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 DonnellyGOP loses top Senate contenders Pruitt sworn in as EPA chief Dem senator: I may face 2018 primary from Tea Party-esque progressives MORE (D-Ind.), Al GreenAl GreenCBC to Trump: Keep Richard Cordray, ensure the protection of American consumers WHIP LIST: More than 60 Dems boycotting Trump's inauguration Obama promises not to twerk at WH concert 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 GrangerObama released 1M to Palestinians in final hours GOP recruitment goal: More women on ticket Texas GOP's only female lawmaker calls on Trump to step down MORE (R-Texas), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeGOP sets sights on internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: GOP chairman to propose high-skilled visa overhaul | Zuckerberg's 5,700 word letter | Tech lobbies gear up ahead of internet fight Senate Dem blasts GOP for trying to repeal broadband privacy rules 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 BurrJuan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away Report: Senate Intel Committee asks agencies to keep records related to Russian probe Comey meets Intel senators amid uproar over Trump-Russia ties 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 LevinSilencing of Warren another example of hyperpartisan Senate GOP going nuclear over Gorsuch might destroy filibuster forever Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-Mich.) earned a C this year, while Sen. John McCainJohn McCainTrump names McMaster new national security adviser How does placing sanctions on Russia help America? THE MEMO: Trump's wild first month 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 CochranMulvaney sworn in as White House budget chief Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief McCain announces opposition to Trump's pick for budget chief 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 BoehnerFormer House leader Bob Michel, a person and politician for the ages Former House GOP leader Bob Michel dies at 93 Keystone pipeline builder signs lobbyist MORE (R-Ohio) was graded a D.