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Coburn Blocking Veterans Benefits Bill

November 11, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

It’s Veterans Day, and, appropriately, the Senate has been trying to finalize their work on a bill to improve health care for veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a summary prepared by the Democrats, the bill would “provide a stipend and other support for caregivers of severely wounded veterans, improve health care offered by the government, expand service for those in rural areas, ensure equal access to female veterans and address homelessness among veterans,” according to Jim Myers of Tulsa World.

The bill is called the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, and it is being held up in the Senate over the objections of a single Republican — Sen. Thomas Coburn [R, OK].

Coburn has a hold on the bill because it would spend $3.7 billion on the caregiver stipends without specifically designated a mechanism for the government to recoup the money. He has distributed a document outlining his recommendation for “wasteful, duplicative and obsolete” government programs that he thinks should be eliminated to pay for the cost of the bill’s services to veterans.

This kind of appeal is nothing new for Coburn and it doesn’t really mean that he wants to prevent these services from going to the veterans who need them. Indeed, on his website he writes that he supports many of the goals of the bill. This is an example of his own personal principles rubbing up, awkwardly, against policy that most consider to be good on its own merits.

For the past several years, Cobun has been on a crusade against any legislation that doesn’t meet his criteria for fiscal responsiblity. At the beginning of the last session of Congress, Coburn outlined the criteria he would use for deciding whether or not to put a hold on legislation in a letter (pdf) to his Senate colleagues. He listed four principles against with he would judge bills — 1) no duplicative programs, 2) no un-offset spending, 3) no increases of government funding for a program that also receives private funds and 4) no sustaining funds for cultural institutions.

In addition to his concerns over spending in the bill that is not offset, Coburn has another qualm with the bill that is actually not covered in his list of principles. The bill “discriminates against Vietnam veterans, Gulf War I veterans, and World War II veterans, all of whom are excluded from this program,” he writes.

The Senate will continue work on the bill on Monday when they return from the Veteran’s Day recess. The Senate Democrat’s calendar shows that a vote on a Coburn amendment to the bill is scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon.

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  • LucasFoxx 11/11/2009 2:54pm

    I’m in rare agreement with, not only the limitation of coverage to those injured on or after September 11, 2001, but also with his "1) no duplicative programs, 2) no un-offset spending, 3) no increases of government funding for a program that also receives private funds. The first would seem to be a easy fix, as there are only a couple of words to modify. The second he can just sit on. He was in congress with the majority party from 1996-2006, and he didn’t stand on those principles. Why should he care now?

  • angelina19 11/11/2009 9:32pm

    It is just right that we still commemorate the day of the Veterans because if we all know they play big part in our history. They are the one who fought for our freedom regardless of staying alive or not. There are still alive Veterans nowadays and if we see on the reality, it is inevitable that there we do have emergency expense for the medication of our old age loveones. Sometimes, unexpected expenses come along and wreck your budget, and it’s during times like those that you wish you could just get some cash today. So if you need some money now because of a sudden expense, you could try looking into getting some cash today by way of a payday loan from a payday loan lender.

  • jlohman 11/12/2009 5:51am

    Recover the $3.7 billion? How about cutting some of the pork bought and paid for by the fat cats that fund the elections? Or, increase taxes!!!

  • goap 11/12/2009 7:58am

    That amendment on Monday is to the Veterans Appropriations Bill (HR 3082).

    That’s not the same bill as the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act (S1963).

    They can’t even bring the bill up on floor yet because Coburn’s hold is stopping the UC agreement to consider the bill.

  • goodnews7 11/12/2009 12:54pm

    Why Is Sen. Tom Coburn Holding Up Veterans’ Health Care Improvements?
    We recently wrote an article about the excellent Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in our series about government run health care services. You’d think that funding for a new bill that allows the VHA to provide caregiver assistance to our most wounded veterans would be a no-brainer, right? Well, apparently not as far as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is concerned. He is using a Senate technical procedure to single-handedly hold up “S.1963 – The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of […]

  • driskells 11/12/2009 3:22pm

    I would start by proposing a bill to cut the pay of the very representatives that consistently give themselves raises.

  • Penn 11/16/2009 11:45am

    It appears he is concerned about spending; a little late, where was he during the last 8 years? Why, if he has ideas of looking into areas of cutting expenses, and looking into programs obsulite can he not let the Veterens bill be voted on and hopefully pass. Then, go after these other areas of cutting cost. Guess that would be way too logical. I also agree to cutting salaries of our representative, it would be a good example as well as the message that they really care about the American People!

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