Veterans group gives Congress low marks

An influential veterans group says a large number of lawmakers failed to help veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Action Fund is releasing its congressional report card on veterans’ issues Wednesday. The organization gave as many as 154 lawmakers D’s and F’s, while only 20 House and Senate lawmakers scored an A+ for “exceptional” handling of veterans’ issues. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tough reelection race, is the only senator to earn the highest grade. 

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By comparison, 150 lawmakers earned an A+ on IAVA’s previous report card, in 2008 for the 110th Congress. This year’s number represents a nearly 87 percent decline in top honors. 

IAVA’s report card is based on lawmakers’ votes and sponsorship of bills in support of the organization’s legislative priorities, which include disability reform, predictable veterans’ affairs budgets and veterans’ employment and education, as well as eliminating veterans’ homelessness, improving healthcare for female veterans and easing the benefit claims process. 

The veterans organization said the grades are based solely on IAVA’s legislative priorities and are blind to party and ideology.

“The nonpartisan report card is a critical tool for holding these lawmakers accountable and showing America just how little Congress got done this year for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of the IAVA Action Fund, said in an e-mailed statement. “Heading into the midterm elections, it is important that every American knows who in Washington really supports Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and who is just full of hot air.”

Aside from Lincoln, House lawmakers earned the rest of the top distinctions. Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), John Boccieri (D-Ohio), Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyLawmakers sport LSU gear at baseball game in honor of Scalise Senate votes to continue arming Saudis As Yemenis suffer the consequences Overnight Defense: Mattis defends Trump budget | Senate rejects effort to block Saudi deal | Boeing to cut 50 executive jobs MORE (D-Ind.), Al GreenAl GreenCongressional Black Caucus calls on Trump administration to invest in prosecuting hate crimes Scalise ally, a Dem, leads fight to boost lawmaker security Dem leaders: Cool it on impeachment MORE (D-Texas), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickWomen make little gains in new Congress McCain wins sixth Senate term In Arizona, history and voter registration data gives GOP edge MORE (D-Ariz.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Tom Perriello (D-Va.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) are the other lawmakers who earned an A+.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is the only politician in the upper chamber who outright failed IAVA’s scorecard, and for the second time in a row. DeMint is joined by several House lawmakers who also received an F, including Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Kay GrangerKay GrangerWeek ahead: House digs into annual defense bill Overnight Defense: Senate approves Russia, Iran sanctions | GOP chair expects to surpass Trump defense budget | Nude photo scandal could lead to court-martial Defense appropriations chairwoman expects to surpass Trump budget MORE (R-Texas), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOPINION: ObamaCare by another name is still ObamaCare Senate should seek to retain its 'blue slip' tradition for judicial nominees Progressives target Heller and Flake on Senate GOP bill MORE (R-Ariz.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), Steve King (R-Iowa), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).

The Senate leaders of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Richard BurrRichard BurrAn unlikely home in DC Senate intel panel to hold hearing on Russian meddling in Europe The Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-N.C.), scored a B and a C, respectively. The chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee scored even lower: Sen. Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump's crush on foreign autocrats threatens democracy at home OPINION: Congress must press forward with its Russia investigation Democrats and Republicans share blame in rewriting the role of the Senate MORE (D-Mich.) earned a C this year, while Sen. John McCainJohn McCainGOP governors could help bring down Senate health bill Lawmakers wary of Trump escalation in Syria Senators urge Trump to do right thing with arms sales to Taiwan MORE (R-Ariz.) earned a D. 

The leading appropriators who control the Veterans’ Affairs budget and other veteran-related funding, Sens. Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonCourt ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting MORE (D-S.D.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), scored an A and a D, respectively. Appropriations Defense leaders Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Thad CochranThad CochranOvernight Finance: CBO finds 22M more uninsured under Senate health bill | GOP agrees ObamaCare taxes must go | Supreme Court to look at Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections | More tax reform hearings | Green light for partial travel ban | Senate Dems set principles for potential budget negotiation Defense hawks gird for budget brawl MORE (R-Miss.) scored a B and a D, respectively. 

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, did not fare any better than his Senate counterpart, Akaka. Filner scored a B, while ranking member Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) earned an F from IAVA. Rep. Zach Wamp (Tenn.), the leading Republican on veterans’ affairs matters, also received the failing grade, while Rep. Chet Edwards (Texas), the leading Democrat, earned an A.

Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.), the leading lawmakers on military matters, also did not score very high. Skelton earned a B, McKeon and Dicks a C and Young an F. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not receive a grade because as Speaker she often does not cast votes. House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn BoehnerChaffetz calls for ,500 legislator housing stipend GOP super-PAC promises big spending in 2018 Ryan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes MORE (R-Ohio) was graded a D.