DISAMBIGUATION NOTICE: This is the webpage for Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), a 501(c)(3) veterans service organization (VSO) based in Washington, DC – not to be confused with the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense or Florida Veterans for Common Sense or the Florida Veterans for Common Sense Fund.

Read more about us — VCS — here.  

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U.S. SENATORS TAMMY BALDWIN AND JERRY MORAN INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO EXPAND ACCESS TO CHIROPRACTIC HEALTH CARE FOR CURRENT AND FORMER MILITARY PERSONNEL

Bipartisan bill requires TRICARE to cover chiropractic services for military retirees and members of the National Guard and Reserve

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) today introduced bipartisan legislation to expand chiropractic health services for military retirees and members of the National Guard and Reserve. The Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act would require TRICARE to cover chiropractic services for all military service members, both active and retired, and non-activated reservists.

Currently, health care programs through the U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, do not cover chiropractic care for military retirees and non-activated reservists. Senator Baldwin’s bill continues her bipartisan efforts to address the opioid epidemic by expanding access to complementary and integrative health services, which includes chiropractic care, for members of the military and veteran communities to treat chronic pain.

“Military retirees, reservists and National Guard members have served and sacrificed for our nation and the freedoms we all cherish. We all have a shared responsibility to do right by them,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’ve heard from Wisconsin veterans who are in desperate need of chiropractic health services so they can access non-opioid pain management care and live healthier lives. My bipartisan legislation with Senator Moran would make sure these individuals can get the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

“Many of the retired servicemembers and Reservists who served our country have sustained back and other neuromusculoskeletal injuries that can be treated through chiropractic care,” said Senator Moran. “However, the Department of Defense offers limited access to chiropractic care for Active duty and certain members of the Reserve Component – leaving many in need at a disadvantage. I’ve long advocated for increased access to chiropractic care in the VA, and this legislation will similarly increase access to chiropractic care for all military enrollees by expanding TRICARE coverage for retirees and all reservists. The men and women who have served our nation deserve access to the same care they received while on active duty, and I’m pleased to introduce legislation that makes certain they do.”

“On behalf of the 45,000 members of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the nearly 500,000 soldiers and airmen of the National Guard, NGAUS is pleased to support this legislation addressing Chiropractic health care services for as part of the TRICARE program. NGAUS continues to advocate to close the current gaps in healthcare coverage for our National Guard service members. NGAUS believes this legislation is an important step in affording our reserve component service men and women the ability to access the types of healthcare their active duty counterparts receive. We would like to thank Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas for taking the lead on this initiative and for their continued support of our nation’s service men and women, especially our reserve component soldiers and airmen, in the National Guard and Reserve,” said J. Roy Robinson, Brigadier General (Ret.), President of the National Guard Association of the United States.

“Chiropractors have become valued members of the military healthcare team. Their non-drug, non-addictive and noninvasive approach to pain management is particularly relevant today for people who wish to avoid the risk of addiction from prescription opioid pain medications. This legislation will ensure that military retirees in the TRICARE system have access to the same effective, non-drug options for their pain,” said Dr. Ray Tuck, President of the American Chiropractic Association.

“As a member organization of the National Military and Veterans Alliance, the Armed Forces Retirees Association (AFRA) is pleased to collaborate with many other military and veterans service organizations in support of this legislation.  Many retirees benefited from chiropractic care while on active duty and these injuries need continued treatment upon retirement. Your legislation will provide continuity in care for retirees while also making chiropractic coverage available to certain reservists, recognizing that they often suffer from the same injuries as their active duty counterparts,” said Ted Painter, Executive Director of the Armed Forces Retirees Association (AFRA) and Co-Director of the National Military and Veterans Alliance.

“We deeply appreciate Senator Baldwin’s and Senator Moran’s work to help our military, and Veterans for Common Sense is in strong support of the Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act. Medicare already covers chiropractic care, but our career military retirees and their survivors and dependents can’t get it through TRICARE unless this legislation is enacted. And, I’ve experienced firsthand the benefits of chiropractic care, including improved mobility, chronic pain relief, and improved quality of life — all without addictive pain drugs or expensive and risky back surgery. This inequity literally hurts our military and must be fixed,” said Anthony Hardie, National Chair & Director of Veterans for Common Sense.

The Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act is supported by the American Chiropractic Association, the Military Officers Association of America, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Air Force Sergeants Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans for Common Sense, and the following members of the National Military and Veterans Alliance: American Military Society, American Retirees Association, Armed Forces Marketing Council, Armed Forces Retirees Association, Army and Navy Union, Association of the United States Navy, Military Order of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Order of World Wars, Reserve Officers Association, Society of Military Widows, The Independence Fund, and The Retired Enlisted Association.

More information about the legislation is available here.

***

SOURCE:  Press Release, Nov. 14, 2018

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Veterans for Common Sense plus 26 VSO’s oppose Dept. of Education rule that protects predatory for-profit schools over student veterans 

(Washington, D.C. – August 31, 2018)  Today, 27 veteran and military service organizations  including Veterans for Common Sense, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) submitted a public comment opposing key provisions of the U.S. Department of Education’s rewrite of the 2016 federal student loan Borrower Defense rule.

The public comment expresses

“…serious concerns about the impact of the rule on military-connected borrowers who were defrauded by predatory schools. As we wrote to you in July and September 2017, the Department should strengthen, not undermine, student protections.  In brief, we believe that the proposed rule effectively ends student loan forgiveness for the vast majority of defrauded students by introducing unwarranted restrictions on access to relief. The Department acknowledges that there will be significantly fewer claims under the proposed rule compared to the 2016 rule, reducing its claims processing workload. The corollary to the anticipated workload reduction will be to incentivize the aggressive recruiting of military-connected students by predatory schools that will escape accountability for the misrepresentations they rely on to encourage students to enroll.”

The public comment also includes quotes from veterans who have Borrower Defense applications pending at the Education Department, and includes an image of a redacted letter from ITT Tech to a veteran who had filed a complaint with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.  (In addition, nearly 10 veterans whom Veterans Education Success helps filed their own public comments about their experiences, and those are here.

In July, the New York Times reported that the Education Department planned to gut the Gainful Employment rule requiring minimum job success for career colleges in an article entitled, “Betsy DeVos to Eliminate Rules Aimed at Abuses by For-Profit Colleges“.  Similarly, Military Times reported, “Vets Could Be Hurt by Proposed $13 Billion Cut to Student Loan Relief.”

During both the 2016 and 2018 rulemaking negotiations, robust discussion occurred around key issues related to defining the standards and process for borrower defense, including eligibility, group discharges, time limits, the appropriate misrepresentation standard, evidentiary requirements, financial responsibility protections, and forced arbitration. Student and veterans’ advocates urged the Department to (1) focus on the systemic nature of misrepresentation by predatory schools by establishing a standard and process with minimal barriers to loan relief; (2) put in place financial responsibility standards that deter schools from engaging in risky behavior to ensure that taxpayers won’t be left holding the bag for student loan discharges; and (3) allow students to exercise their constitutional right to bring claims to impartial judges and juries.

Rather than protecting students and taxpayers, the proposed rule incentivizes bad behavior by predatory schools, sending the message that (1) few students will actually be eligible to file a borrower defense claim; (2) schools can engage in risky behavior with a reduced likelihood of being asked to provide financial guarantees to protect taxpayers from the cost of loan discharges; and (3) students will have no alternatives to forced arbitration, which exists primarily to shield predatory school behavior from scrutiny by both the public and by the U.S. Department of Education.

# # #

Veterans Education Success, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and defending the integrity and promise of the GI Bill and other federal education programs for veterans and servicemembers.  Veterans for Common Sense is an active member of with the Veterans Education Success coalition.

 

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80 Organizations urge U.S. Dept. of Education to implement a strong borrower defense rule

(Washington, DC – August 31, 2018) — Yesterday, 80 organizations and advocates working on behalf of student servicemembers and veterans submitted joint comments to the U.S. Department of Education on the proposed negotiated rulemaking to rewrite the borrower defense rule.  The organizations include Student Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Veterans for Common Sense, and veterans, higher education, consumer, and civil rights organizations.

The comments express emphatic support of strong borrower defense rules that hold colleges accountable and help make students whole. Borrower defense rules, which protect students and taxpayers from fraud, deception and other misconduct by unscrupulous colleges, both provide relief to students who have been cheated by illegal conduct and deter illegal conduct by colleges.

The comments urge the Department of Education to:

  • Create a fair process to provide relief to students who have been harmed.
  • Do not force harmed borrowers to default in order to apply for relief.
  • Protect borrowers’ right to their day in court.
  • Retain students’ ability to get a fresh start when their schools close.
  • Retain financial incentives designed to hold colleges accountable and protect taxpayers.

Click here to read the join comments letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos

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Home-health provider cuts off services to veterans when the VA fails to pay its bills; Veterans for Common Sense weighs in

(Londonderry, N.H. – August 14, 2018) — The Boston Globe today highlighted the serious negative effects on veterans of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) failing to pay its bills from healthcare providers, in an article entitled, “Home-health provider cuts off services to veterans when the VA fails to pay its bills.”

According to the story, “VA had failed to pay nearly $60,000 in bills dating to late last year” to a New Hampshire in-home healthcare provider, resulting in the service being cut off to veterans after more than eight months of VA delinquency and no end in sight.

Veterans for Common Sense weighed in on the situation from a national perspective:

The sprawling agency, the second-largest in the federal government, has faced repeated criticism for delayed payments to contracted companies and individuals. The concerns raised by the Sullivans — no answers to questions, long waits on hold, confusion even among VA officials about the agency’s payment system — have been voiced by a wide range of critics from veterans to lawmakers.

“This story of health care givers dropping out because the VA doesn’t pay its bills is common,” said Anthony Hardie, director of Veterans for Common Sense, a national advocacy group. “It’s hard to fault the company. It seems like there’s more interest in shuffling deck chairs at the VA than ensuring that the health care needs of these 16 veterans are met.”

According to the story:

“After giving the VA ample notice that we cannot continue this practice, we are now forced to temporarily discontinue services to the Manchester VA veterans until the balance is paid in full and we receive assurances that timely payments will follow in the future,” [the provider] wrote.

US Representative Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat who co-sponsored legislation signed this year to improve access to VA health care, wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Friday to demand he take “immediate action and pay all overdue claims to providers in New Hampshire.”

***
August 27, 2018 — Another version of the story was published by HomeCareDaily.com, entitled, “A Dysfunctional VA Makes It Difficult for Some Veterans to Retain Home Care Services.”

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Veterans for Common Sense plus 41 VSO’s oppose VA plan to waive federal ethics law for for-profit colleges

 (Washington, DC – June 20, 2018) — Today, 42 veterans and military service and other organizations including Veterans for Common Sense sent a letter (available here) to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opposing VA’s plan to waive federal ethics law for for-profit colleges.  The letter also urged VA to meet to chart a path forward. 

Background: 

In September 2017, VA proposed to waive Ethics Rules to allow for-profit colleges to give gifts, dividends, profits, ownership interests, salaries, wages to VA employees (Fed. Reg. notice here).    (See, e.g., September 2017 New York Times:  Veterans Agency Seeks to Scrap Ethics Law on For-Profit Colleges)
 
Many organizations including Veterans for Common Sense sent letters to VA in October urging VA not to waive the federal ethics law: 
  • 21 national veterans and military service organizations (Oct. 13, 2017) (click here)
  • Veterans Education Success (providing important historical and legal information) (Oct. 13, 2017) (click here)
  • 21 education, civil rights, and consumer organizations (Oct. 13, 2017) (click here)
  • Walter Shaub, former Director of the Office of Government Ethics, and Campaign Legal Center (Oct. 12, 2017) (letter here)
  • Center for Responsible Ethics in Washington (Oct. 12, 2017) (click here)
  • American Federation of Government Employees (Oct. 12, 2017) (click here)
  • Consumer organizations (Oct. 11, 2017) (press release here; letter here)
  • Service Women’s Action Network (click here)
  • Student Veterans of America (Oct. 9, 2017) (click here)
  • Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund (Oct. 14, 2017) (click here)
  • U.S. Senators Murray, Brown, Durbin and Warren (Oct. 5, 2017) (news release here, letter here)
  • U.S. Senator Carper (Oct. 6 2017) (click here)
  • The Century Foundation (Oct. 5, 2017) (click here)
  • Individual veterans at for-profit colleges share their experiences and object to VA’s proposal (click here)
After receiving this pushback, VA dropped its plan.  (See, e.g., October 2017 AP NewsBreak:  VA Abruptly Drops Plan to Suspend Ethics Law)  
 
New Development:
In May 2018 VA presented to veterans & military service organizations its revised plan to waive the federal ethics law for for-profit colleges to give gratuities, dividends, wages, salary, profits, and ownership interests to most VA employees.  This new letter sent today addresses this issue.
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Attorney who led VCS lawsuit against VA for veterans honored in series of articles about his legacy

A series of articles on toxic exposures in the June issue of The American Legion Magazine pays tribute to attorney Gordon Erspamer, whose many landmark cases in his distinguished career  included leading the Veterans for Common Sense lawsuit in 2007 against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The article by Ken Olsen, entitled, “Gordon Erspamer, a pro bono champion who improved benefits for generations of veterans,” describes the VCS vs. VA case and its significance for veterans.  Erspamer died of brain cancer in 2014.

Gordon Erspamer set out to fight for his father’s VA claim and changed the lives of millions of former servicemembers, winning disability benefits for atomic veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and treatment for Cold War veterans who were subjected to chemical weapons testing.

“‘He was tireless in fighting to make sure people who served their country got what they deserved,’ says Stacey Sprenkel, an attorney at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, which worked with Erspamer on some of his pro bono lawsuits. ‘He inspired a generation of us to advocate for veterans.’

“Sprenkel worked with Erspamer on Veterans for Common Sense v. Shinseki, which challenged delays in mental health care, delays in PTSD compensation claim decisions, and other significant issues faced by returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were taking their own lives at an unprecedented rate. They found evidence showing a veteran waited an average of about four years from the time they filed a VA claim to when they received a decision from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

“They lost when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal courts didn’t have jurisdiction to adjudicate the case. But the case focused media attention on the unmet mental health-care needs of post-9/11 veterans. VA created a national suicide hotline, placed suicide prevention coordinators in all VA medical centers, made it simpler for veterans with PTSD to file disability claims, and expanded care for returning veterans to five years.

“‘Gordy’s lawsuit resulted in improved VA care and benefits for millions of veterans, and that will last decades into the future – because he improved the system,’ says Paul Sullivan, who was executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, the lead plaintiff in the case, during the litigation. The lawsuit also forced VA to reveal that its own data showed 22 veterans a day were completing suicide.”

The full article is available in the June 2018 issue of The American Legion Magazine.  

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VCS Advocacy for Gulf War Veterans Highlighted in Three News Stories

A trio of Texas news articles highlights Gulf War veterans’ ongoing struggles with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the leading advocacy by Veterans for Common Sense on their behalf.

A pair of May 12, 2018 news stories reported:

“In a November meeting with [VA Secretary] Shulkin, veterans’ advocates said they were assured that improvements would be made. According to interviews with four people in the meeting, Shulkin agreed to set up a new VA-led working group to tackle longstanding problems related to claims. But Shulkin is gone and the VA leadership in flux. …

“Veterans for Common Sense director Anthony Hardie, a disabled Gulf War veteran, said Shulkin had agreed to everything asked of him.“He went for it all. I was surprised at what an easy sell it was. It’s really disappointing now because we thought we had a good shot at getting these things fixed,” Hardie said.

“VA spokesman Curt Cashour said in an email that there’s a plan for the working group veterans want. ”   [ READ FULL STORY (San Antonio Express-News) ] [Houston Chron version ]

And then a May 15 follow-on editorial by the San Antonio Express-News editorial board (“VA Should Pay More Heed to Gulf War Vets“) emphasized what VCS has been telling VA leaders and Congress for years:

“The nation is just shy of three decades since the 1991 Gulf War. Since then, there has been mounting evidence that unique events in that short war have had long-lasting health effects on the service members who served. …there shouldn’t be the [VA disability claims] rejection rates reported — higher than for other disabilities. It projects the appearance of foot dragging because the costs to treat may be deemed too high.”

There’s much that remains to be done to fix the 80 percent denial rate of Gulf War veterans’ VA claims, including legislation to fix unworkable “undiagnosed illness” claims, and fixing VA training programs and making them mandatory for all VA workers who have a role in denying them.

VCS and Gulf War veterans have found a strong ally in several national veterans service organizations, including The American Legion.  As stated in the May 12 news stories:

“Gulf War veterans by law are entitled to benefits if they have certain service-connected disabilities. They also may qualify under a “presumptive service connection” rule if they have multi-symptom diseases classified as undiagnosed.

“But, as Louis Celli, the American Legion’s director of veterans’ affairs, notes: “Doctors don’t want to say ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you,’ so they will send you to somebody else. Getting an undiagnosed illness as a diagnosis is very difficult.””

 

Posted in Gulf War, Legislative News, VCS In The News | 1 Comment

Veterans for Common Sense Opposes Torture, Haspel Nomination

 

(Washington – May 8, 2018)  – Veterans for Common Sense, a national veterans organization, today released the following letter opposing torture and the nomination of Gina Haspel to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency:

*****

May 8, 2018

Senator Richard Burr, Chairman                                 Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member
United States Senate                                                      United States Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence                              Select Committee on Intelligence
211 Hart Senate Office Building                                 211 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510                                              Washington, DC  20510

VIA FACSIMILE: (202) 224-1772

 

SUBJECT:  Opposition to Torture and the Nomination of Gina Haspel to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

 

Dear Senator Burr, Senator Feinstein, and Members of the Committee,

Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) is in support of a well-qualified, long-term careerist, and first-ever woman being confirmed as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  However, it is our position that this nominee, Gina Haspel, is disqualified from serving as Director of the CIA due to her recent past actions.

To be eminently clear, VCS has since its inception repeatedly demonstrated forceful support for the rule of law and equally forceful opposition to the use of torture.  Consistent with that history, we are strongly opposed to the U.S. Senate confirming the nomination of Gina Haspel to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on the basis of her demonstrated record of helping to lead illegal torture, helping to lead the destruction of evidence of it, and failing to uphold the rule of law.

 

On VCS:

VCS was formed in 2002 and incorporated in 2003 by U.S. war veterans with deep concerns in the spirit of U.S. Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine regarding U.S. national defense, international relations, and veterans’ affairs.  Beginning shortly after our organizational inception, VCS has helped expose the actuality, extent, and impact of U.S. torture in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2003, VCS joined the American Civil Liberties Union and several other organizations in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking the release of documents related to the U.S. use of torture.  Ultimately, as reported at the time by the Associated Press, the records released under the FOIA included 42 autopsy reports of detainees who died while in the custody of the U.S. military or another U.S. government agency.  The autopsy reports described in detail the preponderance of evidence of extensive, brutal torture.  The reports classified 21 of the deaths as homicides and the majority of the remainder as deaths from heart attack – evidently as the result of torture.

In 2004, VCS was one of the first veterans’ organizations to call for an investigation of U.S. torture and to call for holding accountable all those responsible including those who had command responsibility.  VCS co-led a multi-organizational campaign to “Honor the Legacy” of WWII veterans, including the achievement of the Geneva Conventions developed following the investigation and prosecution of WWII war crimes.  The campaign also rallied support for efforts by U.S. Senators John McCain and Patrick Leahy and others in Congress to investigate U.S. involvement in torture.  Ultimately, over 50,000 people signed the Honor the Legacy petition, with considerable support from military retirees.

We remain firm that we as a nation must honor our commitment to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) signed and/or ratified by the U.S.  We also remain firm that torture of any detainee, regardless of whether or not he or she is a member of a nation-state’s military, is illegal under U.S. and international law – including these Conventions to which the U.S. is a party – and that waterboarding constitutes torture.

 

On the use of torture: 

1) The use of torture is counter-effective.  Intelligence and interrogation specialists consistently underscore the facts that torture is ineffective, is counterproductive, and other interrogation methods that do not involve torture are in fact effective.  As noted in the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2015 Law of War Manual: “the law of war’s prohibitions on torture and unnecessary destruction are consistent with the practical insight that such actions ultimately frustrate rather than accomplish the mission.”  Your own committee’s 2014 report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs found that waterboarding and other torture not only didn’t work in eliciting actionable intelligence or foiling terrorist plots but led to fabricated information.  War veterans know better than many that failure to heed past lessons learned can be expected to worsen the situation on the ground, potentially for years to come.

2) An important theme in the military’s 2006 counterinsurgency operations manual was that “…using force precisely and discriminately strengthens the rule of law that needs to be established.” [emphasis added].  By contrast, the use of torture circumvents and undermines the rule of law, becomes fodder for enemy and insurgent propaganda, and undermines long-term victory.

3) The U.S. use of torture encourages others to torture and puts Americans at greater risk of torture when captured, including U.S. military personnel, other U.S. government personnel, and U.S. civilians. Furthermore, the use of torture increases the risk of mental health conditions, including to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury, in the U.S. military or other government personnel conducting, involved in, and witnessing torture.

4) The use of torture by the U.S. diminishes the world’s view of the U.S. and jeopardizes U.S. operational capabilities.  According to a December 20, 2011 CIA disciplinary review memo involving Haspel and her superior officer, the “publication of the tapes [showing detainee interrogations and torture] would damage the domestic and international standing of the CIA, perhaps significantly degrading our operational capabilities. … the worldwide reaction to the leak of photos of the actions of US military personnel at Iraq’s Abu Ghuraib [sic] prison in April 2004 cemented his view that the tapes represented a threat to his officers and the Agency.”  Furthermore, torturing these detainees almost certainly destroyed any possibility of lawfully convicting them in a court based on the rule of law.

5) Most importantly, the use of torture is contrary to both U.S. and international law and is a war crime.  The U.S. led the way in establishing definitive anti-torture international law, to the extent of carrying out the execution of war criminals convicted during the Nuremberg trials.  The U.S. also established precedent in prosecuting Japanese military personnel for a form of waterboarding.  It remains our deep concern that U.S. personnel were not held accountable for their actions in the torture of detainees from operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.  Again, waterboarding is torture; indeed, after World War II, the U.S. prosecuted Japanese military personnel as war criminals for waterboarding U.S. prisoners of war, thereby setting a clear legal precedent that waterboarding is an illegal and punishable form of torture.

 

On the nomination of Gina Haspel:

In publicly released documentation, this nominee has been shown to not only condone the use of torture, but to have been directly involved in the use of torture by U.S. government personnel.

Furthermore, the 2011 CIA memo noted above documented her personal involvement in destroying evidence, including her role in the issuance of orders to destroy tapes of detainee interrogations, which included the use of torture.  That memo also describes an egregious failure to notify Congress of the tapes’ destruction.

Finally, despite U.S. and international law prohibiting the use of torture and despite the firmly established precedents of U.S. prosecution of the use of torture as war crimes, it is clear from Ms. Haspel’s recent past support for the use of torture that she will not put the rule of law first and will not challenge illegal orders.  As the 2011 CIA memo noted, there is no “good soldier” defense in the case of an act that violates the law.

We call on you and all members of the United State Senate to firmly oppose this nomination and to send a clear message to past, current, and future Administrations that the use of torture by the U.S. will not and must not be accepted, permitted, or condoned.

Sincerely,

VETERANS FOR COMMON SENSE

Anthony Hardie,
National Board Chair & Director

Cc:
Senator John McCain
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Rand Paul

******

Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) was founded in 2002 by U.S. war veterans and with roots in the pragmatic ideals of Thomas Paine.  VCS works to raise the voices of veterans for the betterment of current and former military service members and the nation they protect.

 

# # #

Posted in Legislative News, Uncategorized, VCS In The News | 1 Comment

VCS Statement on Veterans Affairs Secretary

VCS Statement on Veterans Affairs Secretary

(Washington – March 22, 2018)  – Veterans for Common Sense, a Washington, DC-based veterans organization, today released the following 500-word statement in response to current public discussion regarding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary.

***

The battle over the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary is about the future of caring for the nation’s veterans.  On one side are powerful interests aimed at privatizing and profiteering from VA healthcare, backed by the Koch Brothers and their front organization, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA).

On the other are the nation’s venerable Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) standing shoulder-to-shoulder to oppose privatization-profiteering and the injury it would inflict on our nation’s already service-disabled veterans.

Recent news stories help highlight some of this.  After a damaging Inspector General report emerged, VA Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., whose appointment had been confirmed by the Senate 100-0, moved quickly to fix the identified issues.

Perhaps most telling is the response by the four corners of the Congressional oversight committees.  Following the “damning” IG report, their seen-it-all-before quiet response was merely to sign a joint letter — all four of them, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate united — that amounted to a tap on the wrist and a clarion call for renewed focus caring for the nation’s veterans.

Supported by the VSOs, Shulkin appeared to have crushed the coup, with professed White House support for both him and his vow to remove the conspirators from within VA.  They include a former CVA leader and a Wisconsin brewery scion with no VA or healthcare management experience.

Next, enter President Donald Trump.  In a made-for-reality-TV plot twist, one news outlet reported that Trump, in his Oval Office meeting with Shulkin, interjected on speaker phone none other than pro-privatization Pete Hegseth — head of the Koch-backed CVA and of Fox & Friends fame.

Rumors abound that Trump may yet fire Shulkin, who has reportedly been prevented from removing any of the conspirators.

A recent USA Today editorial by the Executive Director of AMVETS, one of the nation’s largest VSOs, makes clear the critical stakes of privatization if Trump fires the “embattled” VA Secretary in favor of the Kochs’ interests, their CVA brainchild, and their privatization-profiteering that is perhaps being made more attractive by offering to save a buck — on the broken backs of service-disabled veterans.

Veterans for Common Sense publicly supported Trump’s elevation and appointment of Dr. Shulkin, noting in light of privatization rumors we were “relieved”.  We publicly called on the new Administration to fully fund the VA, fix VA’s many challenges, and ensure veterans receive the assistance they need at the time they need it.

Many veterans believed Trump as President would improve their VA care.  When we met with Secretary Shulkin in Washington before Christmas, we found him amendable to positive change for serious problems facing our nation’s Gulf War veterans.

We should never stand for corruption in government.  But in Washington, as in Hollywood, things are often not what they seem.   Whatever the outcome of this latest scene, our service-disabled veterans are counting on the President to protect them from getting stuck with bills for denied healthcare services – which is the only way those pushing privatization will profit from their behind-the-scenes schemes for the VA.

Founded in 2002 by war veterans and with roots in the pragmatic ideals of Thomas Paine, Veterans for Common Sense works to raise the voices of veterans for the betterment of current and former military service members and the nation they protect.

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VCS fighting to protect Defense medical research

(Washington — February 28, 2018) — Veterans for Common Sense this week was among 111 organizations to send a letter to Congressional leadership of the Armed Services committees expressing concern about possible renewed efforts to that would have a detrimental impact on research at the Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and other medical research conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

According to the letter:

“Last year, the fiscal year 2018 NDAA reported by the Senate Committee on Armed Services and ultimately approved by the Senate included provisions that would have individually and collectively restricted, if not outright prohibited, medical research on diseases and disorders that affect our nation’s men and women who serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Services.  These provisions (sections 733, 891, 892, and 893 of the Senate bill) would have restricted the types of research that could be funded, and added burdensome contracting and auditing requirements designed for large weapons system contracts.  Moreover, one of these provisions (Section 733) would have affected all medical research at DoD, not just the CDMRP.”

Those provisions were ultimately rejected by Congress, but only after a sustained, all-out battle led by the Defense Health Research Consortium (DHRC), which advocates for medical research within the DoD, especially the CDMRP.  Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) is a charter and executive committee member of the DHRC.  This week’s letter was also led by the DHRC.

VCS  has led extensive, annual national advocacy efforts that result in Congress funding the unique, treatment-focused Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) — and more recently the Burn Pits Exposure topic area — within the DoD CDMRP.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

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