Senate Republicans Block Veterans Bill

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 – A disappointed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pledged today to continue to fight for improved benefits for veterans after Senate Republicans blocked a vote on comprehensive legislation to expand health care, education, job-training and other programs. 

Republicans derailed the bill by raising a budget point of order challenging outlays for veterans. Sanders’ motion to advance the bill won by a vote of 56-41, but Republicans invoked a rule that required 60 votes to proceed.

“I had hoped that at least on this issue – the need to protect and defend our veterans and their families – we could rise above the day-to-day rancor and party politics that we see here in Congress,” said Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“I am going to keep fighting. I am proud that we received every Democratic vote and that two Republicans also voted with us. In the coming weeks I will be working hard to secure three additional Republican votes and I think we can do that,” Sanders added.

The legislation was backed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and virtually every other veterans’ and military service organization in the country.

“The cost of war does not end once the last shots are fired and the last battles are fought,” Sanders said.  “When members of the military lose arms, legs and eyesight fighting in wars that Congress authorized, we have a moral obligation to make sure that those Americans receive all of the benefits that they have earned and deserve.  When American soldiers die in combat, we have a moral obligation to make sure that the spouses and children they leave behind are taken care of and do not live in abject poverty.”

The measure would have improved health and dental care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also would have allowed the VA to open 27 new clinics and medical facilities. Educational opportunities would have been expanded for post-9/11 veterans. Another provision would have improved access to care and benefits for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military. Also full cost-of-living adjustments would be restored for future military retirees.