THE BLOG
09/26/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Arlen Specter and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad VA "Death Book" Circus

Poor Arlen Specter just keeps eating it on this ridiculous VA "death book" media circus. Feigned outrage is the right's favorite tool, but what Arlen Specter's opportunistic party switch has taught us is that you can take the Senator out of the Republican Party, but you can't take the predilection towards manufactured offense out of the Senator.

I get that people all across America, and especially in Washington, are currently involved in a contentious debate about universal health care. I also get that one side of the argument is using smear tactics and making things up to try to kill a bill which their bank-rollers don't want to see passed. But, really, I'm still astonished to see that same side of the debate attacking the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It's pretty transparent what is happening here. Proponents of a public option can point to two successful implementations of government health care: MediCare, and the VHA. Rather than supporting their point of view on its own merits (assuming it has any), opponents are trying to tear down the reputations of those services, which consistently get high marks from those who use them.

That's why we saw this yesterday:

If President Obama wants to better understand why America's discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA's National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, "Your Life, Your Choices." It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA's preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated "Your Life, Your Choices."

Of course, as we"ve been covering at VetVoice.com, and first reported at Huffington, this is a bunch of garbage from a guy who was trying to push his own document on the VHA:

In light of the absolutely ridiculous argument Towey makes in his op-ed, I'd like to point out something Towey isn't telling you. In 1996, Towey founded an organization known as "Aging with Dignity" which still exists today. The following year, Aging with Dignity released a document titled "Five Wishes". Five wishes is the same type of document as the VA's "Your Life, Your Choices", only 41 pages shorter and not legally sound as a living will in 10 states.

That's right. All you need, according to Jim Towey, to make your end of life decisions is five questions and twelve pages, because wrestling over end of life shouldn't take up more than two minutes of your time. That is, if you are lucky enough to live in one of the 40 states in which it is acceptable. Here is something else that Jim Towey isn't telling you: He wants to kill
the "Your Life, Your Choices" pamphlet because he has been trying to sell his own "Five Questions" document to the VA for use in VHA medical centers.

Which leads me to the point of this post. Senator Arlen Specter has personally questioned
why VoteVets.org PAC endorsed his opponent in the Democratic primary, Admiral (Ret.) and Congressman Joe Sestak. This illustrates exactly why the organization made their
endorsement:

Sen. Arlen Specter on Sunday called for hearings to scrutinize a guide for veterans' end-of-life care which one former Bush official says sends a "hurry-up-and-die" message to injured troops. The guide, called "Your Life, Your Choices," was suspended under the Bush administration but has been revived under the current Department of Veterans
Affairs.

Of course, the "death book" garbage has been thoroughly debunked. But here is review from Media Matters on what the facts are and the lies that are being pushed:

Arlen didn't make matters any better for himself when he said in an interview yesterday that, while feigning outrage, firing off a letter to Secretary Shinseki and running his mouth on Sunday talk, he hasn"t actually even seen the document in question:

Specter said in an interview yesterday that he had not read the booklet but was disturbed by what he had gleaned thus far. "I heard an inference that people might be inappropriately influenced to withhold medical treatment," he said.

Someone should tell Specter that huffing, puffing and feigning outrage over debunked manufactured scandals may be a tactic that plays well to his former party, but it doesn't help America's Veterans.

Rather than seeing the argument for what it is, a reactionary attempt to make a partisan argument against the effectiveness of a government agency that consistently receives high approval ratings from those it serves, Specter instead called for tax payer dollars and the time of Congress to be spent on hearings over a pamphlet which is still being reviewed, is not mandatory for use by VHA physicians, and is no where near the "hurry-up-and-die" document which its slanderers have purported it to be.

Enjoy the primary, Arlen.