I changed the name to reflect what I intend to do and am doing in reference to military related news and issues.
Archive for 10 Jan 2007
Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the new chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, speaks with enthusiasm for any and all initiatives that might help veterans improve their quality of life.
But Filner is seen as such a partisan and his rhetoric can be so imprecise that some veterans’ advocates wonder what this firebrand will achieve as chairman.
In an interview on his priorities, Filner said he was “very excited” to take control “because a lot of things weren’t done in the last few years that should have been done for veterans.”
Under Republicans, “veterans had to fight like a special interest” for benefits. He said his predecessor, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., locked arms with the Bush administration and with Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson on an unspoken goal of downsizing the VA health system. Filner’s evidence: “When you have continued recommendations of new fees for enrollees, when you keep out the lower priority veterans, you are trying to downsize.”
In wartime, he said, troop morale depends on “knowing they are going to be treated well when they get home.” Bigger VA budgets and better benefits, he said, should be seen “as a cost of war.”
He supports the Democrats’ entire “GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century,” which includes a $3 billion increase in VA health spending to cut wait times for patients and to expand access to more categories of veteran; an end to the ban on concurrent receipt of military retirement and VA disability compensation for the remaining 400,000 military retirees with disabilities; an end to the offset in survivor benefits for widows who also receive VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation; and a boost in Montgomery GI Bill benefits to cover full college tuition, room and board.
“Most of these things have already been part of our platform, so it’s hard to backpedal,” Filner said. But he cautioned that Democrats also promised to restore budget discipline, so gains for veterans will have to be phased in over several years. His first priority is education benefit reform, he said. Yet after 14 years on the VA committee, Filner sounded surprisingly misinformed on the prized MGIB.