The following was written as a letter to the editor of the Dunkirk Observer by Robert Kestler, U.S. Air Force and Army Reserves (Veteran), Silver Creek, NY.
I recently received an e-mail that stated that Congressman Thomas Reed claims that Martha Robertson had lied saying that he had voted against veterans and that the VA scandal was a “problem of decades of underfunding.”
As a veteran, I feel it is important to know the facts about political candidates. With the help of the internet, it is easy to research topics. The following is what I found out about Congressman Reed and his votes on veterans bills:
Voted to block the veterans backlog reduction act. In 2013, Reed voted against considering the veterans backlog reduction act, which would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to pay provisional benefits for certain non-adjudicated claims. The previous question was approved 224-195. A vote against the motion would have allowed for consideration of the Veterans bill. [H Res 232, Vote 180, 5/23/13; Congressional Record, H2925, 5/23/13]
Voted against increasing funds to reduce the backlog in veterans disability claims. In 2013, Reed voted against a motion that would help reduce the backlog of disability claims for veterans. The motion would have added $9.2 million in funding to hire an additional 94 claims processors to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. [CQ Floor Votes, 6/04/13; HR 2216, Vote 192, 6/04/13]
Voted against protecting veterans benefits during the government shutdown. In September 2013, Reed voted against ensuring veterans benefits would not be delayed during a government shutdown. Congress later voted against guaranteeing the processing of veterans benefits during a government shutdown. [HJ Res 59, Vote 477, 9/20/13; HR 3102, Vote 475, 9/19/13; CQ Floor Votes, 9/20/13, 9/19/13]
Voted to make it more difficult for veterans to get benefits. In 2011, Reed 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, for example 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; HR 1, Vote 85, 2/17/11]
Voted against increasing housing assistance for veterans. In June 2012, Reed voted against increasing funding for veterans rental vouchers by $75 million. [CQ Floor Votes, 6/29/12; HR 5972, Vote 449, 6/29/12]
Reed previously voted to slash homeless veterans’ assistance. Reed voted for a spending bill that would have eliminated $75 million slated to house homeless Veterans. According to CNN, the cuts would have hurt some 11,000 homeless veterans who qualified for housing in 2011 but had not received vouchers. [HR 1, Vote 147, 2/19/11; National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 4/12/11; CNN, 3/1/11]
Voted against increasing funds for veterans medical and prosthetic research. In March 2012, Reed voted against a motion that would increase funding for veterans medical and prosthetic research by $28.3 million. [CQ Floor Votes, 5/31/12; HR 5854, Vote 304, 5/31/12]
Voted against increasing funds for veterans medical services for mental health. In June 2011, Reed voted against a motion that would increase funding by $20 million for Veterans medical services for post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention. [CQ Floor Votes, 6/14/11; Watertown Daily Times, 6/14/11; HR 2055, Vote 417, 6/14/11]
Voted to protect own pay. In 2011, Reed voted against a measure that would have struck all of the provisions in the bill and would have prohibited members of Congress and the president from receiving basic pay for any period in which there is more than a 24-hour lapse in appropriations. The measure would have prohibited the members and president from receiving retroactive pay. The measure failed 188-237. [HR 1255, Vote 223, 4/01/11]
After my research, I feel that Congressman Reed does not support the needs of the veterans who have served their country; however, I found it ironic that in the last listed vote, Congressman Reed voted to protect his own pay. I think it is obvious what Congressman Reed considers a priority.
As a veteran, I cannot support Congressman Reed. As a humanitarian, I will vote against him.