Who’s Standing Up For Our Veterans?

With today being Veteran’s Day, we should take a look back at the past year to see whose commitment to veterans goes beyond the annual ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier. For example, let’s take a look at this request the Veterans of Foreign Wars made back in March :

The commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. called on Congress today to fix the veterans’ health care shortfalls in the president’s fiscal year 2006 budget.

“The administration’s budget is troubling in many ways because it’s an obvious attempt to balance part of the nation’s deficit on the backs of a disabled and aging military veteran population,” testified John Furgess, before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs.
. . .
Furgess asked the senators and representatives to help make the budget fit the need and not make the need fit the budget by eliminating or reducing services while increasing costs. He also urged them to make military veterans the number one priority of the nation.

A week later, Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii proposed an amendment to the 2006 budget to increase spending on veterans medical care by $2.8 billion. Despite the fact that we’re in the middle of a war, the resolution failed with a 53-47 vote, with every Democrat voting “Yea” and all but two Republicans voting “Nay”. A month later, Senator Patty Murray offered a similar amendment to the Tsunami, Defense, and War on Terror appropriations bill that would provide an additional $1,975,183,000 for veterans medical care. This one also failed, largely along party lines, with only one Republican Senator voting to support veterans.

“Three billion dollars is a lot of money,” you might say, but before you chalk up GOP callousness to budgetary hawkishness, let me point you to this reliable indicator of fiscal responsibility :

The federal government’s expanding waistline (a record $427 billion deficit) has resulted from too many members of Congress believing that the United States Treasury is their own personal ATM. Our elected officials have let themselves go whole hog while letting down every hard-working American taxpayer.
. . .
For fiscal 2005, appropriators stuffed 13,997 projects into the 13 appropriations bills, an increase of 31 percent over last year’s total of 10,656. In the last two years, the total number of projects has increased by 49.5 percent. The cost of these projects in fiscal 2005 was $27.3 billion, or 19 percent more than last year’s total of $22.9 billion.

In other words, the Senate could have more than made up for the $2-3 billion shortfall for veteran care if they had simply remained as reckless as they were in 2004, rather than throw away an additional $4.4 billion. But that would require putting veterans ahead of pork-barrel programs, which seems too much to ask of the GOP controlled House and Senate or the still veto-less President of the United States.