Monday, November 16, 2009

Dr. No and the Wounded Veterans


A creative plan to help wounded veterans and their exhausted families adapt to the strain of long-term home care is on the brink of bipartisan approval — but for the familiar obstructionism of Senator Tom Coburn. This is one of the most deplorable displays by the lawmaker-physician, an Oklahoma Republican who relishes playing the self-styled budget hawk by putting attention-grabbing holds on crucial legislation.

The urgently needed legislation consolidates more than a dozen improvements in veterans’ health care — most notably a new assistance program for family members who wind up providing lifelong home nursing to severely disabled veterans. These vital caregivers — who sacrifice careers and put huge strains on their own mental health — assume an obligation “that ultimately belongs to the government,” Senator Daniel Akaka, the bill’s chief sponsor, properly notes.

The measure also expands benefits for women veterans who suffered sexual trauma on duty, extends veterans’ care in rural areas, tightens quality control at V.A. hospitals, and ensures that catastrophically disabled veterans will not be charged for emergency services in community hospitals.

The omnibus legislation drew unanimous committee approval. But Senator Coburn objected to quick floor passage, demanding that the five-year, $3.7 billion cost be offset with immediate budget cuts. The senator’s argument rings hollow in the face of veterans’ suffering and the world of deficit budgeting brought on by his party’s tax cuts and zealous war investments.

Now he is demanding balanced books for wounded vets? Sheer embarrassment should drive the senator into retreat as he trifles with veterans’ needs and burnishes his petty role as Dr. No.

$3.7Bil over 5 years? That ain't shit, particularly when it comes to aid for Veterans. The Senate is the only place I've ever heard of where one man can stymie the wishes of 99 others just because he's an asshole. He oughta get his ass handed to him and the others should throw that rule out the window right along with him.

Ah, what am I thinkin'? Every Senator wants that little bit of petty power for himself should he need some air time. They'll throw that rule out when pigs fly. Maybe, but I doubt it.

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