Vets group wants GOP ex-senator fired from debt panel over benefits comments

A group of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans called on President Obama to fire Alan Simpson from the White House fiscal commission for suggesting that veterans getting federal medical benefits are adding to the country’s debt problem.

VoteVets.org, which often works with liberal groups, seized on Simpson’s statement this week questioning a recent Obama administration rule that would expand medical benefits for Vietnam veterans and cost $42 billion over the next decade. The rule calls for disability awards for veterans exposed to Agent Orange and suffering from heart disease.

Simpson, the Republican co-chairman of Obama’s debt panel, told The Associated Press, "The irony [is] that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess."

VoteVets.org Chairman Jon Soltz said Thursday that his group had been concerned about Simpson since he started calling for changes to Social Security; last month, he compared the entitlement to a “milk cow with 310 million tits” in a sharply worded e-mail to the head of the Older Women’s League, who had dismissed the need for major Social Security reforms. 

Simpson's commission has looked at freezing military pay to save money, according to a TalkingPointsMemo report.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, the largest group of U.S. combat veterans, said Simpson's remarks were "totally irresponsible and potentially detrimental" to programs for disabled veterans.

"Regardless of his reasoning, Mr. Simpson is totally out-of-line to lay any part of the nation's economic woes on disabled veterans," said VFW national commander Richard L. Eubank.  "The VFW believes in fiscal responsibility, but veterans' programs are sacrosanct, and the day our government cannot afford to take care of veterans is the day our government should quit creating them."

In a letter to President Obama, Soltz said Simpson’s latest statement on veterans’ health benefits was the “final straw,” as it amounted to “blaming disabled veterans for the fiscal situation.”

“It has become all too clear that Sen. Simpson cannot be trusted to objectively review the budget and make impartial recommendations about our nation's economic priorities,” Soltz said. “We ask that you remove him from his current position so that the commission can continue its work in a way that will give the military community — and all Americans — confidence in the conclusions it reaches.”.

VoteVets.org, which often works with unions and other liberal groups, is the just the latest group on the left to press for Simpson’s firing. Women’s groups and some liberal Democrats in Congress last week called for Simpson’s ouster from the fiscal commission for his e-mail about Social Security to Ashley Carson, the executive director of the Older Women’s League

The White House has stood by Simpson so far. 

"We regret that he sent that e-mail,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday. “We don't condone those comments. Sen. Simpson has and will continue to serve on the commission."