Thursday, January 30, 2014

Use of War Money to Fund Veterans’ Pensions Blocked by GOP

Bernie Sanders’s Plan to Fund Veterans’ Pensions

Republicans are often seen as the champions of conflict.  They are consistently looking for another war for us to engage in.  After all, war time means large profits for private contractors.  From the Bush Doctrine, which states we can preemptively strike a country that is suspected of plotting against the United States to Senator McCain’s “bomb Iran” parody, the idea of war is one that many Republicans fantasize over.
Left out of their discussion are the individuals that are being sent into harms way.  This seems to be the disconnect between the two parties when it comes to armed conflict.  Generally, Democrats hate the war but love the troops and vets.  Republicans love the war, claim to love the troops, but hate the vets.  While this may seem like an outlandish statement, we have several examples of policies and votes that prove otherwise.
Most recently is a bill being proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders that would help fund many pressing issues facing veterans.  This includes funding for health care, education, employment while restoring approximately $6 billion in pensions cut during the budget agreement to working-age military retirees.
Sanders proposed offsetting the cost of the legislation by using the Overseas Contingency Operations funds, which have been used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I believe, having looked at this, that there is more than enough money in that fund to fund this legislation,” Sanders said. But he noted that the final decision will have to be made in conjunction with Senate Democratic leadership.
This should seem like an obvious choice.  The cost of the legislation is approximately $30 billion over 10 years. That is a small price to pay for those who fought for this country.  Yet, the Republican Party, who lied us into these wars, is now abandoning the very people they sent into harms way.
The most obstruction facing Senator Sanders is coming from the House of Representatives.  Despite having the support of 18 military and veterans organizations, and expecting to have the backing of every major veterans organization very soon,a Republican aide with the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is expressing pessimism on the legislation a future.
“That money is not a regular budget item and by design will run out once Overseas Contingency Operations have ended, and therefore is probably not the best vehicle to use as an offset,” the aide said, referring to using the OCO funds to pay for the veterans bill.
In a 2012 Congressional Budget Office report, it states “there is no ‘OCO fund’ set aside in the Treasury from which resources can be drawn in future years.”

This is not the first time the Republican Party has abandoned the veterans and their families.  In 2013, shortly after shutting down the government, Republicans went on a full court press to lament the horrible Democrats for blocking vets from seeing the national memorials.  The Daily Kos wrote an article that showed the true nature of Republicans when it came to supporting the veterans.
While the list is quite long, some key points include the nightmare that was Walter Reed, proposed benefits cuts by Representative Michele Bachmann to the tune of $4.5 billion, a $100 million charity scam by a major GOP donor, a refusal to increase VA funding to help with the increasing amounts of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Republicans also killed a $1 billion jobs bill that would have provided access and tax breaks for those hiring veterans.
This is just scratching the surface of the ways that the Republican Party has abandoned troops.  They have absolutely no problem sending our young men and women into harms way, but feel no responsibility to take care of them.  The American public has come a long way since Vietnam in regard to the opinion of troops, but it would seem the Republican Party is still fond of using them as cannon fodder.
Sanders remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached with the House.   However, the only chance the legislation may have is if the Democrats take a piecemeal approach.
The Republican aide added that although members “support the ultimate goals of a number of initiatives” in Sanders’s bill, “we feel veterans would be better served if the Senate took a more measured, piecemeal approach to passing some of the initiatives.”
That is nothing but shameless Republican double speak. This would weaken the integrity of the bill, and leave each individual piece to the whim of the Republican Party.  This is not the way that we should legislate in America.  There needs to come a time when politics gets pushed to the side and doing what is right for the country prevails.  Apparently, the Republican Party has lost sight of this.  The Republican Party has abandoned their commitment to the men and women of this country.  While Senator Sanders may be hopeful they will do the right thing for once in their life, history says otherwise.

Fox News has already come out against Senator Sanders veterans bill.  It should not be a surprise as to how the Republicans in Congress will vote.

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