Friday, November 11, 2005

Vets should be "seen [in photo-ops] but not heard [in congress]"

Over the last several months there has been growing criticism of the GOP-controlled Congress and the Bush White House over short-funding of current benefits and proposed cuts to future benefits for military veterans.

Including one extremely embarrassing episode where the VA kept on saying that they were "OK, didn't need any more money."

And then turned around and had to admit that they were more than $1 billion in the hole for 2005.

Now, in another "turnaround," the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind) has told veterans groups that, notwithstanding a 55-year tradition, veterans' groups will not have the opportunity to make recommendations and state their priorities before joint House/Senate hearings on legislation affecting benefits and funding for veterans.

The House committee chair has proposed that the groups be able to testify to the house in February. But the timing for that would be as the White House is ready to send its budget recommendations to the Congress. And without the prior hearings the vets will not have been able to make their formal input to House on the budget, and will be forced to just take what they've been given.

The Senate still plans to have their own hearings, and the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (Larry Craig R-Idaho)has said that he would be glad to invite members from the House to his committee's hearings.

Speculation about the shift is that there is concern that the veterans' groups would be very vocal about being very unhappy with the fiscal irresponsibility of this Congress -- and that having the spotlight of testifying before Congress could cause more embarrassment for the GOP and the White House.

The veterans' groups are, of course, umm, unhappy.

"We think it's an absolutely abhorrent idea. These things were initiated somewhere around 1950, and they represent a crowning moment for our grassroots membership," said Dennis Cullinan, national legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)."

"Some people don't want to be criticized for being deficient," said Richard Fuller, legislative director for Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). "What they want to do is get rid of these [joint] legislative presentations because they have become, unfortunately now in the climate on Capitol Hill, very partisan."

See this coverage from The Hill, and the press release from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is here

Of course, the House is very much on record that they want to support our troops...

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