Will Romney Cost Republicans 25 Percent of Voters?

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Veterans statistics show impact of veteran vote should be heavily considered when picking advisors. Thanks to the internet and blogging, it’s time for politicians to take us  more seriously than ever.

Hi and thanks for checking in this Tuesday, July 10, 2012. I meant to post this on Monday, but my computer died… And we all know, there is nothing worse than having your computer die – two hours on phone support plus going into the Apple store.

Nonetheless, here we are.

We have some things in the pipeline for you about the election, struggling disabled veterans, and license plates. Yes, I realize the lineup today seems strange, but that’s good. It all ties in together, trust me.

Here are the topics and why you should read on:

  1. Romney & Nicholson: a match made in heaven?
  2. Disabled Veterans Struggle in Workforce
  3. Backlog impact on elderly veterans
  4. Support our Veterans License Plates

My soapbox. These topics all tie together in one way. It is important for veterans to get involved in the political process, and these stories point out why. Even if one candidate appeals to you more than another, it’s vital to reach across the aisle to understand the perspectives of the other side.

When faced with a presidential race where neither candidate is terribly appealing, we need to pause, think and get to work. We need to reinvigorate the political system so that, when it comes to electing our leaders, we are actually choosing from the two best candidates possible at the time. In my view, this is not the case this election cycle for 2012.

Just because we took our uniforms off years ago, or last week, does not mean the fight for our country ends. The only difference now is that the tools have changed. Before, you were armed with an M-16 or similar. Now, you are armed with a computer, a pen and a ballot.

Here is a good start. I selected four topics to illustrate what I am going to do before November. My mission is to make damn sure Mitt Romney knows his selection of James Nicholson is unacceptable. The goal of this mission is to ensure Romney selects a different person to be his advisor on veterans affairs. After all, selecting Nicholson could cost Romney 25% of the vote.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

My second goal is to empower you to do the same as me. Whether you agree with me or not, I encourage all veterans to become active in the political process. I’d love to see a presidential election in 2016 where both candidates served our country in uniform, and that both individuals hold the respect of the opposite political party.

Romney & Nicholson: will it cost Romney and Republicans 25 percent of voters?

I touched on this over the weekend after my friend Patrick Bellon sent a link of his interview on The Daily Beast.

This combo could spell doom for many lowly disabled veterans if Romney is elected. I’ll spell this out later. Basically, James Nicholson was Secretary of the Dept of Veterans Affairs under President Bush from 2005-2007. Many veterans organizations claim Nicholson is the reason we have the current backlog and other issues related to the agency. When he resigned, many veterans organizations applauded the move, claiming his appointment was merely a favor.

In a similar political move, Romney needed the Catholic vote. Coincidentally, he selected Nicholson to be his head veterans affairs advisor. Nicholson was a former Ambassador to the Vatican Holy See prior to his stint as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. His selection scored Romney the support of other former Vatican Ambassadors, and potentially the Catholic vote this November.

This may be good for Romney, but is it good for veterans to elect a president who will play favors at the expense of veterans?

My purpose in reposting the quotes of leaders after Nicholson resigned is to illustrate that he may not be the best choice for Romney. In fact, selecting Nicholson may cost Romney the veteran vote.

What does this mean? Well, veterans make up 10% of the voting population. Family members of veterans consist of another 15% of voters. In total, the veteran voting bloc has a lot of potential power if it votes in unison, like the Union vote or the Pro-Life vote.

Here, by selecting James Nicholson to manage veterans affairs and policy for the Republican campaign, Romney may alienate 25% of the voting population. Politics aside, I hope Romney reconsiders this particular bedfellow. We already know most veterans would pick a Shinseki ahead of a Nicholson. Let’s hope Romney comes to the veteran community to pick a new veteran advisor.

Given the enormity of problems facing veterans, we need real solutions to address backlogs and jobless claims. We do not need more feel good policies like Massachusetts’ current legislative proposal on license plates. I’ll get more into this later.

For now, feast your eyes on the potential damage Romney faces from selecting Nicholson.

President Bush

[quote]”Jim has led innovative efforts to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is better prepared to address the challenges facing our newest generation of heroes after they return home,” President Bush said.

Source: DenverPost.com [/quote]

VoteVets

[quote]”This resignation is long overdue, and welcome,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq war veteran and chair of VoteVets.org. “Jim Nicholson had no business handling our nation’s veterans and was an inept political appointee like Michael Brown at FEMA.”  [/quote]

American Legion

[quote]”The American Legion wishes VA Secretary Jim Nicholson well in his  future endeavors. We thank him for his service both as a U.S. Army veteran  and for his leadership as head of the nation’s largest health care system.  We look forward to working with his successor on continuing to improve  health benefits and services to America’s veterans.”

Source: PRNewsWire.com [/quote]

American Federation of Government Employees

This is the union organization that represents many VA employees.

[quote]”As the employees’ representative, we are committed to working with the new leadership in a meaningful way to provide essential, expert care to our nation’s veterans,” said John Gage, national president of AFGE. “As the VA employee union, we have an obligation to ensure that our veterans receive quality health services and actively advocate in their best interest.”

Throughout Secretary Nicholson’s tenure the rank and file employees of the VA actively expressed their concerns over the adequacy of healthcare being provided to veterans. These employees, many of whom are veterans themselves, have been at the forefront veterans’ healthcare advocacy by leading the fight against privatizing health services and contracting out within the VA system.”

Source: AFGE.org [/quote]

Representative Phil Hare, Illinois Democrat

[quote]”In May, I called on Secretary Nicholson to resign after he approved a number of bonuses for senior V.A. personnel at the same time the Department was failing to meet the needs of our veterans,” Mr. Hare said.

He added, “I strongly urge President Bush to nominate a veterans’ veteran – someone in the mold of former Republican V.A. Secretary Anthony Principi – who will put the needs of our fighting men and women above any political ideology.”

Source: NYTimes.com [/quote]

Senator Patty Murray, Washington Democrat

[quote]”These are serious times for the Department of Veterans Affairs and we need the president to send us a serious nominee to fill the job. That means a truthful advocate for veterans, not an apologist for this administration’s failures to plan,” said Murray, a Washington Democrat and a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

“The next VA secretary must have a record of being a strong and independent voice for veterans – not someone being rewarded for political loyalty,” said Murray, who has battled with Nicholson over problems ranging from conditions at psychiatric wards at the VA hospitals in Seattle and Tacoma to overall care of the nation’s veterans.

“The VA secretary’s duty is to protect veterans, not a dishonest administration,” Murray said. “Our veterans deserve to know that the head of the VA system can stand up to the White House and fight for the resources and benefits our veterans need.”

Source: SeattleTimes  [/quote]

Disabled Veterans Struggle in Workforce

Now more than ever, veterans are struggling to find work and acclimate themselves to a Corporate America that is very different from their time in service. We need to select a president who will best address issues of veteran unemployment.

The battle against corporate fear of veterans will continue to plague veteran hiring until the White House addresses the matter head on through an educational campaign. This will cost money, meaning the candidate or incumbent expressing the most apparent concern should get the nod in this department.

Stigmas surround hiring veterans still linger from Vietnam due to the impact of PTSD. I was told by an HR representative back in 2007 that hiring was already waning for new veterans for fear of unseen disabilities. That was 5 years ago. Following many shootings and other issues related to PTSD, we can assume the problem is far worse now.

Unemployment for veterans is growing and quite high in some states, including Minnesota. Programs have been implemented to combat this problem, but more can be done. Many civilians are starting to question this premise.

Why should veterans get special care? Here is your answer: failure to assist veterans in transition will harm National Security. Yes, I said National Security. If our country does not care for its veterans, the quality of our all-voluntary military force will suffer.

Fewer volunteers will forgo college and normal life in favor of sacrificing 4 to 6 years for a life of service and sacrifice to country. If the quality of our military is diminished, it will threaten our overall National Security, period.

Again, veteran employment should be a factor voters consider if they are concerned about veterans and veteran related policies. We know Romney has selected Nicholson to advise on veteran policy. Nicholson is probably one of the worst choices for veterans because we need a leader in charge of veteran issues who can reach across the aisle to get policy enacted. Nicholson most certainly cannot do that.

Backlog Impacts Elderly Veterans

The backlog of disability claims is steadily growing, but hiring of new adjudicators has waned. Claiming VA disability has gotten harder with the increase of poor decision-making and delayed appeals by the Veterans Affairs.

Here is the irony; James Nicholson has been credited with the backlog because of decisions he made to under staff the VA from 2005 to 2007. While I’m sure he is not solely responsible, he did play a big role in understaffing the VA and outstripping its “legacy” employees.

When outstripping happens in government, the goal is usually to outsource the tasks to government contractors that were once performed by government employees. The hope is that outsourcing will lower the cost associated with providing services.

Outstripping can be good and bad. The good comes from the ability of private corporations being able to make decisions more quickly. The bad comes from loss of legacy employees and training experiences such that the government becomes dependent on government contractors. Once the government becomes dependent, there is no going back.

This weekend I stumbled across the unfortunate story of William Maxson. Maxson is a 94-year old veteran of World War II who has been waiting for VA benefits for years.

The VA did not approve paying for his nursing home, so he had to move into his son’s house. Since then, he applied for the benefit, “aid and attendance.” Unfortunately, the VA has been holding up his claim for years with no end in sight. Maxson may die before he receives the money.

Regardless of the administration, Veterans Affairs has consistently had problems. In my opinion, Secretary Shinseki has done a good job on trying to help as many disabled veterans as possible.

The task has proven huge, especially once the Secretary changed the laws to allow more veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure to receive benefits. That was the biggest contributor to the backlog currently holding up veterans’ claims.

Yes, here we go, again. Your choice for president will impact your disability benefits. It is important to factor in the candidate’s choices relating to who will be serving as an advisor.

Whether you like Shinseki or Nicholson, you should at least be considering the quality of advisors on veterans affairs when you vote this November.

“Support our Veterans” License Plates: Really, Massachusetts?

Legislators in Massachusetts are working to pass legislation for Supporting Our Troops license plates. Money from the license plates will go to fund the manufacture of the plates and to help fund the veterans group Disabled and Limbless Veterans.

That’s nice. It’s right up there with similar bills focusing on outlier issues like flower garden dedications. I get it. Politicians like doing things that make them feel good without moving mountains for legislation like what Senator Jim Webb got passed for the GI Bill.

I appreciate what they are doing, but creating projects like these costs money, even if they do not pass. Why not focus on passing tax codes that will help veterans or veteran owned businesses?

I find it no small coincidence this comes from the Mitt Romney’s state, given his selection of… yes… James Nicholson.

At this point, I’m sure this rant about Nicholson needs to come to a close. I hope you get the point. When it comes time to vote this November, be sure you know your candidate’s position on the issues relating to your veterans benefits.

My purpose of hammering home the issues is that I hope Mitt Romney selects a new champion for veterans affairs. His selection of Jim Nicholson is questionable.

Given how close this race is likely to come, I don’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to my benefits. That is why I want both candidates to select a veteran and leader who can reach across the aisle to further veterans affairs for the next 4 years.

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