Veterans for Common Sense released the following statement after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid officially stated that President George W. Bush vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, HR 1585, which contained the “Dignity for Wounded Warriors” provisions.
Veterans for Common Sense believes President George W. Bush’s actions to veto the Defense bill are unconscionable because he needlessly delayed the implementation of several new key provions designed to assist our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans that were crafted after the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal became national news in February 2007.
VCS supports an immediate override of President Bush’s veto by both the House and Senate. VCS thanks Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for passing the “Dignity for Wounded Warriors” bill, S 1606, last year and adding it to the Defense bill that President Bush unfortunately vetoed.
This vital legislation would have provided up to five years of free medical care for our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. Currently, our veterans receive only two years of free VA healthcare, starting from the date they are discharged.
If the bi-partisan bill had become law, then our wounded, injured, and ill veterans would have had streamlined policies so they would not fall through the cracks while waiting months for VA healthcare and benefits. The President’s offer to make the benefits retroactive by signing a new bill at an uncertain future date does nothing for our veterans and their families who are waiting now – VA reports a total of 600,000 veterans from all wars are waiting more than six months to receive VA benefits.
VCS remains highly disappointed that President Bush failed to work with Congress and veterans groups on this important legislation assisting our service members and veterans. The President should not have waited until the 11th hour to veto this important bill that cleans up the terrible mess he created by failing to have a plan to care for the 264,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties already treated at VA hospitals and clinics. A Harvard University report issues last year estimates up to 700,000 new VA patients among the 1.6 million already deployed to the two war zones.
President Bush said he vetoed the Defense bill so that no one could sue the new Iraqi government. VCS disagrees with the President’s flawed reasoning. VCS strongly supports Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s provision that allows our former prisoners of war who were brutally tortured by the Iraqi government for months during the 1991 Gulf War to sue Iraq.