Monday, October 17, 2005

Ed Bryant & Van Hilleary No Friends To Veterans

For years now the Republican party has tried to convince people that they are the party that supports our men and women in uniform.

In fact, they have made the issue a central theme come election time in recent years.

All too often the public buys into the assertion that the Republican party is the party that supports our troops while the Democrats do not.

I am here today to challenge that assertion.

In this Senate race Republicans Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary have both took the stance of being pro-troops. However, with a closer look at their voting records, one will find that is not the case--by a long shot.

While in Congress, both Bryant and Hilleary voted time after time to cut veterans benefits.

Listed below are key votes in which Bryant and Hilleary each thumbed their noses at the veterans of America:

  • Bryant and Hilleary vote to slash veterans' benefits by $6.7 billion 11/17/1995 Bill information: HR 2491, 1995 Budget-Reconciliation, Source: Washington Times 11/18/95

  • Bryant and Hilleary vote to underfund medical care for veterans by voting to fund the program at $400 million below President Bill Clinton's request 11/17/1995 Bill information: HR 2491, 1995 Budget-Reconciliation

  • Bryant and Hilleary vote for the fiscal 1996 VA-HUD Appropriations bill that cut total program funding by more than $9 million 12/7/1995 Bill information: HR 2099, Vote #844

  • Bryant and Hilleary supports cuts in mandatory spending for veterans' programs by approximately $10.4 billion over five years 6/5/1998 Bill information: H. Con. Res. 284

  • Bryant and Hilleary vote against a motion that would recommit the 2000 Omnibus Appropriations Agreement with instructions to the House managers to not agree to any provisions that would lessen appropriations for medical care 11/18/1999 Bill information: Motion to HR 3194, Rejected 212-219

  • Bryant and Hilleary vote against a substitute resolution that calls for $12.2 billion more in defense spending, $3.4 billion more in discretionary agricultural spending and $1.1 billion for veterans' health care 3/25/1999 Bill information: Amendment to H. Con. Res. 68, Rejected 134-295

  • Bryant and Hilleary vote against fully funding veterans' health programs, including those authorized under the Veterans Millennium Healthcare Act 7/30/01 Bill information: HR 2620

  • Bryant and Hilleary vote against a proposal that would provide additional funding for veterans' healthcare under the Fiscal 2003 Continuing Appropriations bill 11/13/02 Bill information: H. J. Res. 124

Supporting our troops means taking care of them after their tour of duty is over by insuring they receive complete and improved veterans benefits. Clearly Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary have failed to do that.

Congressman Harold Ford Jr. on the other hand has a long and distinguished track record of supporting our veterans.

For instance, in July 2004 Congressman Ford introduced the Enhancement of Veterans Mental Health Services Act which would help combat service members and veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Describing the need for the legislation Ford said, "Many of our brave men and women serving in combat zones in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters are under tremendous psychological and emotional stress. As more of our troops return home, it is vitally important that the Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments have the resources and expertise to diagnose and treat those who may be suffering from PTSD."

In June 2005 Congressman Ford once again came to the aide of veterans when he helped provide health benefits for almost 2,400 veterans in Tennessee and some 150,000 veterans across the nation who were set to lose their benefits.

Speaking on the issue of veterans benefits Ford said, "Our country’s men and women in uniform refuse to leave a brother or sister on the field of combat, and we in Congress should refuse to leave even one of our nation’s veterans behind – behind on medical bills, behind on access to prescription drugs or behind on needed hospital care."

“We must not stop short of making good on our commitment to the Americans who’ve fought from Baghdad to the Beaches of Normandy. We must leave no veteran behind.”

Also in June 2005 Congressman Ford called on President Bush to address the shortfalls in veterans' healthcare.

In his letter to the President Ford said, “The current shortfall in veterans care funding would leave more than 4,000 Tennessee veterans and nearly 200,000 veterans nationwide without healthcare benefits. We owe it to the millions of brave men and women who have served our country – more than a half million of whom live right here in Tennessee – to make good on the debt our country owes them,” Ford said. “We should not welcome the thousands of veterans from our state and nation returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan by slashing their healthcare and prescription drug benefits.”

In addition, The Amercan Legion, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars all backed the Ford/Blue Dog Coalition budget over both the Bush and House Republican budgets.

Rick Jones, the National Legislative Director of AMVETS, wrote:

"On behalf of the co-authors of the Independent Budget, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we are writing to offer our appreciation for introducing the Democratic Alternative to the Budget Committee's Budget Resolution, H. Con. Res. 95.

Although this Alternative Budget Resolution does not provide all the resources for veterans' health care that we feel are necessary, it does recommend $1.1 billion in additional discretionary spending in FY 2004, and $17 billion more over the course of 10 years. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the Alternative Budget Resolution does not include the draconian cuts to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mandatory programs that are contained in H. Con. Res. 95.

To require deep cuts in VA mandatory programs, $463 million in FY 2004 and $15 billion over ten years, that are called for in H. Con. Res. 95 is unconscionable. We do not consider payments to wartime-disabled veterans, pensions to the poorest disabled veterans, burial benefits and G.I. Bill benefits for soldiers returning from Afghanistan to be ``fraud, waste and abuse.'' These would be the very programs directly affected by the Budget Resolution approved by the Committee. In addition, we note that H. Con. Res. 95 provides fewer discretionary dollars in FY 2004 than was recommended by the Administration. We are all on record as recommending close to $2 billion in additional funding, above the $1.3 billion recommended by the Administration, for VA health care, and we find it difficult to see how H. Con. Res. 95 can even match the President's inadequate request.

Again, we applaud your efforts to negate the cuts in VA mandatory programs and provide $1.1 billion in discretionary spending above H. Con. Res. 95 in FY 2004, and $17 billion more over the course of 10 years. Although not meeting The Independent Budget recommendation for VA health care, the Democratic Alternative Budget Resolution represents a solid step forward in meeting the very real needs of veterans, and those who will soon be veterans."

So as you can see, Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary are no friends to our nation's veterans. They have willfully voted time and time again to slash the benefits each and every veteran in this country deserves.

Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is willing to stand up and fight for our nation's veterans. He understands the importance of leaving no veteran behind.

As our next U.S. Senator, I am confident he will continue his fight for all veterans across this great nation.