As an antiwar activist who never served in the military and the first self-proclaimed socialist in the U.S. Senate, Bernard Sanders is at initial glance an unusual choice to chair the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
But Sanders, the tousled-haired 71-year-old Vermont independent who took over the committee in January, has embraced the role with a populist gusto that has won him staunch backing from veterans groups.
“That is odd,” said Peter Gaytan, executive director of the American Legion, whose members gave Sanders a warm reception at the organization’s Washington conference in February. “If you look at his leanings, you wouldn’t think he could care so much about veterans, but he does.”
“He’s very passionate about the issues,” said Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “I think he’s going to be very good for veterans.”
Angered that the 2014 budget proposed by the Obama adminstration includes changes in how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated, potentially reducing future compensation payments for 3.2 million disabled veterans, Sanders joined in a demonstration Tuesday outside the White House and denounced the plan as “nuts.”