Among all of the Congressional elections in 2006, there were two that were particularly interesting. In Virginia, an incumbent Republican Senator who received a deferment from service in Vietnam was endorsed by the VFW's political action committee over a former Navy Secretary who was awarded the Navy Cross while serving as a Marine Officer in the conflict. Also, in a House race that same PAC endorsed a Republican candidate with no service record over an Iraq Veteran who left two legs on the battlefield.
Surprising? Shouldn't be. VFW PAC operates as little more than a subsidiary of the Republican Party, as does the leadership of their parent organization.
Today, that organization issued a statement toeing the GOP line on the health care vote. Of course, in order toe to that line, the VFW had to make things up:
"The president and the Democratic leadership are betraying America's veterans," said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis., who leads the 2.1 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.
Here, Thomas Tradewell makes obvious that his aim is not to have a rational discussion about a piece of legislation, but to demonize a particular political party. If Tradewell had legitimate concerns, why would he not also attack Republicans in Congress for offering no constructive alternatives to the health care legislation that would have addressed this issue? Or even offered any course of action in the 10 years they were in the majority?
He didn't chastise Republicans because A) his purpose is to shill for them; and B) his concerns are over fabricated issues that do not exist.
At issue is H.R. 4872 does not fully protect the healthcare programs provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the military's Tricare system. Specifically, the bill covers Tricare For Life but not the other Tricare programs that serve millions of beneficiaries; it does not cover children suffering from spina bifida as a result of a parent's exposure to Agent Orange; and it does not cover dependents, widows and orphans who are served by CHAMPVA, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Here, just as the VFW ignored a double amputee combat Veteran running for Congress, they ignored that same Vet's statement on the health care legislation. That Veteran was Tammy Duckworth, the current Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs:
Let me be unambiguous: The healthcare that Veterans receive through the VA system, including dependents of certain veterans enrolled in the CHAMPVA program, will be safe and sound under health reform. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs would continue to maintain sole authority over the system and for enhancing the quality and access for all eligible Veterans.
In addition, TRICARE will continue to be available for all eligible servicemen and women, and their families. Those who are covered by TRICARE would meet the shared responsibility requirement for individuals to have insurance, thereby exempting such members of the uniformed services and dependants from being assessed any sort of penalty. The President has made it clear publicly and to me that he is committed to ensuring that America's servicemen and women have high quality care, and with health reform that commitment remains very much intact.
The VFW's overt partisan hackery drifts further into fantasy land as that statement implores the House to pass a TRICARE fix measure:
"Military service is based on the fundamental principle of trust, and once lost, it is virtually impossible to regain," said Tradewell. "That is why I am urging the House to vote 'no' today, then go back and fix the bill with the language proposed by Skelton, Buyer [note: That's the same Rep. Buyer who voted against advance funding for the VA. -RAS] and McKeon, and then come back and vote your conscience. Let's not rush to pass flawed legislation that could tremendously impact our nation's true heroes."
There's only one problem with the VFW's suggestion here. The House already passed the legislation to which the statement refers. From a joint statement issued by the relevant committee chairs, including Armed Services and Veterans Affairs:
HR 3590, as drafted, does not specifically mention that TRICARE coverage meets the individual responsibility requirement, but such coverage would satisfy the requirements of this bill. To affirm that this is the case, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed HR 4887, the TRICARE Affirmation Act, which provides assurances to the American people that care provided to those in the military and their families as well as military retirees under age 65 and their families, would indeed meet the requirement for coverage.
But none of this is relevant. These are facts, something with which the VFW leadership is not concerned. The leadership is far more concerned with the bidding of their parent organization, the Republican Party.
If the leadership of the VFW was actually concerned with the health care of Veterans, it might do something to address the fact that 2,200 Vets died last year as a result of not having access to health insurance.
But of course, that doesn't support the GOP narrative-- so don't expect the VFW to do anything about it.