Our veterans deserve benefits, not politics, for service

After reading Randy Winn’s letter last week, I wanted to set the record straight on my support for veterans. Mr. Winn brought up an important vote that was cast in the House of Representatives on May 15. I agree with him that we need to support our veterans — that is one of my highest priorities in Congress. That is why I have now held three local Veterans’ Resource Fairs attended by over 800 veterans to help them learn about, and sign-up for, the benefits they can receive.

In fact, I helped to introduce the bipartisan legislation that Mr. Winn referred to, the “New G.I. Bill,” H.R. 5740, which increases benefits for education, including textbooks and housing, to our veterans. This follows the successful passage of a bill that I introduced to help veterans regain employment when they return from being deployed.

The vote that included the G.I. Bill was actually an amendment on funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and included a host of other programs. Unfortunately, at a time of economic uncertainty, the bill raised taxes on individuals by $55 billion to pay for these programs. Furthermore, the amendment wasn’t actually attached to a real bill. It was just created to generate a political vote. Only in Washington, D.C., can we take a serious vote like funding for our men and women in uniform that is not actually on a real bill and is not actually intended to become law.

In that same week, Congress passed a $307 billion Farm Bill, which I voted against, that pays $23 billion in government subsidies to millionaire farmers — let’s use that money for our veterans instead of raising your taxes!

A vote on veterans should not be used as a political tool. House leaders had already heard from the Senate that the measure would be ‘dead-on-arrival,’ but they chose to hold this vote anyway, instead of seeking bipartisan ways to enact broadly supported and much-needed education benefits for our veterans. In fact, one week after this vote, the Senate passed the same legislation to support our veterans without raising taxes. Washington, D.C., already has too much money. It was recently discovered that the Medicaid program can’t find $1 billion, and maybe tens of billions. With a government run like this, why should we ask the hard-working men and women of this country to pay even more to it?

I have a message for all of our veterans: don’t believe the attacks you will hear. I will keep working to get you the benefits that you deserve and cut through the politics here in Washington, D.C. I look forward to supporting the Senate’s version of the new G.I. Bill when it returns to the House. And again, thanks to our veterans. You deserve our support.

Congressman Dave Reichert represents the 8th District of Washington state, including Mercer Island. His office is located on the Island.

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