hundreds of thousands of veterans remained homeless, waited months to see doctors, and even waited years to receive disability benefit payments.
Our next VA secretary should remember Jonathan Schulze and Jason Stiffler, and learn that VA failures cause catastrophic consequences. VA’s next leader faces several major unresolved issues:

• Congress must provide VA with mandatory full funding so there is better planning and so VA can eliminate the delays our veterans face when seeking medical care or disability benefits.

• VA must provide mandatory and universal PTSD and TBI screening for all recent war veterans. Our veterans earned early detection and treatment, and this is much cheaper for taxpayers in the long-run.

• VA must automatically approve all disability claims for six months at a modest level so our new war veterans stop falling through the cracks while waiting on VA to review 800,000 backlogged disability claims.

• VA must automatically approve disability claims for our combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan when a doctor diagnoses them with PTSD.

Thirty eight years ago, Neil Armstrong, a Korean War Navy aviator, landed on the moon. When we set our sights on it, we can attain lofty goals. Let’s make it our mission to house all our 200,000 homeless veterans and make sure they don’t fall through the cracks as they did after the Vietnam War and Gulf War.


Gary Baumgarten said...

I will be interviewing the lead singers of the band Goldenseal and they will be performing live their song, Streets of America, about homeless vets, at 5 PM New York time Tuesday October 14 on News Talk Online on Proceeds from sales of the album go to help homeless veterans.

Please go to and click on the Join The Show link to talk to musicians Joe Hughes and Danny Rongo.


Bill Corcoran said...

Gary: Thanks for writing and thanks for the heads up. I also saw your comment on VCS.

Please thank the guys for all they are doing for we vets.