The whole truth on VA bill

To the editor:

Kristine Paulson’s June 4 letter (“Who’s Not Looking out for VA”) requires a response. The letter is a typical example of how a political partisan casts the other side as the villain by presenting only some of the facts.

In this case, the writer pointed to Republican rejection of Democrat-proposed legislation as evidence of the Republicans not caring about the welfare of veterans. But that supposed evidence becomes less clear-cut when one looks at all the facts.

As is the case with many of the Democrats’ proposals, the legislation in question contained several elements that Republican wholeheartedly supported. Among these were medical, education, and job-training benefits for the nation’s veterans.

However, mixed in with the good was an equal portion of the bad. There were two elements in particular that led to Republican opposition.

First, there was the matter of how to pay the $21 billion price tag. Rather than pay the cost by cutting elsewhere in the budget, Democrats said that this was paid for with the money that would have been spent if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had continued. That, of course, is the money that is sitting there in the bank right next to the money that would have been spent if World War II and all the other past wars had not ended. It is imaginary. In other words, approving this bill would have increased our national debt by $21 billion. For Republicans, that was poison pill number one.

Second, the proposed bill would have introduced a fundamental change to the veterans’ medical system. The system that exists was designed to provide care for veterans with service-connected injuries. Injuries and illnesses not attributable to military service are to be addressed outside the system.

The proposed bill, however, would have expanded coverage by making more veterans without service-connected injuries eligible for treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. This would have greatly increased the cost to taxpayers and further strained a system that is already overloaded. Poison pill number two.

In election years politicians often propose bills that are designed to fail. They propose them so that they can cast their opponents as being against this or that. Republicans are not against our veterans. They want all Americans, including veterans, to prosper.

Michael Thom

New Ulm

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