Accuracy in Media

Will CNN use Tuesday’s Democratic Party presidential debate to challenge Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on his atrocious handling of the Veterans Affairs (VA) scandal?

Hillary Clinton has big problems that include blood on her hands over Benghazi, a Russia “reset” that has resulted in Russian aggression in Europe and the Middle East, and the mishandling of national security information through a private server.

By contrast, Sanders has been portrayed as a Washington outsider, even though his political career spans 25 years as a member of Congress, first as a U.S. representative and now as a senator. He is a socialist but a “democratic” socialist, whatever that may mean.

Sanders portrays himself as a friend of veterans who tends to their needs but opposes the wars that leave them needing medical help and treatment.

The problem for Sanders is that his pitiful performance as chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee has come under serious scrutiny by CNN and other media for defending the VA bureaucrats and putting their interests above the veterans they are supposed to serve.

An observer might conclude that Sanders’ preference for big government programs and government-run health care had blinded him to flaws in the VA system.

The Washington Free Beacon noted that his performance got so bizarre at one point that, as the scandals were coming to light, the socialist Sanders tried to divert attention away from the flaws in the bureaucratic system and proceeded to accuse the Koch brothers of launching “a concerted effort to undermine the VA” and discredit government programs.

Sanders said the Koch brothers were picking on these “large, governmental institutions” because  they “want to radically change the nature of society, and either make major cuts in all of these institutions, or maybe do away with them entirely.”

John McClaughry of Vermont’s Ethan Allen Institute commented, “Bernie Sanders has become totally demented about the Satanic Koch brothers, to the point that he thinks they are responsible for anything that goes wrong anywhere. This man needs professional treatment.”

But Sanders has his supporters in the press. In the face of these crazy remarks, one of the senator’s most prominent media defenders wrote, “From the moment the long-gathering [VA] scandal broke into public view in April 2014, it took Congress less than four months to produce a new law—a split second by Capitol Hill standards.” Columnist Jill Lawrence noted that Sanders, who had become chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee in 2013, had worked with Republicans to craft a bill designed to fix the serious problems.

“It speaks volumes in particular about Sanders, who pushes for a single-payer government health system in every speech, that the law introduced a private-care option for veterans,” she wrote.

It actually speaks volumes about the failures of socialized medicine. At that point, after playing down the serious nature of the scandal, Sanders was forced to recognize that the government-run VA health care system could only be saved by giving patients a private health care option. He came to this “realization” because House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) had pressed for letting veterans seek health care outside the VA system.

A poll from Concerned Veterans for America that was reported by Military Times showed that about 88 percent of respondents wanted to increase health care choices for VA patients, including access to private care physicians.

The Sanders campaign website ignores the senator’s failure in this important area, proclaiming, “As the former Chairman and a current member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, one of Sen. Sanders’ highest priorities in Congress has been ensuring that our veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned.” It goes on, “Amid reports of unacceptable wait times at many VA medical facilities last year, Sen. Sanders spearheaded a bipartisan effort to pass the most comprehensive veterans’ legislation in decades. The landmark Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act increases accountability within the VA and ensures that all veterans have access to timely health care.”

Notice the failure to mention that “timely health care” now includes access to private medical care. That was an initiative from Republicans.

Running for president as an avowed socialist, Sanders now promises “Medicare for All” rather than “VA Health Care for All” on a national basis. It’s a clever reformulation that ignores what Sanders did not do to get to the root of the VA health care scandal, and whether he has learned any lessons from those failures.

As noted by Bruce Parker of the Vermont Watchdog, an independent journalist group associated with the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, Sanders had made a “series of puzzling public statements” when the scandal broke that appeared to defend the government hospital bureaucracy. Sanders went on C-SPAN and CNN and urged the media “to remain neutral over claims that 40 U.S. veterans died at the Phoenix VA while waiting to receive care.” Sanders said, “The allegation is not that the delay in care caused that; only that that is what is now being investigated.”

As pressure grew on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign or be fired, Sanders defended him, saying, “The truth is that the V.A. is a huge institution. It does a whole lot of very important work. In many ways Shinseki has done a very good job.”

Sanders explained that Shinseki “has done a good job” but has been weak in terms of “communicating with the Congress or certainly with the American people and the media.”

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, was quoted as saying that Sanders had been “ineffective” as head of the Senate panel. He said, “It seems to have to do with his worldview. He seems to think that any kind of demand for accountability or criticism of the VA is an attack to dismantle the entire system. Nobody is saying that. We’re saying if you want VA to be supported, then make VA work.”

During an appearance on MSNBC in May of 2014, Rieckhoff said that Sanders had “basically been an apologist for the VA over the past few weeks.”

CNN Host Chris Cuomo interviewed Sanders, telling him “…you sound like a lawyer defending the hospital, as opposed to a senator trying to make sure the right thing is done.”

To its credit, CNN, which is sponsoring Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, has done some excellent reporting on the scandal. The CNN Investigations unit reported on September 3 that a VA inspector general report found that 307,000 veterans may have died awaiting health care.

“Access to health care is a human right,” says Sanders. But his work as chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee doesn’t back up the campaign rhetoric.

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  • Richard Hellstrom

    Ole Bernie Sanders – He doesn’t like our abortion laws , marriage laws , sex laws . drug laws , pot laws , our veterans , democracy , our form of government , our holidays and is the strongest representation for the Democratic Party. The best advise I can give the Democratic Party is to bolt their head board to the other end of the bed or put on a bicycle helmet like the one seen worn by Special Ed ! It won’t cure your impulse order but it may help with the blunt force trauma !

  • Rick Meyers

    I urge readers to check Sanders record for themselves and draw your own conclusions. The author is a teeny bit biased. He also states he does not know what democratic socialism is. It is government of the people by the people and for the people…ALL the people, not just the billionaire class.

  • DeJa-Vu: “With no shared sacrifices being asked of civilians after Sept. 11″, Decades and War From, All Over Again!! And that covers much more in the Deficits then just the, grossly under funded and not conservative obstructionists pols concern, VA budgets!!

    Hundreds of thousands of WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm,………..are dead, many fighting through the decades for care, waiting for country served to uphold their Sacrifice, Promises and Responsibility through their representatives, instead of ignoring and out right denying, the so many issues killing them!!

    The VA is the people served Responsibility, not socialized anything but their Responsibility to Actually Sacrifice, as it’s been since it was established but promises never upheld with congressional fixes coming mostly unfunded and peace-meal causing more problems, the way those served seem to really like it that way as they lay blame on the VA personal!!

    “If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too — not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American.” -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

    Like our long time, us Vietnam and frankly all Combat Theaters, Veterans Conservative, one of their experts(?), used to shape their policies, very highly compensated Nemesis: * * Sally Satel Still Selling Care for PTSD Veterans is Waste of Money * * There are plenty of others, they’ve got a ready stable full of, and plenty of ignored and denied issues!!

    Or: The way too many examples as to Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome, and much more, ignored or outright denied by those served and through their, conservative, representatives!!

    “Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

    Chris Hayes : “If you can run a deficit to go to war, you can run a deficit to take care of the people who fought it” In response to Republican, long ago lost as the party of Lincoln and not just as to us Veterans, opposition to expanding Veterans’ benefits on fiscal grounds

    USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71 – Independent**

  • Trevis Scott

    The problem is that Americans has become predominantly the nation of idiots. The nation of small-time rascals. They display idiotic behavior: they belive the idiot box. For a comparison, not a single Russian immigrant I know belives a word of advertizing or anything, that comes from the idiot box; comfort junkies historically have no spiritual guides, very small ratio of professional truth hunters per capita, and we all know how they errect another peddler of opinions and follow him directly to the mass grave; the over-fed, over-entertained and purposeless will do anything to live comfortably. Interestingly enough, the Russians, never mind their poor organization and an utter inability to live in democracy, and how addicted they are to bloody tyrants and mass murderers – they survived the mongols, tsars, stalin, while comfort junkies are unlikely to survive this little current inconvenience…The reason? Spirit! Russians have a superior spirit. Comfort kills spirit, or, rather does not allow it to develop, while suffering promotes the growth of spirit.

  • Julie A

    Socialism is socialism, now matter how you try to twist it. “The goal of socialism is communism” ~Valdimir Lenin

  • Shinsiki is a scapegoat for the mismanagement by top officials in the VA

    wiki: Shinseki said he couldn’t explain the lack of integrity among some leaders in VA healthcare facilities. “That breach of integrity is irresponsible, it is indefensible, and unacceptable to me.”

    He made waves, just as he did when he said that hundreds of thousands of G.I.s will have to remain in postwar Iraq to quell future violence. He was right there too, for if they had done so, perhaps the strife going on today coupled with the rise of ISIS with many ex Iraq generals etc working for them now wouldn’t be happening. Granted yanquis had no business there in the first place…but I digress.
    If Bernie is so wonderful ask him how he feels about Palestinians and so called israel’s occupation. He won’t talk about it. He was a sleeper zio who has now come out of the closet. His attacks on the Koch’s is an other smokescreen. They are all buddies!!!

  • terry1956

    It’s best to get the federal government out of as many things as possible within the 50 states including healthcare and veterans affairs.
    The federal government would provide for healthcare when US federal troops are in the field, out to sea , in space or on foreign soil but even when back on the base on US soil vouchers should be given to the troops and their family for a private health plan of their choice.
    The VA hospitals ownership should be turn over to the US veterans and then to the states for regulatory authority and paying.
    Payments also would be passed to the state governments for the federal debt, obligations to those who paid 10 years or more in FICA taxes, obligations to Veterans including Military retirees, federal civilian employee disability and retirement., railroad employee disability and retirement obligations, black lung obligations and Indian healthcare.
    In other words out of the fiscal year federal revenue of 3.2 trillion the federal government would only continue to pay for 900 billion with of course the other 400 billion in federal spending in the deficit being eliminated as a federal obligations.
    In other words out of the actual 3.8 trillion in federal spending for fiscal year 2015 ( if this plan had been in effect) only 3.2 trillion would have been federal obligations leaving it totally up to the states if and how to spend for the things domestically that the other 600 billion with some maybe wanting to spend more and some none at all but anyway the 600 billion would totally be dropped from the federal budget.
    Out of the 3.2 trillion in federal obligations 2.3 trillion would be paid by the state government and 900 billion by the federal government with as much as possible of the 900 billion coming from import taxes.
    If for example the first year import taxes brought in only zero dollars then the other 900 billion would be passed to the state governments based on the number of people in the state or roughly 3,000 dollars per capita with each state deciding how to come up with the revenue to pay the federal government.
    The 2.3 trillion in federal obligations passed to the state government will also be based on the number of people in the state or roughly 7,667 dollars per capita.
    Total federal obligations will be roughly 10,667 dollars per capita which will be the bill sent to each household based on the number of people in the home explaining that if their state government does not pick up the obligation and their household can not pay the full amount or not pay any amount then the debt will still be owed until the household can pay including possible through the estate left when the head of household pass on.
    Also since so many households will not be able to pay then to balance the federal budget the federal government will need to not give the state an exemption on the corporate revenue excise tax which very likely would increase unemployment by a lot in their state.

  • terry1956

    above the smallest volunteer local level( or a larger closeknit group) socialism can not be for the people but of course neither is economic fascism which is really what 90% of the546 member ruling class which is the political class members( Congress, president,VP and supreme court judges in DC including Sanders are really pushing for.
    In the US there is only two classes the 546 member ruling class in DC and everyone else ( poor, middle income, rich) with of course America’s only native criminal class ( Congress) having the most power of all.

  • terry1956

    Ok currently the US population is over 320 million but a federal per capita tax must be based on the actual census which is done every ten years with the number in 2010 being under 309 million.
    2020 census is projected to be over 330 million.
    Anyway 10,000 dollars by the census count would be almost 3.1 trillion which should be enough to fund federal obligations.
    2014 GDP was around 17.6 trillion dollars so per capita GDP was around 55,000 dollars but that varies from state to state with AK being around 72,000 dollars the highest and MS the lowest at a bit over 34,000 dollars.
    So 10,000 dollars as a percentage of US average per capita GDP would be just a bit under 18.3% but for the state of Alaska it would only be a bit under 14% and almost 30% for the state of Mississippi which is not only just but fair.
    Now it would be an even better thing if states could pass the cost of both the federal and state governments done to the county governments based on the number of people in a county equally.
    If government in the US had stuck to spending only on public goods then that may have been possible since out of the total of over 6 trillion in spending only around 1.5 trillion is spending on public goods ( defense, law enforcement, fire and EMT departments, roads, courts) so that would only be under 8.6% of US total GDP.
    1.5 trillion by 320 million would be 4,687.50 dollars per capita which would be only a bit more than 6.5% of the per capita GDP of Alaska if the state spent the average on public goods. and while higher in Mississippi than the national average of 8.6% would still only be a bit over 13.6% of the state per capita GDP if the state spent the average on public goods.
    Best I remember some counties in the US has a per capita GDP under 20,000 dollars with a few not much over 12,000 so if they had to spend 4,687.50 on public goods it still could take over a third of some of the counties GDP unless we see where the vast majority of the public goods spending goes which is to the federal government for around 900 billion of the 1.5 billion total.
    The 900 billion could come from import taxes on imported goods, imported services and compensation to non US citizen labor plus taxes on exported and imported income.
    The first 3 in 2014 totaled over 3 trillion and the last two 1.2 trillion
    So 25% of 3 trillion is 750 billion and 12.5% of 1.2 trillion is 150 billion making 900 billion.
    That leaves only 600 billion to come from internal revenues to fund public goods which is around 1,875 dollars per capita or under 3.5% of national per capita GDP.
    Even if the poorest county has a per capita GDP of only 10,000 dollars then 1,875 dollars is only 18.75% but without so much federal and state control the poorest county would likely see a big gain quickly in it’s per capita GDP, as would the vast majority of the 3,000 plus counties in the US.

  • William Carr

    Pitiful. There’s no other word for this attack piece.

    Here are the FACTS.

    G.W. Bush launched two Wars based on lies, and untold thousands of American soldiers were crippled and injured.

    Estimates are that 20,000 young men lost eyes and limbs.

    The Bush Administration did absolutely NOTHING to increase funding for the VA, even as these shattered young men came back home to try to rebuild their lives.

    Once Democrats saw the problem coming, they authored a Bill increasing funding for the VA and hiring more Doctors.

    The Republicans in the HOUSE blocked the Bill.

    When the VA crisis finally became obvious, the Cons didn’t take responsibility for blocking the VA funding.

    They used the opportunity to BITCH.

    Bernie Sanders has ALWAYS stood by American Veterans.

    Defending the VA isn’t anti-Veteran, that’s Right Wing baloney.

    Blaming him for the Republican obstruction that caused the VA crisis is hypocritical.

  • William Carr

    “He made waves, just as he did when he said that hundreds of thousands of G.I.s will have to remain in postwar Iraq to quell future violence.”

    Bush precluded that when he signed the Status of Forces Agreement.

    It made it mandatory for America to withdraw from Iraq by 2011.

    Bush created ISIS when he invaded Iraq and disbanded the entire 500,000 man Army but let them keep their weapons.

    Al Qaeda was free to invade Iraq themselves; they recruited the former Bathist Army and voila ! “Al Qaeda in Iraq” was born.

    A few years later and they changed their name to “ISIS”.

    When the Withdrawl date approached, President Obama tried to get the Iraqi Government to accept 10,000 “anti-terrorism troops”, but the Iraqis refused.

    They’d lost a MILLION innocent civilians to Bush’s Bombing and Occupation. They didn’t want anything to do with American Troops.

    The funny thing is, Republicans blame President Obama for Bush’s screwups.