Tradition Not Be Damned: Thanks to the 110th Congress

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Can you say SPIN? Spin - Spin - Spin. Right now, as another topic is being spun in so many ways, let me tell you of a victory in "un-spinning" something that was spun over a year ago in a way many of us found just... plain... reprehensible.

November 8, 2005 - Spinning As He Was

Press Release [abridged - full text (

http://www.vawatchdog.org/housecvanews/housecvanews11-08-05.htm

)]

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Buyer holds Veterans Summit announcing new hearing schedule - Hearing reform gives veterans' groups a greater voice

Huh?

Chairman Steve Buyer announced that he will hold full committee hearings starting in February during which veterans' groups can present their priorities and offer guidance earlier in the budget process. Calling on veterans' groups to play a more influential role in developing the annual Department of Veterans Affairs budget, Buyer presented his plan to engage them early in the annual budget process. "Moving these hearings forward will bring more accountability to the budget process and ensure that veterans have greater input in the process," Buyer said.

Huh.

In past years, VSOs have come to Capitol Hill to offer their views in joint hearings of both the House and Senate Veterans Committees. The impact of these hearings has been limited because they have occurred weeks after Congress developed its "views and estimates" response to the President's budget request, which it does by March each year.

HUH.

Under the new schedule, the VSOs will be asked to present their views on the budget and their legislative priorities in early February at the same time the President sends his budget to Capitol Hill. In addition, the VSOs will also be asked to testify in February at a series of full committee and subcommittee hearings on a variety of legislative proposals directly affecting veterans.

HUH?!?

January 23, 2006 - A Voice of Clarity

Press Release [abridged - full text here (

http://www.vawatchdog.org/old newsflashes JAN 06/newsflash01-23-2006-7.htm

)] -

House VA Panel Hearing Plan Mutes Veterans' Voices, Says DAV


An overhaul of legislative hearings announced by the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee seems deliberately designed to marginalize the influence of the nation's veterans on funding levels for the Department of Veterans Affairs and other important public policy issues, according to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

Ah, someone else doesn't "see" the Emperor's New Cloths.

Last November Committee Chairman Steve Buyer decided to end a decades-long tradition that gave veterans groups the opportunity to present testimony regarding a wide range of legislative priorities before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees. The DAV and other organizations tried, unsuccessfully, to get Rep. Buyer to reinstate those joint hearings, which they viewed as an invaluable tool in formulating public policy toward America's veterans.


The Chairman... imposed a three-minute limit on oral remarks by representatives from veterans organizations, each of which could invite no more than five persons in the audience.


"Both the timing of the hearings and the absurdity of a three-minute limit for oral remarks make it all too clear that Chairman Buyer is not interested in a meaningful dialogue with the veterans community," said DAV National Commander Paul W. Jackson.


"How could the Chairman expect us to analyze and comment on the President's budget request before it is even made public? Or is it his intent to blunt criticism and suppress diverse points of view regarding funding levels and policy initiatives in the President's budget?" Commander Jackson said.


"The revised schedule for hearings and the change in format amount to a slap in the face of individual veterans as well as the groups that represent them in the public policy arena. Chairman Buyer has slammed the door in the face of America's veterans," Commander Jackson said.

Ahhhh!

January 11, 2007 - Thank You 110th!

Press Release [abridged - full text here (

http://www.vawatchdog.org/07/nf07/nfJAN07/nf011207-7.htm

)]

Democratic Leadership Announces Reinstatement of Joint Veterans Committee Legislative Hearings


Today, congressional leadership from both the House of Representatives and Senate made good on their commitment to America's veterans. In a joint statement issued today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka announced the reinstatement of the traditional joint hearings process in which veterans and military service organizations appear before the Veterans' Affairs Committees. Today's announcement reversed the decision of GOP leadership in the House of Representatives last Congress.

Thank you!

"I am proud of today's decision to reinstate the joint hearings. These forums provide veterans and military families an opportunity to voice their concerns and provide guidance to the government for whom they fought and sacrificed so much," said Chairman Filner. "I look forward to working with the veterans' community, the Administration and my colleagues in the House and Senate to provide our troops, veterans, and military families the benefits and health care they have earned and deserve."

Thank you very very much!

One Further Quote

Dave Autry, Deputy National Communications Director for the DAV was quoted saying he was pleased that the joint hearings had been reinstated and said the DAV looked forward to working with the new Congress. When asked about a recent article that referred to the hearings as

"largely ceremonial."

Autry refuted that description by saying,

"Taking your concerns to the U.S. Congress is, most certainly, not ceremonial. It is a right."

Yes it is. Yes... It... Is...

One Further Comment - As Spinning Isn't Going Away Any Day Soon

If "it" doesn't seem to be... what "it" is, you're being told... don't forget; we live in a Representative Democracy. You choose your representatives. You can just as easily choose another, or, even "recall" the current choice.

So let your voice be heard.

As I've mentioned before...

To contact your Representative go to "Write Your Representative" (

http://www.house.gov/writerep/

), fill in your state and zip code, and follow the instructions.

To contact our Senators, fill out the Web Forms for Senator Clinton (

http://clinton.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

) and Senator Schumer (

http://schumer.senate.gov/SchumerWebsite/contact/webform.cfm

).

And if you should send this to someone not in New York, to contact their Senators they should go to "Senators of the 110th Congress" (

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

), select their state, and fill in the "Web Form" for both of their Senators.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt