A Bone to Pick with U.S. Representative Robin Hayes
By Karen St. John
I admit it. When it comes to issues I consider important in this election, I tend to nag people a little bit. Okay, okay…it’s more like I stay on an issue like a dog on a bone. And, boy, do I have a bone to chew with Congressman Robin Hayes of North Carolina: he’s snubbing our veterans.
Oh, sure. Like every other fast-talking pol, Hayes has made some movement towards our military through a few legislative gestures. But he consistently avoids the most urgent and critical issue facing both North Carolina soldiers and veterans: funding their current and future health care.
What is up with this guy?
His House web site barely mentions veterans. I checked under the issue of “health care;” but there’s no reference to reforming or increasing funding for health care for veterans. He does have a photo of a soldier in uniform and a list of military academies. I figured our noble men and women currently in uniform or retired deserve one tiny little link of their own on his web site.
That’s why when news of Hayes comes along, I grab on to that health care for veterans bone and growl a little bit louder. Unfortunately, there’s plenty to growl about with Congressman Hayes.
Case in point: Robin Hayes did vote in favor of the new GI Bill in June 2008; but in March 2008 with H Con Res 312 Concurrent Budget Resolution, he voted against $581.64 billion dollars for veterans’ benefits and services.
Catch what happened to HR 2528 Fiscal 2006 Military Quality of Life and VA Appropriations/Veterans Health in 2005. HR 2528 proposed a wonderful addition of $53 million for veterans’ health care.
Hayes voted against the health care for veterans. The House rejected the legislation by one vote.
Also in 2005, HR 1268 Fiscal 2005 Supplemental Appropriations/Recommit moved to increase funding for military health care by $100 million and for transitional job training for military personnel by $50 million.
Hayes voted against funding health care for our military.
North Carolina has the fourth highest number of total enlisted men and women in the country by state (more than 107,400), and subsequently, one of the highest active duty military injuries rate. And, according to an independent study presented in 2007 to Stand Up for Veterans (an initiative of the Disabled American Veterans organization), North Carolina is expected to come in third in the nation with projected injuries for both active military and reserves. On the eastern edge of Hayes’ 8th congressional district, outside of Fayetteville, are two major military installations – Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base.
You would think Hayes would care about constituents on his watch. He might care about some – but clearly not all. Hayes is on record in 2004 as abandoning his constituents who serve in the North Carolina National Guard and Reserves. S 1920 Bankruptcy Extension and Overhaul/Recommit moved to increase bankruptcy protection for members of the military, veterans and their families. This motion was rejected.
Hayes contributed to its failure by voting against the motion.
Hayes had another chance in 2005 to do the right thing by our military men and women. S 256 Bankruptcy Extension and Overhaul/Recommit would have exempted members of the National Guard and Reserve from the means test in the bill if their debt was a result of active duty service, or incurred within two years of returning home from their service.
Once again, Hayes voted against the motion and it was rejected.
No wonder the Disabled American Veterans rated Hayes 0% in 2003, 0% in 2004, 0% in 2005 and a mere 66% in 2006.
The Vietnam Veterans of America haven’t been happy with him, either.
In 2003 – 2004, the group gave him a low 38%. They had good reason. In 2003, Hayes had an opportunity to support H J Res 2 Fiscal 2003 Omnibus Appropriations/Motion to Instruct. This motion instructed House conferees to agree to the highest levels of funding for military veterans’ health and care.
Hayes voted against funding for health care for veterans.
The Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans organizations aren’t the only ones critical of the lack of care shown by Hayes.
Our current veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave Hayes a C grade in 2006. I don’t know about you, but when I came home with a C on my report card, my mother would say, “You can do better than this.”
No doubt the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America recalled another shameful action of Hayes in 2003. HR 3289 Fiscal 2004 Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan/Military Pay Bonuses would have increased funds in the bill for military pay by $265 million to cover $1,500 bonuses for each service member in Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal 2004. With his no vote, the House was evenly divided (213 Yes – 213 No) and the bill was rejected.
Hayes voted against funding pay increases needed by our military and their families.
An earlier attempt to fund veterans’ health care was tried in 2002 with H J Res 124 Fiscal 2003 Continuing Appropriations/Recommit. This motion would have allowed additional funding for veterans’ health care. Any guess on how Congressman Hayes voted?
Yep, you got it – Hayes voted against the additional funding for veterans’ health care.
It isn’t as if he doesn’t know any better, either. Multiple studies are available on the need for appropriate and effective mental and physical health care for our veterans. Dr. Richard McCormick, in his white paper presented to the Disabled American Veterans organization in 2007, stated unequivocally the effects of war’s “psychological stressors and problems that threaten the well being of reservist/veterans and their families are NOW, and growing. Immediate action is critical.”
There is at least one immediate action the veterans of North Carolina can take for themselves: they can look at the record on veterans’ health care before they vote on November 4th.