28 Votes: McCain's Record Against Veterans

10-12-08, 10:38 am

In the first presidential debate, Sept. 27, John McCain professed love for veterans and insisted, 'They know I'll take care of them.' But his record is making many veterans doubt the basis for that claim.

Some veterans' groups have expressed strong criticisms of McCain's voting record on funding for veterans medical care. In its most recent legislative ratings, for example, the Disabled American Veterans gave McCain a 20 percent rating for his voting record on veterans’ issues.

Also, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a 'D' grade for his poor voting record on veterans’ issues, including McCain’s votes against additional body armor for troops in combat and additional funding for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury screening and treatment.

In addition, both Veterans for America and Veterans of Foreign Wars recently expressed strong reservations about John McCain's proposal to eliminate guaranteed medical care for veterans by privatizing certain parts of the system.

Likewise, Joe Violanti, legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans, told one newspaper, 'the proposal would increase costs because private hospitals are more expensive. The increased cost could lead to further rationing of care.' Studies of private care have repeatedly shown that veterans forced to seek care in the private market might not get the same level of care they receive at VA facilities.

Veterans' groups have concluded that McCain has voted at least 28 times against veterans' benefits since arriving in the Senate in 1987. Those votes tried or succeeding in to blocking important benefits for America’s veterans.

In 1991, after the close of the Persian Gulf War, John McCain voted against providing automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments for certain veterans’ benefits. Four years later, McCain supported an appropriations bill that underfunded the Departments of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies by $8.9 billion. The following year, McCain voted against an amendment to increase spending on veterans programs by $13 billion.

Between 1999 and 2001, McCain stood against appropriations bills that provided regular annual increases in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. And in 2003, after the US had been at war in Afghanistan for more than a year, McCain stood up again to providing additional funding for the VA. This was his maverick move.

In 2005, when it became clear that US troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were suffering unprecedented cases of PTSD, McCain voted against an amendment to appropriate $500 million annually from 2006-2010 for counseling, mental health and rehabilitation services for veterans diagnosed with mental illness, PTSD or substance abuse.

The following year, McCain opposed providing an assured funding stream for veterans’ health care that would increase at the same pace as inflation and the growth of the veterans' population. One month after that definitive vote, McCain voted against providing an additional $430 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.

A strong supporter of privatization and outsourcing in general, McCain opposed a 2007 amendment that would have prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from outsourcing jobs, many held by blue-collar veterans at VA facilities. McCain took this position even after congressional investigations linked scandalous treatment at Walter Reed Army Hospital to privatization of some of the hospitals services.

This year, John McCain opposed the 21st Century GI Bill, and failed to vote on the final passage of the measure in favor of attending a Republican Party fundraiser in California. Since its passage, despite Mccain's opposition, the new GI Bill has begun to provide better educational opportunities to veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, paying full tuition at in-state schools and living expenses for those who have served at least three years in the service since the 9/11 attacks. McCain said he opposed the bill because, as he told one FOX News program, he thought the benefits were too generous.

In all, McCain has cast his vote 28 times against veterans. When casting their votes on Nov. 4th, veterans will be rethinking the real meaning of McCain's promise to 'take care of them.'