As Ted Cruz swings into Veteran Territory: South Carolina, he faces scrutiny over his plans for veterans, and it is leaving many Veterans angry and shivering in rage.
This comes after his rude comments about Veterans that caused him to issue an apology:
Wrapping up his 21-hour fake filibuster calling for the defunding of Obamacare, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) jokingly thanked his staff “who have endured this Bataan death march” last week. The lighthearted comparison outraged veterans of the actual 1942 death march, who confronted Cruz in his office on Monday.
The American Coalition for Filipino Veterans issued a letter demanding an apology for Cruz’s “ill-advised, and insulting televised statement.”
During the Bataan Death March, Japanese troops killed more than 10,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war during a five-day 65-mile march to a Japanese prison camp. Beatings and random executions were common, and hundreds died from heat, exhaustion, or starvation along the way. Once the survivors arrived at the camp, about 400 prisoners died every day from starvation or disease.
“There is no logical reason to compare the brutal imprisonment, suffering, tortures and executions faced by the heroic Fil-Am POWs/Death March WWII survivors with the victims of your grandstanding,” the group wrote.
On Monday, Cruz met with 96-year-old ACFV spokesman Mr. Celestino Almeda and 93-year-old Major Jesse Baltazar, a Bataan defender and prisoner of war. The senator apologized, explaining that his intentions were good:
CRUZ: I apologize for causing offense. I should not have said what I did. I’ll share with you the context of the comment I made because I was not attempting to compare my filibuster to that suffering. It was at the end of what had been nearly 22 hours and I was thanking the floor staff. There are a number of staff on the Senate floor who had to be there the whole night and they didn’t have a choice on it. So I actually put together a list of everyone on the floor staff and all of the police officers and all of the pages and everyone who was forced to stay there all night. And it was in the context of thanking them for enduring. And that’s when I used the analogy. I was trying to say that they had endured a long period of suffering not of their choosing. But I understand that that comment caused offense and I apologize, that was not my intention to do so. In fact my intention was to thank them for their service.
Top Republicans’ growing support for privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system is frightening some veterans groups.
These veterans advocates acknowledge the urgency of reform at the notoriously backlogged and scandal-ridden VA. But they do not believe private insurance or medical care is capable of accommodating veterans’ specific needs, and maintain that a voucher program for purchasing care outside the VA system will inevitably fall short of veterans’ expenses.
In September, the American Legion, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and five other leading national veterans service organizations wrote an open letter to GOP presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson,condemning his proposal to replace the VA with personal health savings accounts.
“To suggest that disabled veterans could be sent out into the private economy with a health savings account card overlooks the fact that civilian health care providers have waiting lists of their own, that private practices often limit the number of government plan patients they accept due to low reimbursement rates, and presupposes that civilian doctors have the necessary skill sets and training to meet the unique health needs of military veterans,” the groups wrote.
New poll results may give these organizations additional political leverage. Nearly two-thirds of veterans oppose “privatizing VA hospitals and services,” according to a poll released Tuesday by the Vet Voice Foundation. And some 80 percent of the veterans surveyed believe veterans “deserve their health care to be fully paid for, not vouchers which may not cover all the costs.”
A plurality of veterans, or 42 percent of those surveyed, agreed with the statement that the VA “needs more doctors,” according to the poll, indicating they believe the VA’s problems are at least partly due to a personnel shortage.
Although Vet Voice is a progressive organization, the poll of 800 veterans was jointly conducted by a Democratic polling firm and a Republican one.
“This poll confirms what nearly every veterans service organization has always said — privatization and voucherization of the VA is a non-starter for veterans,” retired Major General Paul D. Eaton, managing director of the Vet Voice Foundation, said in a statement. “There is a lot of debate about ‘choice’ in veterans care, but when presented with the details of what ‘choice’ means, veterans reject it.”
Vet Voice claims the poll is the first to ask veterans directly about “privatizing” the VA.
While Carson’s proposal to effectively disband the VA health system is the most radical of the GOP presidential contenders’ plans, other candidates are not far behind.
Donald Trump has laid out a plan that would have VA medical facilities compete with non-VA care providers. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has close ties to Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative, Koch Brothers-backed group that promotes privatizing the VA.
But perhaps the greatest threat to the traditional VA system remains the VA itself. In July 2014, Congress responded to rising public outcry about wait times for care at VA hospitals, as well as documented cases of deceit and retaliation against whistleblowers by VA officials, by passing bipartisan legislation to reform the agency and provide additional funding.
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