Thursday, June 12, 2008

While One Out Of Four American Homeless Are Veterans, Multimillionaire John McCain Draws $58,000 Per Year In Military Disability


The following story has been picked up by three different blogs; ToledoMudd, BlacklistedNews.com, and Americablog.com. The last link is difficult to reach; an alternative way is to go to the Americablog.com home page, select the 6-08 to 6-15 Archive, then scroll down almost to the bottom (story dated 6-8-2008).

It appears that, although John McCain is himself a multi-millionaire, and thanks to his status as a U.S. Senator, is also on the Congressional health plan, McCain also draws $58,000 per year in tax-free military disability. The cited justification is his service as a POW in Vietnam. Yet, despite all these advantages. McCain frequently votes against measures designed to expand benefits or health care opportunities for veterans, considering such measures to be "pork". Here's the pertinent part of the post from BlacklistedNews.com:

First off, I find it fascinating that John McCain, who is refusing to vote for the GI Bill for our troops because "it's too generous," is himself getting $58,000 a year, tax-free, from the US government for his military service. Had McCain been getting that amount every year since Vietnam, that would total $2,000,000 for the man who isn't into overgenerous government. I just find that interesting.

His staff responded with the classic "he was tortured for his country." Yeah, we get it. The torture card. It's to McCain what 9/11 was to Giuliani's candidacy - the never-ending name-drop. Though what McCain's staff actually said was downright, um, we're being nice to Clinton now, so I won't say Clintonian.

Here's the quote: McCain campaign strategist Mark Salter said Monday night that McCain was technically disabled. "Tortured for his country -- that is how he acquired his disability," Salter said.

Technically? What does that mean? Usually, it means that under the strict reading of the law, you're covered, but in fact it's kind of a nudge-nudge-wink-wink situation - that's what "technically" means. It's called parsing, which is something you do to "technically" claim something is true, when on its face it really isn't. So is McCain "technically" disabled, and taking $58,000 a year tax free from the government, or is he actually disabled? I would imagine there are other solders who are actually disabled who could use the money. And if he is actually disabled, just how disabled is he?



To add further insult to injury, a number of sources, most notably MSNBC and USA Today in November 2007, assert that at least one out of every four homeless people in this country is a military veteran. Fortunately, as you can see by the graphic, Alaska is nowhere near the top of the list for homeless veterans. Alaska strives to provide an ever-growing outreach to veterans, as documented HERE; Governor Sarah Palin is noteworthy for her respect and consideration towards veterans. Each year, Alaska communities hold annual standdowns for homeless veterans.

And Alaska's Congressional delegation is well-regarded by at least some veterans' organizations. Senator Ted Stevens' VoteSmart record shows good ratings from the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America. Senator Lisa Murkowski's VoteSmart record likewise shows good ratings from the same organizations, although for some reason, these two lawmakers don't seem to connect well with the Disabled American Veterans. In contrast, Congressman Don Young's VoteSmart record shows that he connects superbly with DAV, although he's weak with some other veterans' groups. But in the final analysis, all the leading veterans' groups in Alaska at least enjoy some representation amongst Alaska's Congressional delegation.

But the same cannot be said for John McCain. Here are several examples of McCain's legislative disregard for veterans. McCain was one of only 13 senators to have voted against adding $430 million for inpatient and outpatient care for veterans [S Amdt. 3642 to HR 4939, Vote 98, 4/26/06]. MediaMatters discloses that on March 29th, 2007, McCain voted against H.R. 1591, an emergency spending bill that would have funded the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and would have provided more than $1 billion in additional funds to the Department of Veterans Affairs (McCain's overall Senate voting record can be viewed HERE). And these votes are hardly anomalies; John McCain's VoteSmart record reveals consistently low ratings assessed against him by a variety of veterans' groups.

So, considering John McCain's financial status, should he be receiving $58,000 per year in disability pay? The Veteran Administration's list of eight priorities shows that former POWs are assigned a Priority Three, with no other disabilities required. Allowing former POWs preferential access to VA health care regardless of any medical anomalies is considered a form of gratitude for having served as a POW, and I consider it justified. The financial criteria to qualify for VA health care, based upon a combination of income and net worth, is set forth HERE. The real issue here is NOT that McCain is getting the disability pay, but that he's voted against measures to increase and improve accessibility to the VA system for all veterans. Category VIII veterans have been denied all access to the VA system since 2003. So even though John McCain has his "iron rice bowl" from the government, he wants to cut off access to it for others. This undoubtedly contributes to the percentage of veterans who are homeless, and makes John McCain a world-class hypocrite.

The bottom line - know what you're voting for when you make your choice. While John McCain may be better for the country than Barack Obama, a vote for McCain is NOT a vote for veterans.

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