Pentagon and Senate Target Veterans and their Families
By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend
Organizers of an upcoming March and Rally in Washington, DC next month are extremely disappointed in recent decisions rendered by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Senate concerning veteran's health care and services.
Operation Firing For Effect - The Veteran's March is the bipartisan, grassroots collaboration of two combat tested U.S. military veterans, Gene Simes and James North. Last year Simes and North teamed up on a project to unite veterans nationwide in a common cause. Over the past year, Simes and North have generated a great deal of interest and support from veterans and civic organizations nationwide for The Veteran's March on DC.
Recent revelations made by the DOD to dramatically increase health care enrollment fees and co-payments for retired military personnel and their families has not gone over well with the national veteran community. The new TriCare plan will hit retirees under 65 years of age especially hard, and will result with health care coverage cost eventually tripling for these veterans. The DOD proposal is meeting strong opposition from the nation's veterans and this issue will be a focal point of a veteran's march in DC on the 25th & 26th of April.
The most recent blow to veterans' affairs came last week when the Senate voted down an Amendment which would make veteran's health care funding mandatory and assured. The failure of the Amendment was determined by a mere eight, (8) votes, 46 YEA / 54 NAY.
In a recent Firebase Network interview with Operation Firing For Effect committee members, Simes and North addressed several issues including mandatory funding for the VA. "The simple fact that 46 U.S. Senators thought mandatory funding was a good idea speaks volumes to the feasibility of the concept. The sad part is, it only took 8 Senators to deny millions of veterans guaranteed and improved health care and services," Simes stated. "All one has to do is look at the list of NAY votes as evidence both democrats and republicans are playing political football with veterans' affairs. That is simply unacceptable," Simes added.
James North commented of the TriCare increases. "TriCare increases will not only directly affect over one million-plus veterans, but their family members as well. In other words, our retired personnel are not only going to pay increases for themselves, but their spouses and dependants too. That will multiply the financial burden on the veteran and their family dramatically," North said.
Both Simes and North view veteran's affairs as a set obligation our country has to our men and women in uniform, not a "special interest" which depends on political lobbying and/or budgeting restraints.
James North said mandatory VA funding and TriCare increases are just two of the issues the April Rally will address. "We have submitted a formal request for a DOD representative to address the adverse affect base closures (BRAC) is having on our retired military families," North said. "We have also invited all 48 Congressionally Chartered Service Organizations to participate in uniting this country's veterans under this single movement. We have expert guest speakers on a wide variety of issues; from Depleted Uranium exposure, to delays in VA claims processing, to homeless veterans, to protection of veteran's benefits from third party awards in civil courts. We are providing the American military veteran and their families the opportunity to address matters of importance to them," James North said.
Barbara Wright of Pendleton Oregon is the project Research Officer. "There is an old saying that rings very true, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We are going to DC to do some 'squeaking' in support of our men and women in uniform," Wright said.
Veteran's rights advocate Jere Beery is the project's Public Affairs Officer. Beery is well known for his advocacy work with veterans' issues. "The organizers of this March are not obligated to any political party, nor are they associated with any government agency, or Congressionally Chartered Veterans Service Organization," Beery stated. "The April March and Rally is one element in a much bigger grassroots movement to improve and protect the state of veterans' affairs in this country. We are predicting a very large grassroots turnout for this event," Beery added.
All of the March organizers agree the timing of this March is crucial to the future treatment and services we offer our veterans. "Right now, we have young Americans recuperating from battlefield injuries at Walter Reed Hospital and Brook Army Medical Center. These are great Americans that have earned fair and legal treatment by our government. These are the veterans who will truly benefit from our efforts next month," Jere Beery said.
Operation Firing for Effect - The Veteran's March is planed for April 25th on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Thousands of veterans and their families are expected to attend. For more information, visit: WWW.VetMarch2006.COM Opening ceremonies will begin at 9AM sharp.
In a related story, late Wednesday the House Republican leadership turned down an amendment from Rep. John Salazar, (D-CO)., to add $650 million to the Veterans Administration's health care budget. Salazar, who recently joined the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the additional VA money is needed because the Army's own studies have shown the VA system is treating more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than projected.
Below is a list of Senators that voted against mandatory funding for veteran's health care.
Alabama: Sessions (R-AL), Nay - Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Alaska: Murkowski (R-AK), Nay - Stevens (R-AK), Nay
Arizona: Kyl (R-AZ), Nay - McCain (R-AZ), Nay
Colorado: Allard (R-CO), Nay
Florida: Martinez (R-FL), Nay
Georgia: Chambliss (R-GA), Nay - Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Idaho: Craig (R-ID), Nay - Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Indiana: Lugar (R-IN), Nay
Iowa: Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Kansas: Brownback (R-KS), Nay - Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Kentucky: Bunning (R-KY), Nay - McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana: Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Maine: Collins (R-ME), Nay
Minnesota: Coleman (R-MN), Nay
Mississippi: Cochran (R-MS), Nay - Lott (R-MS), Nay
Missouri: Bond (R-MO), Nay - Talent (R-MO), Nay
Montana: Burns (R-MT), Nay
Nebraska: Hagel (R-NE), Nay - Nelson (D-NE), Nay
Nevada: Ensign (R-NV), Nay
New Hampshire: Gregg (R-NH), Nay - Sununu (R-NH), Nay
New Mexico: Domenici (R-NM), Nay
North Carolina: Burr (R-NC), Nay Dole (R-NC), Nay
Ohio: DeWine (R-OH), Nay Voinovich (R-OH), Nay
Oklahoma: Coburn (R-OK), Nay Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Oregon: Smith (R-OR), Nay
Pennsylvania: Santorum (R-PA), Nay
Rhode Island: Chafee (R-RI), Nay
South Carolina: DeMint (R-SC), Nay - Graham (R-SC), Nay
South Dakota: Thune (R-SD), Nay
Tennessee: Alexander (R-TN), Nay - Frist (R-TN), Nay
Texas: Cornyn (R-TX), Nay - Hutchison (R-TX), Nay
Utah: Bennett (R-UT), Nay - Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Virginia: Allen (R-VA), Nay - Warner (R-VA), Nay
Wyoming: Enzi (R-WY), Nay - Thomas (R-WY), Nay