berniesanders's Blog

Have They No Shame?

And that is the abandonment of America's veterans by this Administration.  The Bush people are good at draping themselves in the flag and using patriotic symbolism to push their agenda.  But when it comes time to protect real patriots -- the men and women who actually serve in harms' way -- the Bush Administration is nowhere to be found. Worse than just neglect, the Bush Administration is actively trying to cut veterans benefits. 

As Americans, we can disagree politically about the merits of going to war in a given situation.  But I do believe that as a society, we have a duty to provide for the men and women who, under our American Constitutional system, answer the call to duty whether they agree or not with the underying justification for going to war.  (Of course, that is one of the great pillars of our democratic society -- that the decisions about whether to go to war or not are in the hands of elected leaders answerable to the people.) 

I have visited with young soldiers who are returning from the war -- young soldiers who have been severely and permanently wounded.  I have seen the faces of loved ones as the soldiers are leaving for war. That the President would abandon these people and the older generations who have gone through this as well is inexcusable. 

Today, the Bush Administration announced that veterans health care is short this year by $1 billion.  This after the Bush Administration fought every effort by those of us who have been saying that veterans programs are underfunded.

This, of course, should come as a surprise from an Administration that has been trying to impose a $250 annual enrollment fee on so-called "wealthy veterans" -- a category that includes veterans who earn as little as $25,000 a year.  Veterans in this category who are not already enrolled have been barred from signing up for VA health care by the Bush Administration. Estimates are this bar affects over 160,000 veterans.

Perhaps it is an irony that those of us who voted against the war in Iraq are some of the most vocal supporters of veterans and their families and that many of those who are quickest to go to war are the first to cut veteran programs.  But in my view the Bush Administration's slashing of veterans programs really exposes the true character of this presidency.

Thanks again for reading and I hope to see you all again in the blogosphere.       

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On June 24, 2005 - 3:09pm janeboatler said:

Rep. Sanders, thank you for your participitation at the TPM Cafe.

The treatment of the troops that were sent to war and the treatment of our veterans are two of the worst of the shameful policies of this administration, which apparently has no shame.  And Rove says that liberals are unpatriotic!  I hope that the citizens of the country begin to focus on the deeds of the Bush administration rather than their empty words. 

On June 24, 2005 - 4:29pm Giff said:

This is what has always bothered me the most about the Republicans rhetoric.  They claim you can't support the troops if you don't support the war.  I say, you can't support the troops if you don't support the troops!  Actions speak louder than hollow words.

Thanks Congressman.  This has been the perfect week for you to be here.  Not only have you lured me out of lurk mode and prompted me to register, you have also reminded this Texan that there are still some decent people in Washington.  When my blood started boiling because of the smear jobs done on liberals by Karl Rove, reading your (and everyone else's) exceptional comments have been a ray of hope.  Good luck in your Senate bid.  This is one Texan who wishes he could vote for you!

On June 24, 2005 - 3:10pm Dan Wingfoot said:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us this week, Congressman Sanders. It's been good having a chance to interact with a sitting Congressman, especially since I don't have any real chance of getting in to see my own representative (who happens to be a Republican ... sigh!).

Before you leave, I wonder what you think of my proposal to move the House of Representatives out of Washington, and have the House meet electronically, with each Congressman working from an office in his or her on district most of the year.

See Power back to the People 

On June 24, 2005 - 9:18pm Tayefeth said:

That's certainly an interesting proposal, Dan. It would have several positive effects, including making it more difficult for businesses to lobby large numbers of Congresscritters and making it easier for ordinary citizens to lobby their representatives.

Rep. Sanders, I hope you're successful in your Senate run, and I agree 100% about the Republicans' abyssmal record at supporting the troops with more than lip service.

On June 24, 2005 - 3:30pm kindness said:

We recognise you are busy and we really appreciate the time you've been able to spend here.

 Check in periodically from your office and see what the "regular" folks think.

Keep the faith. 

On June 24, 2005 - 3:35pm Libertine said:

The treatment of our veterans, especially disabled veterans, it abysmal.  Many of them are herded out of the system as quick as possible.  Many of the vets are suffering from deep psychological and physical wounds that will never heal.  These brave men and women answer the call to defend our country, our freedom and our personal safety.  We rightly sing their praises and hold them in high esteem.  But when their service to our country ends, the military treats them as "depreciated material" and society (as a whole) tends to forget them...less one holiday a year.

Whether we agree or disagree with the reasons for any given war we MUST treat our veterans as the heros they are.  Even more so when their tours have ended, when they need the help of the country they risked their lives for and fought hard to defend.

Bernie, it has been a pleasure to hear your views.  Keep on fighting the good fight on behalf of the American people.  Good luck in '06.  I can't wait to hear the words...welcome the new junior Senator from the State of Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

On June 24, 2005 - 9:40pm cloudy said:
  I also enjoyed your interesting and inspiring discussions.   I hope everyone who commented in this column, at least those who agreed with your general approach, will join me now in contributing to your Senatorial campaign soon. (I haven't done it yet, but will within the next few weeks).  I feel that when something or someone comes along that is really good, and if the person involved has been treated with a minimum of decency, part of the bargain is not only the saying, but the doing.  It is a matter of personal honor, not of public grilling, that one's actions in this area be consistent with their beliefs, but nevertheless, I would urge all those to whom my parameters apply to do the honorable thing and contribute to the level of your means.

     AND GOOD LUCK BERNIE SANDERS!  My donation is so that you will NEVER choose the road of being 'discreet' and 'appropriate' when what is needed is indiscreet and not getting with the program.  But most of all is for you to fight to win and win!

On June 25, 2005 - 12:38am destor23 said:

Hate to say it, but...




Let's be honest... no vet of Gulf War II actually defended anything. There was nothing to defend!  We were never in any danger!


Were those vets betrayed?  Yes.


Did they "defend us,"... no.  There was no threat. 

On June 25, 2005 - 6:43am Libertine said:
Hate to say it, but...


Let's be honest... no vet of Gulf War II actually defended anything. There was nothing to defend!  We were never in any danger!

Were those vets betrayed?  Yes.

Did they "defend us,"... no.  There was no threat. 

This gets back to my "whether we agree or disagree" comment destor.  Our troops shouldn't be judged based on the lunacy or bad judgements of their use by or our commander in chief and/or pentagon.  We should sit in judgement of the politicians in terms of the validity of a war, but the troops don't make the decision on where and when they fight...

On June 25, 2005 - 9:56am Dan Wingfoot said:

You wrote ... "Did they "defend us,"... no.  There was no threat."

Is that a litmus test, kind of like Bob Dole and the Republicans used on our hero candidate John Kerry last year when they mocked his Purple Hearts and asked whether he had bled enough? Sounds the same to me.

On June 24, 2005 - 3:42pm 1984 said:

Thank you for participating and shedding light on the current and future VA problems.
I am a vet awaiting Physical Evaluation Board results. Pending the results, I am still trying to figure out what I will be able to do financial-wise when/if I do get a medical discharge.

I would love to thank everybody who voted for Bush, for screwing many of us vets.

On June 24, 2005 - 4:43pm erasmus said:

Let me add my voice to others thanking you for your contributions here this week.  And thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of ordinary Americans.

It has always been amazing to me how little the GOP really cares for the vets.  It kind of reminds me of their position on abortion -- they are deeply concern about the 'unborn', but are often AWOL when it's time to address the problems of the 'born.'

The conservatives love to wax rhapsodic about the troops and their honor.  Their throats catch and tears trickle from their eyes.  But once the troops are discharged, they are just another line in the budget -- another entitlement to cut.

A former neighbor of mine was a genuine hero of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, medals galore.  The injuries he had sustained in service to his country left him crippled, physically as well as mentally.  Though childlike as a result of head injuries received in Vietnam, he lived a happy life with his wife and little dog.  Until he got sick and was hospitalized at the VA for an illness that he should have survived.  Unfortunately, staff shortages and negligence resulted in a hospital-acquired infection and he died.  Because nobody cleaned his urinary catheter properly.  He deserved better.  Hell, he deserved the best.

On June 24, 2005 - 5:49pm mjshep said:

Representative Sanders, let me just say that we love you and are certain that you will make an outstanding Senator.

I have been a lifelong Democrat, but I feel the need to inform you that I have just switched my party affiliation.  Why? I'm tired of getting beat up by Republicans and my friends alike and when Karl Rove says I'm not patriotic it just makes me want to cry.  I feel so ashamed that I hate America and I don't support our troops.  I have asked myself the question a thousand times, "Why can't I be more venal, violent and selfish like the others, and why do I find it so hard to pretend to take offense when I'm criticized for my faults (as if I had any), and find it so difficult to blame others for everything that goes wrong?"  President Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl have been a true inspiration for me and have helped me to finally see the light.  I thank them.  I finally realized if you can't lick `em, join `em, and I feel much better now.  I finally got this shame thing behind me.

You make a big point about my new friends' lack of concern for veterans.  Now, we all agree that starting a useless, senseless, unprovoked war based on lies is a good thing, especially in these difficult economic times.  How else can we kickstart the economy once all of my rich friends have no more tax breaks to cry for, having given them all we can already?  Where else can we find the golden opportunity for waste, fraud, corruption and profiteering that a war like this brings.  Do you want Halliburton to go into the toilet?  That wouldn't be right, and besides, they still owe DIck Cheney money. So you say $8.8 Billion of reconstruction funds is missing? It's not missing.  My friends know exactly where it is. You complain that "Big Money interests dominate the political and economic life of our country."  God, I sure hope so.  Otherwise all those so-called illegal campaign contributions and lobbying expenses and golfing trips and all would just go to waste.

Which brings us to the veterans.  To begin with you deride as specious the government's attempt to make ""wealthy veterans' -- a category that includes veterans who earn as little as $25,000." pay their own way. Well, I never made more than $25,000 a day, either, and some years, under those commie democrats, I didn't even clear $25,000 a week, and everybody says I'm wealthy. You talk about wounded and disabled vets and cry "That the President would abandon these people and the older generations who have gone through this as well is inexcusable."  I say it's perfectly sensible.

After all, let's face it. these vets are wounded and disabled.  They could be blind, or crippled, or maimed and wheelchair bound. In other words, they're useless.  Who needs them? Don't we have free clinics, although I've always thought these were a socialist plot, frankly, and if they're homeless, well, why did we spend all that good public money on park benches, anyway?  Besides, if they had any good old American entrepreneurial spirit, some get-up-and-go and a little bit of gumption even if they're in a wheelchair and only have one arm they could still make a fortune day trading bond hedge funds or speculating in the market like the rest of us. Why should we, hard working, tax paying citizens, support their lazy, selfish habits?

I hope this clears things up for you.  Good luck.

On June 24, 2005 - 6:02pm DGOQ said:

I say this as a vet and a Democrat.  I do not understand how our military always backs Republicans who turn around and screw them at every opportunity.  As long as this continues the Administration doesn't need to have any shame. 

The Republicans have convinced our military that they are on their side when it comes to benefitting them.  The truth is radically different.  Military personnel benefit far more under Democratic administrations than Republican.  The military industrial complex benefits far more under Republican administrations, DUH!


On June 24, 2005 - 7:23pm The Maven said:
I'd written about a similar veterans' health care issue several weeks ago elsewhere, but from what I can tell, there's been no real progress in the House since then, so here we go again:
Democratic Reps. Jim Marshall (GA-3) and G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) have been promoting a discharge petition supported by Rep. Sanders to immediately end what's known as the Disabled Veterans' Tax, which prevents vets from receiving full disability compensation on top of their retirement pay.  As noted by the Washington Post, current law is that "their federal disability payments [are] offset by dollar-for-dollar reductions in retirement pay."
In a measure attached the the Defense Authorization Act passed by the House late last month, a phase-out of the tax would be accelerated to 2009 (it's now scheduled to end in 2014), but there's no legitimate reason not to eliminate it now.

While Bush and other GOP Chickenhawks talk about supporting the troops, it's left to the Democrats to push for legislation that benefits those who've put their lives at risk in service to their country.  While there are some Republicans in favor of immediate elimination, the GOP leadership clearly isn't interested in moving this forward.

In order to match the accelerated phase-out provision just passed in the House, Harry Reid is preparing an amendment to be introduced in the Senate.  His spokeswoman said that Reid, like Marshall and Butterfield, would like to eliminate the tax/offset right away if at all possible.  The new discharge petition in the House was introduced on May 24 by Rep. Marshall and currently has 186 signatories, including Rep. Sanders, who signed on the very first day.  The petition would force a vote on H.Res. 270, which in turn calls for consideration of H.R. 303. (A discharge petition is a special House rule allowing for any majority of the House, 218 Representatives, to force a vote on an issue that is being bottled up in committee or by the leadership. It is the same extraordinary procedure which was used to force passage of campaign finance reform legislation in the 107th Congress.)

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of accelerating the phase-out from 2014 to 2009 to be roughly $164 million; immediate elimination would likely cost a similar sum.  That's million with an "M", folks -- mere chump change in the grand scheme of things, and less than what we spend on the war in Iraq in a single day!
According to a press release issued by Rep. Butterfield's office last week, there are currently some 400,000 veterans affected by the Disabled Veterans' Tax, and 29,000 of them will benefit from the recently passed measure, which "would allow military retirees who served for at least 20 years, and who are rated as both 60 to 90 percent disabled and unemployable, to collect their full VA disability and military retirement benefits at the same time beginning Oct. 1, 2009." (WaPo)

It should be noted that in 2003, similar legislation had been bottled up; a discharge petition during the last Congress to consider the complete elimination of the tax/offset wound up just a bit short with 207 signatures:  202 Democrats plus Rep. Sanders, and only 4 Republicans.  Hmmm . . . I wonder who's more supportive of the nation's vets?

While there are some naysayers who point out that those veterans who were not able to complete a full 20 years of service (thus rendering themselves eligible for retirement pay) prior to leaving the military due to their injuries would see no additional benefit as a result of eliminating the tax/offset, those arguments seem rather contrived and unwarranted given the relatively small cost to the government and the opportunity here to help large numbers of veterans.

As Rep. Butterfield pointed out, "other federal retirees who receive civilian benefits are allowed to keep both their retirement pay and their VA service-connected compensation.  This is no way to show respect for the sacrifices veterans have made."

It seems to me (disclosure: not a veteran) that there's no reasonable cause for not supporting the immediate elimination of the Disabled Veterans' Tax; a failure to do so is not only short-sighted in an era where recruitment and -- more importantly -- retention are becoming bigger problems, but is also downright disrespectful to those who've to put themselves in harm's way.  Let's show our support with a bit more than just a yellow sticker on an SUV and shame the GOP into providing full benefits for those who've paid a heavy price for their service.  Take a look at the discharge petition; if your representative isn't listed, contact their office and ask her/him to sign on.  It's the least we can do.
On June 24, 2005 - 8:15pm FenwaySteve said:

Supporting the troops means you want them home alive and give them the means to do so.

Simple as that.

On June 24, 2005 - 8:27pm HoppyCalif said:

Supporting the troops also means you recognize the sacrifice they have made in serving, and you try to compensate them for that with generous benefits. Even knowing that nothing really compensates someone for the memories many of them will always have to live with, you still make the effort. Our treatment of WWII veterans sets a standard we need to live up to or even exceed.

On June 24, 2005 - 9:51pm Ovid said:
Your posts have been a breath of fresh air.  You sound like the Democratic Party that I once believed in used to sound.  But you are not a Democrat.  That speaks volumes about the state of our party today.  Thanks, Congressman, for a great week. Ovid 

On June 24, 2005 - 11:11pm Colorado Thistle said:

Have they no shame?


Unfortunately, as this week showed, no.


Thanks for your excellent posts. 

On June 24, 2005 - 11:45pm rob payne said:

Dear Congressman Sanders,

 I am with the Texan who said you have restored his faith. You are not afraid to speak your mind and to call it as you see it. I wish there were more like you. Thank you so much.

On June 25, 2005 - 6:37am thepeoplechoose said:

I can tell you firsthand of the struggles of veterans. As a Vietnam vet I use the local VA facility. I drive a 15 year old clunker, but it gets me around. I have had more than one occasion to give a lift to a vet after visiting the facility for treatment. In most instances these are vets permanently disabled either using crutches or wheelchairs. The hospital is busy and appointments often run late so sometimes the transport provided is missed by individuals. There is frequently someone like myself happy to give a lift to a fellow vet. It is disheartening though to see the places some of these vets are forced to live. I'm ashamed to acknowledge this but their lives are crap. And every time the idiots in Washington commit to a war that has no true justification beyond a political or economic goal I have to deal with how uncaring and dishonest these people are. I love my country but I hate our politicians and what goes on in Washington. I look around at these vets and know what they gave up for our freedom only to have a gutless piece of shit like Bush take that sacrifice and trash it without a care.

The American people have to wake up and figure out that almost without exception all the war and killing, without regard to the circumstances, never solves a thing and frequently has both a short and long term effect of making things worse. And the only reason we need ever suffer at the hands of our enemies is because we haven't taken proper action to protect ourselves from the certainty that there are people out there that wish to harm us. 9/11 occurred because of that inaction to a serious and known threat. People don't want to hear that. They want to blame the 'bad guys'. That's fine. But what did we do to prevent it from happening? It is clear we did almost nothing. Decade after decade we let our guard down and we paid the price for that lack of vigilance. You can't leave your door open and unlocked forever. The eventuality that someone with ill intent will enter is a statistical certainty. This is kind of like owning a home. If you don't work diligently to maintain it and preserve it's elemental integrity it will go to hell in a hurry. And right now we are in an awful hurry. And this isn't a superficial loss of integrity that is occurring but one that is destroying the very foundation of our country. And just as we failed to recognize and counter the fundamental threat from those who would harm us we are also largely ignorant of the creeping fundamental changes undoing our democracy. The question that arises is which condition has the greater potential to really change this country in ways that harm democracy?


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