Truman National Security Project

Shinseki ambushed on Hill

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By Terron Sims | 10.15.13
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This week, I attended my first congressional committee hearing. Testifying to a House panel was Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. As a veteran and military family advocate, I was happy and proud to attend. But, as one who does not like political grandstanding, I became annoyed at the spectacle I witnessed.

Shinseki was invited to discuss the ramifications of the government shutdown on veterans and their family members. The stakes are high: If a bill is not passed and the government is not “reopened” by the end of the month, come Nov. 1 all VA-related claims cease. That includes the post-9/11 GI Bill and disability payments.

Shinseki’s report, as gloomy as it sounds, was not the worst aspect of the hearing; it was the fact that he had to continuously give the same answer to nearly every representative who asked a question. After 10 minutes of questions, it was clear that the majority of the committee members were insensitive to the government shutdown’s impact on the VA’s functions. Many of them were looking for Shinseki to provide them solutions for a problem that they created. To his credit, the secretary was collected in his responses.

As the hearing progressed, one congressman blatantly attempted to bait Shinseki into agreeing with him that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “hates veterans.” A Secret Service agent and I looked at one another, and actually had a good laugh at that one.

That problem is simple: The faction in Congress that brought about the shutdown is neither focused on, nor dedicated to, ending this debacle so our federal government can go back to work. And as a result, they are stripping away essential resources and care for those of us who honorably earned the title of “veteran” for this great nation.

Terron Sims is a Truman National Security Project Fellow. This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes