Texas Campaign Diary: Fighting for Veterans

The days have been filled with radio, television, print interviews and the issue which has taken the forefront is military and veterans affairs. We've kept up the pace of press releases, and the comments by our opponent in the Rio Grande Valley, at a military cemetery, complaining of her D+ rating and, after thirteen years, conceding that a VA Hospital for South Texas was a necessity, have stirred much interest in why South Texas veterans are so ill served.

After a round of interviews and immediate news site postings, Big Spring VA served veterans contacted me and complained of the cutbacks in services. When they asked why, they were quietly informed of a fifty percent cut in budget, and Abilene veterans are up in arms.

In interviews, I detailed the GAO report on the looming VA scandal: the VA conformed its budget requests to whatever the President dictated in his budget figures. Since the needs were underestimated by three to four billion dollars, the VA had to falsely include "efficiencies", accounting terms which made it wrongly appear that certain cost saving measures were implemented and would save money. In truth, the entries were accompanied by nothing: no programs and no savings.

We sent to the reporters the Congressional Record excerpts from April 2005, when Sen. Hutchison stood on the floor of the senate, read a letter from the VA, and rubberstamped the administration's falsely low budget request, refused the information available from the leading veterans' organizations and her colleagues, who warned her of a more than $2 billion shortfall. She used her power to defeat the needed VA funding.

As we reported during the campaign at the time, scandal erupted when the administration admitted the shortfall, but at the time did not admit the use of the unacceptable false accounting devices. Many were outraged that the "mistakes" appeared to be a failure to take into account returning Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans.

A terrible shortfall exists to this day, and Texas is hardest hit, with disproportionately high numbers of injured and minority veterans with no safety net. Texas is number two in the country for veterans turned away from VA care.

What we try to convey via earned media and with radio (I've spent 420,000 dollars on radio ads in our target vote plan areas): If Sen. Hutchison is re-elected, Texas' senior senator will not use her power any better than she has for the last thirteen years. She will cut and run from office and refuses to pledge to stay in office for the six-year term. She has $9.5 million in her campaign fund, and that money will fuel whatever further political or retirement plans she has.

The issues chart in the www.radnofsky.com issues section lists, in footnotes, a long list of Sen. Hutchison's anti-military, anti-vet votes. She has never championed or advocated for a VA Hospital South Texas, a necessity. Never has she requested the hospital be funded or built. She's never introduced a bill for it. All she's requested is a study.

The recent flurry of activity has again raised my prediction she'll quit. She won't pledge to stay in office for her term, if re elected.

The recent media interest has also allowed for discussions (we'll see if they make it into the stories) of my proposals for
- Assured funding mechanism for VA
- VA Hospital for South Texas
- Group 8 Veterans' benefits
- A GI Bill for the 21st Century
- Discharge briefings for military personnel so they know their rights
- Depleted uranium screening
- Ending the widow's tax and disability/pension offsets
- Ending unfair lending practices targeting our military personnel