by Leah Grothe and Sara Kirsch
John McCain describes himself as America’s Maverick, defending the military and Iraq War. This enthusiasm is criticized by some veterans, as well as his opponents. On September 22nd, Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s running mate, condemned John McCain for his position on veteran issues at the National Guard Association Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. He explained,
“John McCain voted against billions of dollars in additional funding for veterans’ health care- against $2 million for TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] research…against $500 million for mental health issues…against $400 million for inpatient and outpatient care. John wants to ration veterans’ health care to those with combat injuries, which would mean that millions fewer veterans would have access to VA medical care.”
Biden had much to say about McCain’s voting record on veteran’s health care, and did not hesitate to mention McCain’s plan for veterans’ healthcare. Are Biden’s claims correct, or is he distorting McCain’s position on veterans’ healthcare?
McCain did vote to table a Senate bill that would fund, with an offset, an additional $2 million for research, development, test and evaluation improvements of imaging for traumatic brain injuries. He voted this way because there was no proposal of how to fund the bill. He voted against a plan providing an additional $500 million to be used for readjustment counseling, relieving mental health services and treatment/rehab services. McCain also voted against granting $430 million for medical services and outpatient care for veterans.
Biden was actually correct on these three claims, but McCain does have an explanation for voting against the bills. The Army Times writes that Senator McCain believes there would be enough money available to treat veterans if the VA (Veteran Affairs) were to operate more efficiently. McCain opposes wasteful spending that goes over the executive branch’s budget. These bills, he explained, did just that. It seems that fiscal responsibility is the issue for McCain, not limiting veteran’s healthcare.
Biden also claimed that McCain wants to ration veteran’s health care; placing those with combat injuries at the top of the list and leaving millions of veterans without access to VA medical care. Unlike the other claims presented by Biden, this one is a bit farfetched. McCain has recently proposed a plan that would give vouchers to veterans with non-combat injuries. They may then receive care more quickly at private, for-profit hospitals rather than through the VA. McCain explained,
“The new card I propose will offer better alternatives, to provide the benefits they have earned. For many veterans, the closest VA facility isn't close enough…Often, all that prevents them from receiving local care is a system for sharing medical records among VA, DOD, and civilian hospitals and doctors.”
McCain further explained that his plan does not force anyone to go to a non-VA hospital and that it would not prevent any further expansion of the VA network. McCain is proposing options; therefore, millions of veterans will not be left out of VA care.
Though the proposal had initial appeal, it received much criticism from American veterans. They argued that McCain does not fully explain his definition of a combat injury, which could lead to conflict if the proposal was enacted. Others provide additional concerns that McCain’s proposal excludes non-combat veterans, who are equally important as those that served in time of war. McCain’s proposal did give vouchers for non-combat veterans to seek care outside of the government system, but it did not exclude millions from VA care. Veterans would still have access to the system.
Lesson: Joe Biden was correct about Senator McCain’s voting record on Veteran’s healthcare, but there is more to the story. Biden never explained why McCain voted against the bills, which left us to find that out from other sources. Watch out for the wording of claims made by both parties. Biden’s claim about rationing veteran healthcare was questionable. The less that is explained in a claim, the more skeptical you should be. Dig into it and uncover the facts for yourself.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
by Leah Grothe and Sara Kirsch
Posted by Kedron Bardwell at 10:59 AM