Bilbray Fails to Defend His Votes to Underfund Veterans Services/Healthcare
San Diego – During the final debate in the race for California’s newly drawn 52nd Congressional District, career politician Brian Bilbray fails to explain why he’s turned his back on our nation’s veterans multiple times throughout his career. He also doesn’t deny his 10 votes to cut Medicare, and two votes to essentially end it as part of the Ryan/Brian budget.
In the debate, which airs at 9:30 p.m. tonight on KGTV Channel 10, the candidates were invited to ask a question of one another. Peters asked Bilbray how he could vote eight times to underfund services, benefits and health care for our war veterans. A summary of these votes is below.
“We are losing more warriors to suicide than on the battlefield,” said Peters. “Yet Mr. Bilbray couldn’t even find $20 million in a $700 billion Pentagon budget to fund suicide prevention and PTSD treatment.”
Bilbray responded weakly and did not deny his votes or turning his back on our veterans.
“As viewers will see tonight, Scott clearly dominated the Channel 10 debate, and Brian Bilbray failed to make the case for his re-election,” said Peters Communications Director MaryAnne Pintar. “In stark contrast, Scott made a strong case for the need to change Congress by changing the people we send.”
Bilbray is facing a stiff challenge from San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters who is raking in the endorsements from several high profile Republicans who are backing him over Bilbray because they know Peters will better serve the region.
Voters are urged to tune into tonight’s debate to watch as Congressman Bilbray refuses to explain why he didn’t stand up for those who stood up for us.
For more information about Scott Peters campaign to change Congress, go to www.scottpeters.com.
Background: Examples of Brian Bilbray Turning His Back on Our Veterans
Voted Against Millions in Additional Funding for Suicide Prevention and PTSD for Veterans
In 2011, Bilbray voted against a motion which would have provided an additional $20 million for veterans’ medical service to help with post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention.
According to the Watertown Daily Times, “Rep. Bill Owens offered an amendment to a military appropriations bill in the House of Representatives that would increase spending on veterans’ mental health services by $20 million.” The $20 million would be put towards better advertising the suicide prevention assistance and services offered to veterans. [Watertown Daily Times, 6/14/11; CQ Floor Vote, 6/14/11]
The motion failed 184-234. [HR 2055, Vote #417, 6/14/11]
Voted to Make Benefits for Seniors and Veterans Harder to Get
In 2011, Bilbray voted for an amendment that would make it harder for low-income veterans and Social Security recipients to retain counsel in a civil action against the United States, like when fighting for benefits.
The Lummis amendment imposed a seven-month moratorium on all legal fees paid under the Equal Access to Justice Act, a Reagan-era law designed to help people afford an attorney while suing the government.
“We’re in the middle of two wars right now and to make it harder for a veteran — fighting for his benefits — to have an attorney is a horrible thing. That’s not what this country is about,” Robert Chishold, a prominent veterans’ law attorney said. [Politico, 2/23/11]
The amendment passed, 232-197. [HR 1, Lummis amendment #195, Vote #85, 2/17/11]
Opposed Budget that Increased Veterans’ Funding by $3.7 Billion
In 2008, Bilbray voted against a conference report that would establish the congressional budget for fiscal year 2009. The report would call for $3.1 trillion in spending in fiscal year 2009 and federal revenue totaling $2.7 trillion. The spending allowed for up to $1 trillion in discretionary spending for the fiscal year, plus $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Congressional Quarterly]
The bill would project a $22 billion budget surplus by fiscal year 2012. Democrats argued that it would also allow the budget to remain in balance in 2013 using estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
[CQ Today, 6/05/08; “Summary of the 2009 Budget Conference Agreement,” House Committee on the Budget, 6/04/08]
Republicans argued that the conference report for the budget was the largest tax increase in history, saying that the budget would increase taxes by at least $638 billion over the next five years. [“The Largest Tax Increase in History, However They Slice It,” Republican Caucus, The Committee on the Budget, 6/04/08]
Specifically, the budget would increase veterans’ funding for 2009 by 3.7 billion, or 8.2 percent, above existing services. Democrats argued that this would be enough to allow the Veterans Administration to treat 5.8 million patients in 2009, including 333,275 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. [“Summary of the 2009 Budget Conference Agreement,” House Committee on the Budget, 6/04/08]
The conference report passed 214-210. [S Con Res 70, Vote #382, 6/05/08]
Opposed Fiscally Responsible FY 2009 Budget with $48.1 Billion for Veterans’ Services
In 2008, Bilbray voted against a budget resolution that would establish the congressional budget for FY 2009. The resolution would call for expenditures of $3.1 trillion and would allow up to $1 trillion in discretionary spending, plus $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $5.8 billion for hurricane recovery. [CQ Floor Votes, 3/13/08; CQ Markup and Vote Coverage, 3/11/08]
The bill would also include $48.1 billion in funding for veterans’ benefits and services.
The bill passed 212-207. [H Con Res 312, Vote #141, 3/13/08]
Opposed Budget That Included Record Increase for Veterans
In 2007, Bilbray voted against the fiscal year 2008 budget conference report that began
To reverse six years of Republican fiscal mismanagement, provided for middle‐class tax relief and would return the budget to balance– reaching a surplus of $41 billion in 2012 –without raising taxes. [House Budget Committee, Overview of FY2008 Budget Conference Agreement, 5/16/07]
The budget increased funding or veterans’ health care and services by $6.7 billion (18.3 percent) above the 2007 enacted level, and $3.6 billion above the President’s budget According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the budget represented a “historic $6.7 billion increase” over the previous year’s budget. [Veterans of Foreign Wars, Washington Weekly, 5/25/07]
Meanwhile, the American Legion wrote, “The American Legion and its 2.8 million members applaud…the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Resolution.” [American Legion]
According to the Military Officers Association of America, “...the resolution makes a strong statement of Congress’s commitment to restoring national confidence that our wounded warriors will receive the kind of first-quality care and services that they have earned...” [Military Officers Association of America]
The budget also saved veterans from paying increased fees totaling $355 million in 2008 and $2.3 billion over five years. The President’s budget imposed those new enrollment fees and increases co-payments on Priority 7 and 8 veterans. [House Budget Committee, Conference Agreement on the FY 2008 Budget Resolution: Building on the “Six for ‘06, 5/24/07]
The budget passed 214-209. [SCR 21, Vote #377 , 5/17/07]
Opposed Historic Funding Increase for Veterans Programs
In 2007, Bilbray voted against a budget that provided a $6.6 billion increase in funding for veterans programs.
However, the Veterans of Foreign Wars applauded the budget, and the House and Senate
leadership who were instrumental in the adoption of this historic increase. [VFW Washington Weekly, 4/02/07]
These additional resources would cover increases in the costs of health care, the VA’s increasing patient load, including veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and help cover the cost of forthcoming recommendations to improve military and veterans’ health care facilities and treatment. [CQ House Action Reports, No. 110-4, 3/2707]
The budget passed 216-210. [H. Con. Res. 99, Vote #212, 3/29/07]
Opposed Funding Hike for Veterans’ Travel Expenses Paid for with Cuts in VA Hospital Care
In 2007, Bilbray voted against an amendment that would add $125 million for veterans’ travel expenses related to medical services, offset by a reduction for the Veterans Affairs Department general operating expenses by the same amount.
Democrats largely opposed the amendment because it would actually be paid by cuts to staffing at VA Hospitals.
“The source of this money wouldn’t be cutting out the Washington, D.C., office staff,” Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX) told the amendment’s sponsor, Congressman Jerry Moran (R-KS). “It would be cutting out employees that are serving vital roles in our veterans hospitals in the gentleman’s home State as well as mine.” [Congressional Record, 6/15/07; Page H6546] The amendment passed 264-152. [HR 2642, Vote #495 , 6/15/07]
Opposed Increased Funding for Veterans’ Medical Services
In 2007, Bilbray voted against an amendment to the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs that would increase funding for veterans’ medical services by $22 million.
It also would reduce by $50 million funding for the 1990 military base closure account.
Democrats argued that the underlying appropriations bill already provided a historic increase in funding for veterans’ medical care by $6.7 billion above 2007 and $3.8 billion over the President’s request. [Congressional Record, 6/15/07, Page: 6538]
The amendment was defeated 154-260. [HR 2642, Vote #494, 6/15/07]
Opposed Veterans’ Healthcare Funds
In 2007, Bilbray voted against legislation that provided critical funding for veterans health care, including funds to enhance medical services for active duty forces, mobilized personnel and their family members and $1.7 billion for veterans’ health care priorities including maintenance at VA health care facilities like Walter Reed.
The measure included:
• $550 million to address the maintenance backlog at VA health care facilities to prevent situations similar to those at Walter Reed;
• $250 million for medical administration to ensure sufficient personnel to address the rising number of veterans and to maintain a high level of service;
• $229 million for treating the growing number of veterans;
• $100 million to allow the VA to contract with private mental healthcare providers to offer veterans, including Guard and reserve members, quality and timely care; and,
• $62 million to speed claims processing for returning veterans. [CQ House Action Reports, No. 110-3, 3/20/07]
The measure passed 218-212. [HR 1591, Vote #186, 3/23/07]