I joined a rally the weekend of January 10, 2015, at the site of an abandoned hospital in Smyrna, Georgia, a state with one of the highest populations of Veterans. They weren’t asking for subsidies or lobbying for a handout. Instead, these men and women were asking for something even more impossible: quality healthcare in exchange for putting their body, mind and soul in harm’s way for the safety and security of all American Citizens.
Response from local City Council members regarding their ask for the abandoned facility has been dead air with the exception of one Councilman, Wade Lnenicka, a former U.S. Ranger who is leading the fight. An inquiry to the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Johnny Isakson who also happens to be Georgia’s senior Senator, couldn’t even get them past the front line of staff members. ”We didn’t want to bother him over the holidays,” politely challenged Lnenicka. (Isakson has been busy pushing for the Keystone Pipeline). There is $6.4 million appropriated for a facility, but Isakson’s office appears to be pushing for a brand new facility, which will take years. There are currently no VA medical facilities in Cobb County, Georgia following the recent closure of a clinic. Cobb has the second largest concentration of Veterans in the state and many still are are waiting lists to be seen by doctors.
Veterans are definitely not feeling the love from Congress and, some might argue, never really have. While the American public is clearly on their side, it seems they will need to raise their voices in support of them before any politician will act. Unfortunately, and this is perhaps one of the biggest disconnects, politicians have provided some legislation, but it hasn’t been to help the Vets, it appears to be more self-serving.
Representatives Tammy Duckworth, a Veteran herself and Kristi Noem sponsored the “Military Opportunities for Mothers (MOM) Act” last year, a measure that each bragged “would lengthen the time military women can take off for the birth of a child from six weeks to 12 weeks.” At the time, both were running for a second term in Congress AND both were running against Veterans so it was imperative to do something to appear focused on the military, but their bill feel short of actually doing anything..
“Mothers in the military inevitably face separation from their children when they are deployed and serving our nation around the globe,” said Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran. “Extending maternity leave for these women is the least we can do for those who sacrifice so much for our country.” Is it the least? The extended leave is unpaid. Six weeks without pay and then back to fight to the death if necessary for our country? Seems like it needs some financial incentive in order to feel like her quote makes sense. Now 24 Senators have either sponsored or co-sponsored the “Hire More Heroes Act,” which sounds a lot like its about hiring our heroes (just a name). Instead, it is a swipe at the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a disturbing characterization of our service men and women.
In a press release, Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina says, “The ‘Hire More Heroes Act,’ legislation [is] aimed at encouraging companies to hire more American veterans, while providing relief from the burdensome Obamacare employer mandate.The ‘Hire More Heroes Act’ is a common sense piece of legislation that will ensure that the healthcare our veterans receive through TRICARE or the VA is not counted toward the Obamacare employer mandate threshold, which will help encourage small businesses to hire more veterans.” Just to remind you, the ACA requires employers with 50+ employees to offer minimum health care benefits to their employees or be fined. So the “Hire More Heroes Act” says: In order to incentivize hiring Vets you can hire them, but not count them and make them keep the healthcare benefits that still aren’t giving them the care they need.
I have news for these Senators below, our Veterans are hoping for something a little better. Let’s really start focusing on the men and women who served the United States of America so unselfishly. If you want to join our abandoned hospital VA fight, visit http://www.facebook.com/SmyrnaVA.
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Hoeven (N.D.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), John McCain (Ariz.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Pat Roberts (Kan.), John Thune (S.D.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and David Vitter (La.)
Kathy Scott is from the Greater Atlanta area and specializes in Public Relations and Communications.