GOP: Stop Acting Like You Give a Damn About Our Veterans

Two weeks ago Mark Kirk, US Senator (R-IL), dropped $800,000 on an ad buy to attack his Democratic opponent, a veteran and Purple Heart recipient, for her positions on national security. Yes, you read that correctly. Mark Kirk is claiming that Representative (and Senate hopeful) Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a veteran who lost both her legs in Iraq, is weak on terror and threatens our nation’s security because she signed on to support the acceptance of 200,000 Syrian refugees.

This ad was just the bitter dessert that concluded a five course meal of insults.

Senator Kirk released this ad in response to Representative Duckworth’s comments that Mark Kirk and Donald Trump share responsibility in the radicalization of American Muslims by demonizing the already marginalized group of people, and playing “right into ISIS’s hands.”

Before releasing the attack ad against the purple heart recipient, he first called her a “naive fool” for believing that terrorists are inspired by lawmakers. Is this guy for real?

It gets worse.

Senator Mark Kirk took his grievances to Twitter - as any mature adult would. He tagged Representative Duckworth in a variety of tweets that claimed she “lives in a fantasy world”, that her “misunderstanding” of Islam would put innocent American lives at risk, and that “she does not understand the threat to our nation.”

Well Senator Kirk, Representative Duckworth has a Purple Heart, a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington, served for ten years as a lieutenant colonel with the Army National Guard, received a nomination from the United States President to serve as the Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, and a severe war injury that has disabled her for life. Could these things prove that… maybe...just maybe...she not only understands the dire threats facing our nation, but that she has personally lived it.

Let’s not forget that Senator Kirk is also a veteran. He served as a Commander in the Navy Reserve and participated in Operation Northern Watch in Iraq. This is what makes this exchange so ironic. Mark Kirk is a veteran who seems to be anti-veteran, not just in implying that a Purple Heart recipient is weak on terror, but by voting against bills that protect veterans.

In 2003, Senator Kirk voted against repairing military equipment which would have ensured that the troops we sent to Iraq would be properly prepared for their mission. The Washington Post analysed the bill saying, "The funding would have helped pay for the medical and dental screening of military reservists, family assistance centers, pre-paid phone cards for the troops in Iraq, the transportation of troops on rest-and-relaxation leave, the construction of more water treatment and power plants for the deployed troops, and for the repair and replacement of damaged equipment."

In 2014, he did the same damage to our veterans and troops once again by voting against the most comprehensive veterans’ benefits bill to ever be considered by Congress. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits & Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014, the bill introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders would have created, expanded, advanced, and extended a wide array of VA health care and benefits services. The bill would also have provided for the expansion of the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance Program to veterans of all conflicts. The bill also called for advancing appropriations authority for VA’s mandatory funding accounts such as compensation and pension, education benefits, dependency and indemnity compensation so that in the event of a future government shutdown, veteran benefits and payments were not delayed.

Senator Kirk is, unfortunately, just one of the countless number of Republicans who claim they love and respect our veterans, yet vote against bills that assist them. The GOP only seems to care about our troops when it keeps our perpetual war machine running. Somehow, they always find the funds for our troops to be sent to war, but seem to fall short when it comes to compensating and caring for these heroes when they return home.

Here are some excellent examples of Republicans pretending they give a damn about veterans and voting against their interests...

The Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act of 2010 -The bill was introduced to expand assistance for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children, and to increase federal grant programs to address veteran homelessness. The bill was shut down by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell because the price of basic human rights for those who risked their lives for us was just a price tag the government that sent them to war couldn’t afford.

Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012 - This bill was introduced to establish the Veterans Jobs Corps to provide employment for over 20,000 veterans through public work projects in their own communities. The bill was blocked by Senate Republicans because there was no proposed way to pay for the costs, HOWEVER those same Republicans simultaneously proposed a bill to increase military spending with zero proposed ways to pay for the costs. In addition to that, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went on the record saying “We Republicans remain resolute in our commitment to deny the Democrats anything that looks like an accomplishment in an election year.” Yes, that is right - Republicans turned down employment opportunities for 20,000 veterans because they didn’t want Democrats to look good.

Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 - Senator Kirk was joined by 40 of the other 45 Republican Senators in his vote against this bill that would have expanded healthcare and education for all veterans.

Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2014 - This bill, which was originally bipartisan, was proposed to provide fertility treatment and counseling for severely wounded veterans and their spouses. Republicans saw a bill for women and thought hey, what a great time to include a provision to prevent any involvement with Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of women’s health care. The bill died once Senate Republicans added this amendment.

Veterans Affairs Funding Bill 2015 - The House Appropriations Subcommittee removed more than $1.4 billion in veteran services from President Obama’s 2016 budget. These cuts included $690 million for VA medical care and $582 million in VA construction projects. Over 70,000 veterans will not be able to receive care because of, you guessed it, the Republicans who demanded these cuts.

Senator Kirk’s ad, full of fear invoking half-truths, concludes with the question: Who do you trust to keep your family safe?

Well, Senator Kirk, I am glad you asked, because it is not you or the party you are affiliated with.

Let’s make a compromise with Republicans like Senator Mark Kirk who vote against our veterans - if you are unwilling to take care of our veterans and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, stop sending them to war.