Washington , DC - With John McCain scheduled to address the 109th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. in Orlando, Florida, U.S. Army Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.), Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX), Chairman of the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, and Army veteran Brian McGough, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, held a press conference call on John McCain's record on veterans' issues.
The audio of the call can be heard at the following link:
Below are excerpts of the call:
Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.)
"There's a great myth that the Republican Party has propagated that they're good for defense, better for defense than the Democratic Party, and that they're good for veterans. And in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. We have suffered eight years of significant underfunding and underfocus from this Administration, and my great fear is that Senator McCain would continue that process…
"I'd like to address this last assault on veterans and the benefits that we have promised every man and woman who have served in the armed forces of the United States. This Senator McCain initiative and comment that he submitted to a town hall meeting that we…needed to ration health care to veterans is absolutely bankrupt thinking. And I have served with too many soldiers and I have witnessed too many dramas in the soldiers' lives, and that of their families. The last thing we need to do is ration health care under the guise that we're only going to give it to men and women who have been injured in direct combat. I don't know how you categorize that, and define that issue, but it does once again back up the Bush Administration's approach to underfund the Veterans Administration and to underserve the veterans who have fought so well for this country."
Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX)
"All Americans, myself included, deeply respect Sen. McCain's military service and sacrifice in the Vietnam War. But, most Americans would be surprised and disappointed to find out that Sen. McCain has repeatedly voted against improved health care and benefits for millions of veterans. It's difficult to understand how, during a time of war, that Sen. McCain can support massive tax cuts for Exxon-Mobil and people making over $1 million a year, while saying, via his votes, that we cannot afford to increase funding for veterans' health care and benefits."
"Lifetime voting record from the DAV for John McCain is 39%, and for Barack Obama it's 89%. I think that will surprise a lot of Americans and disappoint a lot of veterans. The Iraq and Afghan war veterans give John McCain a "D," as in David, and Obama a "B+," as in Brother.
[10:35] "I think, despite his service, distinguished service to our country, his political record on veterans has been out of touch and often wrong."
"I was in the Army for 11 years. I was in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was injured in Iraq. I've been fighting for veterans' benefits and veterans' rights for a long time. Sen. McCain has a pattern of trying to fix veteran issues by cutting corners, plain and simple. The Webb/Hagel GI bill is a good example of that. Sen. McCain was opposed to the bill from day one. Now, that bill passed both the House and the Senate, which is great news. Under that bill, I would be able to go to college while getting a stipend and having the VA pay for all of my books, all of my labs. Sen. McCain tried to introduce a bill that would have just given the old Montgomery GI bill a little bit of a bump, and people would have had to stay in service for anywhere from 6 to 12 years to get that."
"I have a friend who actually lost his leg in a training incident. So if were to ration health care to only combat veterans we would be saying to him that his service, where he lost a leg in a training incident where an artillery round went off to close to him, his service isn't good enough, because he got wounded before he went to combat. It wasn't his choice not to go to combat, he got wounded in an accident training to go to combat. And we can't tell people that just because they didn't go to combat they don't need care. It's the veterans affairs hospital, Veterans Administration, not the combat-wounded hospital."