Coburn Shows Height of Washington's Hypocrisy Toward Veterans

Last week we saw a perfect example of how screwed up priorities have gotten in Congress.

When the financial sector demanded a provision weakening regulations on risky derivative trading, Congress obliged. When veterans asked for $22 million over five years for a suicide prevention program, Senator Tom Coburn blocked the entire bill.

It's hard to understand how an extra $4.4 million a year to help curb veterans suicide is so objectionable to a Senator who repeatedly voted to fund the Iraq war -- which at its height was costing taxpayers $100,000 per minute.

As a veteran of the Iraq war, this is exactly the sort of duplicity I got used to seeing from Congress when it comes to how we treat our veterans. It's what ultimately motivated me to run for office myself.

I served in Iraq because Congress voted to go to war. But my unit suffered avoidable casualties there because Congress wouldn't approve funding for armored vehicles. And when I came home, I had trouble getting care from the VA because the hospital didn't have the necessary funding or staff to prep for the influx of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

This cycle of voting to go to war but against care for the veterans it creates exists because of the type of hypocrisy embodied by lawmakers like Coburn.

Earlier this year, Coburn was calling for reforms to the Veterans Administration amidst a wave of negative news coverage over the scandal the Phoenix VA hospital -- the same VA that I had trouble getting care from a few years earlier.

Anyone who has ever received care from the VA knew that many of the problems that created the "scandal" weren't new. These problems have existed for decades because Congress routinely underfunds and overburdens the veterans health system.

When those chronic problems became news, Coburn was happy to stand up in front of the cameras and call for accountability and reform. But if we're going to reform the VA, the real accountability we need is from members of Congress who vote against funding for veterans care.

For all the Democrats and Republicans alike who eagerly called for politically expedient firings and symbolic gestures, I hope they'll be just as eager now to stand up to Coburn and demand funds for veteran suicide prevention.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Veteran Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Can we really not find $4.4 million a year to try to curb that?

As an incoming freshman, I'm eager for this next term in Congress to start so that I can put pressure on my colleagues to vote for funding for health, education and job training for veterans. But we need to do more than advocate for funding; we need lawmakers who vote against funding for the VA to hear from those they have harmed.

I'm working to call out Coburn publicly and put pressure on him to release his hold on this important bill. Please join me.