A prominent veterans advocate, former Marine Jessie Jane Duff, says the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is blocking urgently needed reforms in U.S. military healthcare.
Duff, of Concerned Veterans for America, told Newsmax TV on Tuesday that Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Senate's Democratic majority, is single-handedly stalling a bill to give top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs more power to fire bad managers
at VA hospitals.
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Amid reports of forged waiting lists concealing lethal delays in veterans' care, the House voted overwhelmingly in May for the VA Accountability Act. A version championed by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, awaits action in the Senate while a VA shakeup
that claimed Secretary Eric Shinseki continues.
Instead, Sanders is trying to "entice veterans with more money" in the VA budget as a way of undermining support for the Accountability Act while he prevents it from being debated, Duff told "America's Forum" host J.D. Hayworth and Newsmax contributor Francesa Page.
"Bernie 'Pork' Sanders decided to block it on the floor by two false arguments," said Duff. "The first false argument he said was, 'We need to have hearings.' There were already hearings in the House. 'We need to review this.' I'm sorry, Bernie, do you read slow? It's three pages, 27 lines.
"The second false argument," Duff said, "was he claims that this [bill] would allow future administrations to just fire executives randomly. False argument."
Duff said the VA budget is approaching $160 billion.
"It's the second-largest budget next to DOD, so I ask all veterans, let's be fiscally smart, not get on the bandwagon of spend, spend, spend," she said. "Let's demand accountability and we can do well with what we have."
Duff said it's too early to tell how acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson will do as Shinseki's replacement because the problems go so deep. She also said privatizing the VA is "unrealistic."
"They've never been denied the resources that they need," said Duff. "I demand that they use those resources — those taxpayer dollars — and take care of these veterans effectively and efficiently, as they are required to do."
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