War Spending: Defying or Just Posturing?

gop-spin-club Defying President Bush, House Democrats are preparing to forge ahead with a war spending measure that would include extended unemployment assistance and new educational benefits for returning veterans.

After a meeting Monday evening of House Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to bring a $178 billion measure to the floor this week. What could be a contentious debate on the matter is likely to be held on Thursday, aides said.

Ms. Pelosi, of California, did not disclose details of the proposed bill, which will be presented to rank-and-file Democrats at a closed party session on Tuesday. But Democratic officials, who did not want to be identified since the bill was still being put into final form, said the legislative package would include provisions requiring a significant withdrawal of troops from Iraq by December 2009 and measures that would force Iraq to share more costs of its reconstruction.

Democrats also intend to make veterans eligible for new educational assistance if they have served from three months to three years or more on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The aid would be equivalent to a four-year scholarship at a public university for those with three years or more service, with payments prorated for those with less time.

Mr. Bush has steadily insisted he would not approve any legislation that exceeds his spending request for the war, sets any withdrawal deadlines or adds domestic money he opposes like the unemployment benefits. And House Republicans, angry that the measure is not going through formal committee consideration, began on Monday to open procedural attacks on the House floor in protest, forcing extra votes on noncontroversial measures.

“The Democrat leaders of the House and Senate are attempting to jam a 200-plus-billion-dollar spending bill through the Congress with absolutely no oversight or scrutiny by a vast majority of members, senators or their constituents,” Representative Jerry Lewis of California, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said in a statement on Monday. “Never in my 30 years in Congress has there been such an abuse of the processes and rules of the House.”

Democrats said privately that they expected the provisions setting a withdrawal deadline and putting other conditions on the war money to be eliminated by the Senate before a final House vote later this spring… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

Impeach Of course there is no way this bill can ever get through the automatic GOP filibuster in the Senate.  Nevertheless it’s still a good idea, because it gives GOP Senators a choice to actually do something for America or come down solidly against the unemployed and veterans in the height of election season.

Representative Jerry Lewis needs help for his comedy routine from his side-kick, Dean Martin.  Throughout the GOP dominated 109th, no bill made it to committee without having first been approved by a majority of the House Repuglicans.

Think how much better it would have been if the Democratic majority in the House had wasted time with impeachment hearings instead of with posturing!

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Bush/McCain: The Arlington Plan

30Vets On April 9, Spc. Jon Town was featured on the cover of The Nation, in an article that told how he was wounded in Iraq, won a Purple Heart and was then denied all disability and medical benefits. Town’s doctor had concluded that his headaches and hearing loss were not caused by the 107-millimeter rocket that knocked him unconscious but by a psychological condition, “personality disorder,” a pre-existing illness for which one cannot collect disability pay or receive medical care.

Soon Town became a national figure, the human face of the 22,500 soldiers discharged with personality disorder in the past six years. His story was picked up by the Army Times, Washington Post Radio and ABC News’s Bob Woodruff. It was dramatized in a May episode of NBC’s Law & Order. And rock star Dave Matthews began discussing Town’s plight at every stop in his spring concert series.

Further investigation by The Nation has uncovered more than a dozen cases like Town’s from bases across the country. All of the soldiers interviewed passed the rigorous health screening given recruits before being accepted into the Army. All were deemed physically and psychologically fit in a second screening as well, before being deployed to Iraq, and served honorably there in combat. None of the soldiers interviewed during this eleven-month investigation had a documented history of psychological problems.

Yet after they returned from Iraq wounded and sought treatment, each was diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, then denied benefits. As in Town’s case, Army doctors determined that the soldiers’ ailments were pre-existing without interviewing friends, family or fellow soldiers who knew them before they were wounded in combat.

In this article you will hear from Army doctors who say wounded soldiers are routinely misdiagnosed. One says he was pressured by superiors to diagnose personality disorder in cases where soldiers were physically wounded or suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, acting surgeon general of the Army, was briefed on the problems with the Army’s personality disorder discharges. Instead of correcting cases like Town’s, she buried them. The surgeon general released a series of memos filled with fabrications. Pollock then informed wounded soldiers that their cases had been thoroughly reviewed by an independent panel of health experts when in fact no such review was conducted.

“This is not the way the government ought to work. It’s not the way they should be responding to veterans,” says Representative Bob Filner, chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He first heard Town’s story in April and began working soon afterward to bring the soldier to Washington. There Town would get his chance to tell Congress everything: about his diagnosis, his discharge and the work of Surgeon General Pollock… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Nation>

Amazing Places 1071475. This is just the introduction to a major five page article, and I urge you strongly to click through and read the rest. I have watched with growing frustration as Democrats in Congress have put forward measure after measure to improve the lot of our troops and veterans only to see them either vetoed by the ChickenHawk-in-Chief or fall to GOP filibusters, in which the GOP could always count on John McHypocrite to vote against our nation’s troops and vets.

GW Bush, McConJob, and the GOP have a formula for supporting our troops and vets. I call it The Arlington Plan. If that isn’t clear, see the graphic.

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

Bush/GOP Block Vets’ Votes

25Project-Vote The ability of injured veterans to vote in November’s presidential election rests in the hands of Bush Administration officials, who have so far refused demands from advocates and lawmakers that the Department of Veterans Affairs help hospitalized veterans register to vote.

“‘It is an insult to those who have fought to spread democracy and freedom overseas to be denied the right to participate in their own democracy here at home,'” wrote Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Department of Veterans Affairs in March. “‘If each facility took a few simple steps to provide voter registration materials, the VA could do its part to guarantee access to voter registration.'”…

…In response, VA Secretary James Peake opposed efforts by lawmakers to get the federal agency to provide voter registration opportunities under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 “‘without any legal basis or rational explanation,'” said Kerry, as reported by AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld on April 10.

Peake claimed that “department policy restricts partisan political activities in VA facilities and the department also does not have the resources to be responsible for a large-scale voter registration effort,” wrote Rick Maze of the Marine Corps News on April 18.

Peake was responding to Feinstein and Kerry, who had written the department in both March 2007 and 2008 concerning voter registration for veterans. The senators never received a reply to the 2007 letter from the former VA Secretary James Nicholson, although the VA has since “‘engaged in litigation against voter registration efforts by third party groups in VA facilities,'” according to the senators’ 2008 letter.

“The litigation cited in the senators’ letter refers to Preminger v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Menlo Park suit where the VA argued before federal district and appeals courts that, in essence, political activity, including First Amendment speech and voter registration efforts, should not occur in its facilities because those activities were not medical in nature and were political, [veteran voting rights attorney Scott] Rafferty said, summarizing the litigation.”

“‘The argument that providing access to voter registration at facilities would distract from the medical goals is as unfortunate as it is counterproductive,'” the senators wrote. Not only is the “medical-only rationale” counterproductive, it is untrue, according to Rafferty. The attorney claims VA facilities have been used across the country for university libraries, parks, and even “pro-Republican demonstrations” as wells as partisan voter registration drives, according to a March 18 report by Rosenfeld.

The issue with voter registration at government agencies under NVRA is not exclusive to the Veterans Department.

“‘America, among western democracies, is unique in putting the responsibility on the individual, not the state, to register voters,'” said Project Vote Deputy Director Michael Slater. “‘Today, 63 million Americans, about a third of eligible voting age population, are not registered to vote.'”

“‘When we try to shift the onus from the individual to the state, we see reluctance — and the VA is one example,’ Slater said, saying that many state social service agencies that already are required to offer voter registration opportunities to public aid recipients have not followed through.” For example, if California registered as many food stamp recipients as Oregon, there would be an additional 180,000 voters in the state, he said.

“There is just this huge potential if government agencies like the VA finally offered voter registration.”

“Veterans who have not previously registered, as well as registered voters who move, must reregister with new addresses in order to vote,” an activity well-established at motor vehicle offices across the country, the most visible and well-implemented aspect of the NRVA (and the source of its “Motor Voter” nickname). “By not helping the injured veterans to do so,” Rosenfeld wrote, “it is likely that former soldiers seeking care at VA facilities will lose their right to vote in 2008.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Open Left>

GOPHypocrites_r_Us Now that these maimed veterans, who have given us their best, are no longer useful as cannon fodder in the Bush/McBoomBoom/GOP war for oil, greed and conquest, The Reich wants to disenfranchise them. I suspect that it is because nobody understands the costs of this horrible war more than the heroes that went into the meat grinder and paid the price. This is the thanks they get! They deserve better!! But Bush, McHypocrite and the GOP have consistently vetoed, filibustered and opposed almost all attempts by Democrats to improve the lot of our vets.

How the GOP Thanks Our Vets

5abc_soldier_debt U.S. soldiers and veterans have been illegally hit up by Pentagon debt collectors for millions of dollars in payments over military credit card debt, according to the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

It is shocking that a U.S. government agency would illegally take this money from veterans who have served our country well,” said Deepak Gupta of Public Citizen.

Public Citizen and consumer lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES), which issues credit cards to U.S. service members to buy goods at military stores. The suit alleges that AAFES improperly took money from military credit card users for expired debt and inflated penalties and fees. Unlike civilian debt collectors who use phone calls and letters to try to collect payment, the military simply deducted the money from service members’ government benefits or tax refunds, the suit contends.

“To take away these benefits because of old debt incurred during military service to buy things like uniforms and equipment is outrageous,” said Gupta.

Lead plaintiff Julius Briggs, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, said that AAFES illegally withheld more than $2,300 from his disability payments. According to the suit, Briggs’ debt was too old to collect, and AAFES also hit him up with inflated interest rates and penalty fees. Briggs claims the withheld money caused him to miss his housing payments, leaving him temporarily homeless.

The suit charges that AAFES has illegally appropriated millions of dollars from thousands of service members over the years… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <ABC>

The Bush/McConJob/GOP Reich cares nothing for vets, once they are no longer useful as cannon fodder.

Bush/McConJob/GOP-Speak Dictionary:

Veteran=Victim

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Action Alert: Why Won’t McCain Support Our Vets?

Robert Lopez served 8 years in our military, fighting in Iraq as a tank commander. He was told he’d get his whole education bill paid for when he got out of the service, but like so many others, Mr. Lopez has faced the bleak reality of a government that has turned its back on its veterans.

That is why Senators Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel proposed the new GI Bill, which would bring back WWII-style standards of providing vets with full tuition, room and board. And that is why 51 senators have signed on, including 9 Republicans like John Warner, giving this GI Bill tremendous bipartisan support.

But it isn’t enough. Faced with unprecedented filibusters, the only way to ensure Senate passage of the GI Bill is to get 60 co-sponsors. So far, John McCain has refused. The same McCain who insists he supports our troops. The same McCain who is voting lockstep with the Bush administration (who have also resisted this bill). We need to get John McCain to lead — to sign now and signal to other Republican leaders that we should be strongly behind our vets.

Robert Lopez thinks John McCain ought to stand in his shoes to know how difficult it is to be a vet and have to pay staggering education costs. THIS is your call to arms. Pass the video along and implore your friends to sign the petition.

Vote Vets, WesPAC, and Brave New Films feel passionately about giving our veterans the support they rightly deserve. Our government owes our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan the opportunity to receive full educational benefits. These patriots have fought hard for our government; it’s time our government started fighting hard for them.

I signed it, and I encourage you to join me.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

How Bush and the GOP Murdered Another Hero

18murderedsoldier Iraqi insurgents wounded Gerald Cassidy in the deafening blast of a roadside bomb just outside Baghdad on Aug. 28, 2006. But it took more than a year for him to die from neglect by the Army that had sent him off to war. When Cassidy returned to the U.S. last April, the Army shipped him to a hospital in Fort Knox, Ky., to get treatment for the excruciating headaches that had accompanied him home. For five months, he made the rounds of Army medical personnel, who couldn’t cure a pain that grew steadily worse. Unable to make room for him in a pain-management clinic, the Army increasingly plied him with drugs to dull the torment.

At summer’s end, the headaches had grown so intense that Cassidy pleaded once more for help, and his doctor prescribed methadone, a powerful narcotic. The next day, calls to Cassidy’s cell phone from his wife Melissa went unanswered. After two more days without word from her husband, she frantically called the Army and urged that someone check on him. Nine hours later, two soldiers finally unlocked the door to his room. They found Cassidy slumped in his chair, dead, his laptop and cold takeout chicken wings on his desk.

The “manner of death” was summed up at the end of the 12-page autopsy: “Accident.” But when he died, Cassidy had the contents of a locked medicine cabinet coursing through his body, powerful narcotics and other drugs like citalopram, hydromorphine, morphine and oxycodone, as well as methadone. The drugs–both the levels that Cassidy took and “their combined, synergistic actions,” in the medical examiner’s words–killed him.

Horrifyingly, it appears that Cassidy lived for up to two days after falling into a stupor. Forgotten and alone, he sat in his room until he died. “My God, he was there for three days, and no one even found him. That’s a huge scandal,” says Dr. William Kearney, Cassidy’s Army psychiatrist. Regulations that require a soldier to show up for formation three times a day or be tracked down were widely ignored, say soldiers who stayed at Fort Knox. “You could easily linger for two days in a coma,” Kearney says, “and if anybody had opened his door, they would have found him unconscious and they would have called 911.”

Soldiers fall through the cracks in every war. But the death of Sergeant Gerald (GJ) Cassidy, a cheerful 31-year-old husband and father of two, highlights the tragic and persistent shortcomings of Army medicine. The same Army that spends $160 billion on tomorrow’s fighting machines is shortchanging the shell-shocked troops coming home from war in need of healing. Cassidy was promised world-class health care. But he didn’t get the simple help–quick treatment, pain-management classes, knowledge of his whereabouts or even a roommate–that could have saved his life… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Time>

Time is incorrect to blame the Army. They have to work within the budgetary constraints for care of the wounded delivered them by their civilian masters. On several occasions Bush has vetoed or the GOP has filibustered attempts by Democrats to increase the budget for our service personnel’s care. Bush and the GOP murdered Sergeant Gerald Cassidy, depriving his wife of her husband and his children of their father, by gutting the funds needed for his care. Why would they do that? Every penny spent on the care of a wounded hero is a penny Bush and the GOP can’t spend on a millionaire.

Cross posted from Politics Plus