The Mitch McConnell VA Scandal

The Republican Chaos Strategy is working like a charm, and now the GOP is trying to make everyone forget who the real villains are when it comes to denying benefits to our veterans. And the real villains, despite what you might hear over at Fox So-Called news, are all the Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly blocked bills that would have helped out American veterans and given more resources to the VA.

The reason I bring this up is that over the past few weeks, we’ve learned some disturbing things about the goings on at one Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. According to a number of reports, the hospital’s administrators covered up information about long wait times at the facility, wait times that spanned - and maybe even hastened - the deaths of 40 veterans.

The allegations, if true, are shocking, and have led many lawmakers in Washington to call for deeper investigations into the VA as well as the resignation of its Secretary, Eric Shinseki, who is scheduled to testify about the controversy on Capitol Hill tomorrow. Republican Texas Senator Jon Cornyn has led the charge in trying to get Shinseki to resign, saying that he thinks it’s time “for new leadership at the VA.”

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, while not explicitly calling for Shinseki to quit, has said that “a change in leadership [at the VA] might be a good step in the right direction.” Public outrage about what allegedly went on at the Phoenix VA hospital is understandable and justified, but what we’re seeing from Republicans like Cornyn - McConnell - and Fleming is just cynical manipulation of public opinion.

Republicans don’t really care about veterans or the VA, they just care about using this controversy to discredit the President and his Democratic Party - there is an election coming up, after all - and as a twofer, discredit the idea of government-run healthcare programs like the VA. John McCain has even called for the VA to be privatized. The hypocrisy here is astounding.

Remember, it was just a little under three months ago that Senate Republicans under the leadership of Mitch McConnell filibustered a bill that would have boosted VA funding by $21 billion, expanded benefits, and repealed a provision of the Murray-Ryan budget deal that slashed military pensions.

And it wasn’t like this anti-veteran Republican filibuster was some radical break from the past either. Time and time again during the Obama presidency Republicans have either blocked or opposed bills that would have helped out the veterans they’re now claiming to care so much about.

Back in 2012, for example, GOP senators blocked a $1 billion jobs bill would have helped millions of unemployed veterans find work. And in that same year, Republican opposition also blocked a bill - the so-called Veterans’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act - that would have kept veterans’ benefits on par with rising expenses.

The list goes on. Before that, GOP lawmakers killed the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, the Veterans Retraining Act of 2009, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, the Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009, the Veterans Business Center Act of 2009, and the Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009.

Every single one of these these bills would have helped veterans and every single one was killed exclusively by Republican opposition. So don't be surprised if I take the GOP’s newfound obsession with veterans’ issues with a big grain of salt. But Republican hypocrisy when it comes to the VA is only part of the story. What we’re really seeing here with the calls for Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki to resign and the bashing of the VA as a whole is one of the best recent examples of what I call the “Republican Chaos Strategy.”

Republicans know that the while most people know that Barack Obama is president and that he is a Democrat - the vast majority of Americans - 60 to 75 percent by some estimates - don’t know which party is in charge of the House of Representatives or who controls the Senate, or either.

And, so, when something like the Phoenix VA hospital controversy comes along, Republicans know that they both can use it to trash the administration and, at the same time, confuse the American people about who’s really responsible for the problems plaguing the VA and our country.

"Oh," they say, "so you're an unemployed veteran who can’t get a job and whose food stamps have been cut? It must be the fault of the Obama administration, you know, the guys who let all those vets die out in Arizona." When, in fact, it was entirely because of Republican obstruction. It would be one thing if we had a media that called Republicans out for their shameless manipulation of tragedy, but we don’t. Instead, we have a media that is so obsessed with pumping out infotainment to keep production costs low and ratings high, that it’s willing to go along with the GOP’s Chaos Strategy talking points even when they're flat-out lies - as they almost all are. After all, what’s better for ratings than a good old-fashioned scandal, even if there's really no "there" there?

If the allegations against the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center are true, then we should talk about how to improve our veterans’ medical facilities. But that conversation won't happen as long Republicans stick to their Chaos Strategy. Instead, we'll get a media circus like we're having right now.

A media circus that's more focused on creating tabloid personalities and scoring cheap political points than it is on telling the truth that Democrats have been really trying to help out veterans. And it never gets around to pointing out the reality that Republicans, for six years, have been relentlessly working to hurt veterans and then blame it on the Obama administration.


johnbest's picture
johnbest 9 years 2 weeks ago

I have had medical coverage for the last 55 years while I was in the army for three years and now a retired federal employee. I have an HMO which has been just great. Even with the high family option I still cannot get an appointment with a specialist and even a nurse practitioner for at least two months. If it is an emergency, I can go to urgent care at my local medical center or as a last resort to the emergency room. The VA wait times seem about normal for medical care.

I checked into the availability of VA care in California back in the 1990's. I learned that patients were ranked according to the severity of their disability. In my case I have some hearing loss from my days in boot camp before they used ear plugs. Last year I was fitted with hearing aids and checked on line to see if I could get the VA to help pay for them and I didn't want to bother them with my trivial disability. They also have an income limit of $25,000 a year for cases that have only a slight disability which was my case. I didn't press the issue and feel that the government doesn't owe me a thing.

The neotards need to grow up and help disabled veterans. I can't believe that they closed some veterans health facilities. I suppose they will blame President Obama again.

harmonious1's picture
harmonious1 9 years 2 weeks ago

Health Care as a Right not as a profitable Business

For Republicans, helping the 99% to access health care is secondary to greater profits to the private corporate insurance companies and keeping the 1% in luxury. Over 50 bills have been passed by House Republicans to repeal the PPACA while ignoring bills which would scuttle “Obamacare” such as one which would open Medicare to all.

But Medicare is flawed and retains health care as a profit making business even though it may limit some costs. Profit making hospitals and exorbitant fees for specialists remain. Consider the morality and lack of compassion of profiting excessively from the unfortunate sick and injured. There is a functioning American alternative which could open health care to all and considerably reduce costs, now the highest in the world, to a more reasonable level and achieve much improved results for the nation’s health and well being. Open and expand the VA to all residents. Nationalize hospitals and health clinics by federal purchase. If the feds can afford to bail out the financial and auto industries, and flush trillions of dollars down the toilet for militarism and wars which have been questionable benefit, we can do this by rearranging priorities. Sickness or injury are greater threats than terrorism or enemy attack. We can start by providing free training to qualified and committed medical students as they do in poor Cuba. This is needed to provide service without long waiting for medical services. It is likely that this reform will lower costs drastically while providing service we Americans, the richest nation in the world, deserve. Why should America be satisfied with less?

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 2 weeks ago

Disposable warriors! These greedy corporate fascists really deserve to be run out of the country on a rail. The best way to do that legally is with Campaign Finance Reform. Let us not take our eyes off the prize!!

ChicagoMatt 9 years 2 weeks ago
We can start by providing free training to qualified and committed medical students as they do in poor Cuba.

I'm glad you bring that up. I feel like what a lot of Conservatives are really worried about with the ACA is longer wait times to see their doctors because of a huge influx of newly-insured people. Of course, they don't want to admit that, because it sounds so cold-hearted. But adding a disproportionatly larger influx of doctors, which would actually bring wait times down, would get more people on board for the Right.

carwia 9 years 2 weeks ago

Thom, I could not agree with you more. The Republicans use the cheapest tricks..... but they work. Everytime they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar they say," aw , but everybody does it" and dilute the naked truth that what they are doing is cruel and it is exclusvively their policy.

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 2 weeks ago

Just wait Matt once the government gets control of how much the doctors get paid and they lower the doctors income the doctors take off to other countries that pay more. Trust me as a Canadian watching our doctors go south for years I can tell you it's coming.

ChicagoMatt 9 years 2 weeks ago

Newsweek just did an article on France's Socialist "brain drain" a few weeks ago:

As the article describes it, France is suffering a slow death, because of it's top tax rate of 70%. Anyone who falls into that bracket is heading for England or America. I can't blame them. I'd do the same thing.

truth springs e... 9 years 2 weeks ago

It’s not left or right, that is the dual illusion game to keep you trapped. Divide and conquer game.

On May 13, you had Alex SeitzWald on the show and you both mused at the conspiracy theorists.

“Let’s have an honest, bold, critical look at the world around us. Intelligence takes many forms: intellect, knowledge, cleverness, wit and intuition for example. But perhaps what is most called for in this era of massive deceit is open-mindedness — coupled with common sense and rigorous discernment. Critical thinking, evidence, fact checking, logic, research, and the ability to say “MAYBE, I don’t know” while we consider new information is imperative. Without it, we can fall prey to truly sinister and dangerous effects.” – Foster Gamble

Have Freeman Fly on to talk about the occult systems running this world, or is it easier to ridicule those that have alternative information?

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

— Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 2 weeks ago

Harmonious, if Medicare was "the only game in town" so to speak, healthcare would cease to be about profit. That's why we need single-payer Medicare for all. It would put the insurance extortion hacks out of business and eliminate all the bureaucracy and the bullshit. You're right about the necessity of nationalizing healthcare. Priority is key, and it's really about priorities rather than lack of funds. We could learn a lot from Cuba. - Aliceinwonderland

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

Kend -- Some US senator was saying the same thing you are about doctors moving south. However, he was saying it during a hearing. He was saying it to one of the heads of the Canadian healthcare system (I think it was someone from Montreal). She said it was not true, and they have net influx of doctors from the south. I think the main reason the doctors wanted to enter the Canadian system is that the could not stand the morally corrupt medical insurance of that nation to the south.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 2 weeks ago

If some doctors care more about making money than practicing medicine, I say, let 'em go and GOOD RIDDANCE! But if they're leaving to escape a morally bankrupt system, it's our loss but I wish them well. (SIGH) - AIW

U.S. Citizen's picture
U.S. Citizen 9 years 2 weeks ago

Yes. The hypocrisy wreaks. Remember, before Issa, they told Dems to "legislate, not investigate". Before their filibustering ways, the wanted "up or down" votes. And, before The Roberts Court, they didn't like judicial activism.

ChicagoMatt 9 years 2 weeks ago
And, before The Roberts Court, they didn't like judicial activism.

Every time I hear a left-winger say negative things about the Supreme Court, I keep thinking about how ultra-right-winger Mark Levin wrote an entire book in 2006 (Men in Black) about how bad the Supreme Court is.

So there's another thing that bridges the partisan divide - hatred of the Supreme Court. That, along with distrust of the media, could be building blocks towards a less-polarized political future.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 2 weeks ago

WOW Matt... a post you've written that I actually can agree with! Amazing…

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

Chi Matt -- Thom Hartmann and Phylis Schafley agree on hating SCOTUS. What more proof do you need it would be a good building block. On the other side of this power struggle, per Mike P. all law students are trained that SCOTUS members are gods.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 2 weeks ago

All law students taught Supreme Court judges are gods?! That's scary.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

AIW -- In my opinion, they are taught that since it makes everything tidy for lawyers. Democracy is so messy. Imagine letting the unclearn determine what is constitutional.

figalicious 9 years 2 weeks ago

Everyone in every state listen up! We The People need to enforce a max 2-term limits in both the Senate and Congress. Please do not reelect an incumbent if they have already served 2 terms. These positions were not meant to be lifetime appointments! We need fresh blood, new ideas, less political one-upmanship. I know it's hard but we as a country need to reclaim our Congress and Senate. This is the only way to do it! THINK HARD before you next vote!

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

figalicious -- I cannot support any movement that is trying to get rid of Bernie Sanders.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 2 weeks ago

Chuck, I second that. If someone like Bernie Sanders is working his ass off in our behalf (not the .01% and not the corporations), he is more than entitled to a lifetime appointment as far as I'm concerned. Therefore I am adamantly against term limits. Sorry "figalicious"! - AIW

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