Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Veterans Healthcare

I had a lot more coverage of the veterans healthcare issues on my KMOX show this afternoon.

Part of it was about the Presidential Commission which gave their recommendations to Bush today. This is the group he appointed after the Washington Post uncovered the Walter Reed scandal earlier this year, with Bob Dole and Donna Shalala the lead duo of the nine-member commission. In the Oval Office today, they gave Bush plenty of ideas that can be implemented immediately, many of them simply by executive order, since the Department of Veterans Affairs answers directly to him.

Naturally, Bush (as he always does) told them how much he appreciated their hard work -- and then said he wouldn't implement their recommendations right now. This is the same way he handled the feedback from the Iraq Study Group and the 9/11 Commission, first thanking then, then shoving their report in a drawer. Many of my listeners were outraged by any delay in fixing the veterans healthcare oversights, and expressed their dissatisfaction by calling the White House directly. You can, too: 202-456-1414.

I discussed this with commission member Tammy Edwards, who has been an activist for veterans benefits since her husband was injured in Iraq two years ago and ended up with burns over 80% of her body. Listen.


When it comes to issues regarding soldiers who have served in this war, I always invite Paul Reickhoff back to my show. He's executive director of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America and, unlike the members of the presidential commission, Paul is not afraid to name names and place blame on the people responsible for letting the care of our men and women in uniform get so bad. Listen.


I also called upon the two US senators from Missouri.

Claire McCaskill explained how she's been there for the veterans since arriving in office earlier this year, and was a co-sponsor of a bill to address VA issues after the Walter Reed story. I challenged her on why this matter has become so wrapped up in politics, and why the Democrats have allowed it to get lost in the politics of funding the war in Iraq, when it would be so much easier to separate it and ensure that our veterans get the care they deserve. Listen.


Kit Bond followed, and when I asked him if he would pressure Bush to act immediately on the recommendations of the commission, he reported that the Senate had just passed (by a unanimous voice vote, I later learned) the Dignity for Wounded Warriers that McCaskill and Barack Obama had sponsored. Since his son Sam is a Marine serving in Iraq right now, Bond has a vested interest in making sure our veterans get taken care of when they return home. It was nice to hear him give credit to McCaskill and others. Listen.


Finally, our CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Bob Fuss reported on hearings today in the House Veterans Affairs Committee regarding how the VA has denied mental health treatment to many veterans who have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder. One way they do that is by telling soldiers that they had a pre-existing personality disorder which makes them ineligible for care. This is a classic and indefenisble example of our government lying to our troops and refusing them the benefits they were promised when they volunteered for the service. Listen.


The challenge here to politicians of both parties is to make this a wedge issue. Rather than arguing about divisive issues like gay marriage just to appeal to your own political base, why not fight for the Americans who have volunteered to go where they're told to go and do what they're told to do, rather than allowing them to be abandoned or buried in bureacracy.