Since arriving in the Senate in 2011, Ron Johnson has repeatedly backed policies that would leave veterans out in the cold, including voting against expanded healthcare, job training, and educational opportunities for those who have served in uniform. Ron Johnson’s record makes clear that he has not served in the Senate with the best interests of Wisconsin veterans in mind.
Sen. Johnson’s voting record on veterans is shocking and disappointing. In 2014, Americans became well aware of problems in the VA system following the tragic deaths of veterans waiting for care in Arizona. But despite this knowledge, Ron Johnson was one of only three senators to vote against a VA reform bill to alleviate waiting times and provide reform to the VA system to circumvent future deaths. Other votes Johnson has made include voting against bipartisan legislation to expand job training and educational opportunities for our veterans.
In addition to his disturbing record, also worrisome is Senator Johnson's warm feelings to privatizing the VA system would also leave veterans out in the cold. Privatization would leave veterans on their own to find care – often the specialized kind of care that only the Veterans Health Administration can provide. For those who do not have enough supplemental income, and cannot pay for care in the for-profit system, a drained VA would be less able to provide timely quality care.
Our veterans have served and sacrificed greatly for our country. In return, they deserve policies that honor their service and sacrifice. But time and time again, Ron Johnson has either opposed these efforts or ignored problems that were brought to his attention. Wisconsin veterans deserve better; they deserve a senator who hears their concerns and works with their best interests in mind. But throughout his first term in the Senate, Ron Johnson has not lived up to that responsibility.
Sen. Johnson has made too many mistakes in his first term in the U.S. Senate. His record is a disservice to the 413,000 veterans living in Wisconsin, and these men and women who have put their lives on the line for our country deserve better. This VoteVets report highlights troubling facts and illustrates just how wrong Johnson’s record and policy prescriptions are for Wisconsin veterans.
SENATOR JOHNSON’S VOTING RECORD FAILS VETERANS, JOHNSON’S POLICY PROPOSALS WOULD HURT VETERANS MORE
2014: AFTER SCANDALS SURFACED OVER SCHEDULING AND VA HOSPITALS, JOHNSON REFUSED TO INCREASE FUNDING, REFORM VA
2014: Johnson Was One Of Only Three Senators To Vote Against Funding And Reform Of The VA Health System – Because It Cost Too Much
Johnson “Defended His Vote Against A Bipartisan Measure To Address Scheduling Problems At Veterans Affairs Facilities” Because It Cost Too Much. According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “ In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, defended his vote against a bipartisan measure to address scheduling problems at Veterans Affairs facilities but vowed to continue to work to fix what he called a broken system. [...] On Wednesday, Johnson was one of only three Senators to vote against the legislation that would allow the VA to contract with private medical facilities, enabling veterans facing long waits to get quicker treatment. The VA would also be able to use $500 million from its current budget to hire more medical staff. [...] Johnson detailed his reservations with the legislation in the interview and a detailed statement he released Wednesday. He said he preferred another bill that he co-sponsored that would provide ‘common sense reforms,’ including the ability for veterans to receive treatment outside the VA system. Johnson blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) for rushing ‘a different bill onto the floor of the Senate without even an estimate of costs.’ He said the Senate should have delayed the vote after finally receiving a ‘pretty jaw-dropping piece of information’ from the Congressional Budget Office. Johnson said the CBO ‘came back and said just the first two years would cost $35 billion, and every year after that $50 billion.’ The bill will be taken up in the House and is expected to be finalized in a House-Senate conference. ‘Hopefully, we'll come up with a bill that actually fixes the problem, that doesn't mortgage our children's future further...,’ Johnson said.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/12/14]
2014: Johnson Voted Against Legislation Expanding Veterans’ Education And Health Care Benefits, Reforming Veterans Affairs Personnel Policies, And Expanding VA Facilities And Medical Staff. In June 2014, Johnson voted against a bill that, according to Congressional Quarterly, “would [have] allow[ed] veterans experiencing long wait times or who live more than 40 miles from a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility to see doctors outside the VA health system, as long as the doctors participate in the Medicare program or are at a federally qualified health center, Defense Department facility or a facility funded by the Indian Health Service. It would [have] authorize[d] the VA secretary to demote or fire poor-performing Senior Executive Service employees. Employees would have [had] seven days to appeal the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which would have [had] 21 days to render a final decision. The measure would [have] create[d] an independent commission on scheduling and care, authorize[d] funding for 26 medical facility leases, and provide[d] expedited hiring authority for medical providers. It also would [have] allow[ed] out of state veterans to receive in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, and extend[ed] tuition benefits to surviving spouses of those who died in the line of duty.” The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 93 to 3; and the bill was then sent to a House-Senate conference committee. The resulting compromise version of the legislation was adopted by both chambers and signed into law by the president. [Senate Vote 187, 6/11/14; Congressional Quarterly, 6/11/14; Congressional Actions, H.R. 3230
2014: Johnson Effectively Voted Against Legislation Expanding Veterans’ Education And Health Care Benefits, Reforming Veterans Affairs Personnel Policies, And Expanding VA Facilities And Medical Staff. In June 2014, Johnson effectively voted against a bill that, according to Congressional Quarterly, “would [have] allow[ed] veterans experiencing long wait times or who live more than 40 miles from a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility to see doctors outside the VA health system, as long as the doctors participate in the Medicare program or are at a federally qualified health center, Defense Department facility or a facility funded by the Indian Health Service. It would [have] authorize[d] the VA secretary to demote or fire poor-performing Senior Executive Service employees. Employees would have [had] seven days to appeal the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which would have [had] 21 days to render a final decision. The measure would [have] create[d] an independent commission on scheduling and care, authorize[d] funding for 26 medical facility leases, and provide[d] expedited hiring authority for medical providers. It also would [have] allow[ed] out of state veterans to receive in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, and extend[ed] tuition benefits to surviving spouses of those who died in the line of duty.” A point of order had been made that all the spending in the bill was designated as emergency spending under the Budget Act, which if sustained would have required that the bill be rewritten to pay for the increased spending; a motion was then made to waive the Budget Act’s requirements. The Senate agreed to the motion by a vote of 75 to 19, and subsequently passed the bill. A House-Senate conference committee on the bill subsequently produced a compromise version of the legislation, which both chambers adopted and the president signed into law. [Senate Vote 186, 6/11/14; Congressional Quarterly, 6/11/14; Congressional Actions, H.R. 3230]
• Sen. John McCain Said Of Phoenix VA System, That If Revelations About Cover Ups Of Extraordinary Delays At VA Medical Centers, And Potential Resulting Veterans Deaths Were Not An Emergency, Then “I Do Not Know What Is.” According to the Congressional Record, McCain argued, “I think it is well known to my colleagues that this is an unprecedented piece of legislation in that for the first time it is going to provide our veterans with a choice. [...] There are, according to a recent VA audit, over 57,000 veterans who have been waiting for an appointment for over 3 months to see a physician at the VA. Over 63,000 veterans over the past 10 years have never been able to get an appointment at all. There are allegations in the Phoenix VA hospital that 40 veterans have died. [...] If that is not an emergency, I do not know what is. If it is not an emergency that the very lives of the men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction are being either jeopardized or allegations of absolutely being lost through malpractice and malfeasance, if that is not an emergency, I have never seen one before this body. I urge my colleagues to vote this for what it is, this budget point of order. This is an emergency. If it is not an emergency that we have neglected the brave men and women who have served this country and keep us free, than I do not know what an emergency is. Hard work has been done on this legislation, hard work and a lot of compromises. I am happy to see that the majority of the veterans service organizations are now in support of it. Is it a perfect piece of legislation? No. Is it exactly what I wanted? No. Is it exactly what the Senator from Vermont wanted? Absolutely not. But this is an emergency. I tell my colleagues, if it is not an emergency of how we care for those who have served on the field of battle, then nothing else is before this body. It breaks our hearts. It breaks American's hearts when they hear and see these stories of those brave men and women and the neglect they have suffered, the lack of a fulfillment of an obligation we made to them. I hope we will vote against this budget point of order. [...] I urge my colleagues to vote to waive the budget point of order. This is an emergency. I urge my colleagues to vote for the bill.” [Congressional Record, 6/11/14]
2014: Johnson Voted Against Expanding Federal Veteran Benefits
- 2014: Johnson Effectively Voted Against Expanding Veterans’ Health Care, Education Benefits And Job Training Aid. In February 2014, Johnson effectively voted against a bill that, according to Congressional Quarterly, “would [have] extend[ed] and expand[ed] health care and education benefits and job-assistance programs for veterans and their families.” The vote was, according to a separate Congressional Quarterly article, on “an effort to waive a budget point of order made against the bill. [...] Sixty votes were needed to waive the point of order.” The Senate rejected the motion to waive the point of order by a vote of 56 to 41, which Congressional Quarterly explained “end[ed] floor consideration of the legislation.” Major provisions of the proposed bill, including the expanded education benefits provisions, were eventually included in legislation that Congress adopted at the end of July, 2014 in response to the Veterans Affairs Department’s wait-time cover-up scandal. [Senate Vote 46, 2/27/14; Congressional Quarterly, 2/27/14; Congressional Quarterly, 2/27/14; Congressional Quarterly, 7/30/14; Congressional Actions, H.R. 3230]
Bill Would Have Provided Dental Care to 30,000 Veterans. According to Congressional Quarterly, “The legislation would direct the VA to carry out a three-year pilot program to provide comprehensive dental care to approximately 30,000 veterans who currently do not qualify for dental services from the VA.” [Congressional Quarterly, 2/27/14]
Bill Would Have Lowered Public Education Institution Tuition For Veterans By Loosening In- State Tuition Restrictions. According to Congressional Quarterly, “It also would require public universities participating in VA educational assistance programs to charge the in-state tuition rate to veterans who live within that state and enroll within three years of their discharge, regardless of their official state of residence.” [Congressional Quarterly, 2/27/14]
Opponents Said “Audacious” Bill’s $261 Million Of New Mandatory Spending Exceeded Limits Agreed To In December 2013 Budget Agreement, And Criticized Democrats For Trying To Exceed Those Limits After Only Two Months. According to Congressional Quarterly, “Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions said he raised the point of order because new mandatory budget authority contained in the bill for fiscal 2014 — approximately $261 million — would exceed the limits established by the December budget agreement (PL 113-67). He assailed the bill as ‘audacious’ and criticized Democrats for moving to waive the budget law only two months into the new year. ‘The ink is hardly dry on it, and here we have another bill to raise that, raise the spending again, and it won’t be the only one,’ he said,” [Congressional Quarterly, 2/27/14]
Republicans Objected To Paying For Part Of Bill’s Cost With Iraq And Afghanistan War Funds. According to Congressional Quarterly, “In addition to the immediate implications for mandatory spending, Republicans have also opposed tapping war funds to pay for the discretionary portion of the bill. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the discretionary cost of the bill would be $18.3 billion through fiscal 2019. Those costs would be offset by placing caps on funds for overseas contingency operations, mainly the war in Afghanistan, beginning in fiscal 2018.” [Congressional Quarterly, 2/27/14]
American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger: “I Don’t Know How Anyone Who Voted ‘No’ Today Can Look A Veteran In The Eye And Justify That Vote.” According to the Washington Post, “Veterans groups expressed frustration with the bill’s failure, saying it fell victim to Washington’s partisan politics. The measure was four votes shy of a 60-vote threshold required for it to have advanced. ‘I don’t know how anyone who voted ‘no’ today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote,’ said Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion. ‘Our veterans deserve more than what they got today.’” [Washington Post, 2/27/14]
MARCH 2015: JOHNSON USED SCANDAL AS MEANS FOR CALLING FOR VA PRIVATIZATION
Johnson Argued That A Government Run Hospital Such As The VA Would Not Be Able To Deliver The Best Quality Care. According to WEAU, in a town hall meeting, Johnson was asked about the Tomah VA scandal and said, “Not that the doctors are bad, not that the nurses are bad, not that the people aren’t trying to do a good job, there’s just something about a government run bureaucracy that does not deliver the best quality at the best price with the best level of customer service.” [WEAU, 3/14/15]
Veterans of Foreign Wars Opposes Privatizing the VA [Talking Points Memo, 11/11/12]
American Legion says, “Those calling for the end of the VA and privatization of veterans health care are wrong. We continue to see The American Legion as partners and friends of the VA. We know they can and willdobetter." MikeHelm,uponbeingelectedNationalCommanderoftheAmericanLegionsaid,“Wesay that the VA can do a better job in the claims and appeals process. At the same time, we will continue to seek out answers to what went wrong at the VA and why it went wrong...We know that what happened wasn’t an accident or a circumstance. There is an entrenchment in VA that is not helpful to veterans’ health care or compensation. We will find it and get rid of it. At the same time, we will continue to support the VA as a national provider of veterans’ health care. We need our VA medical facilities because we know it can be and is the best care anywhere if administrated properly. Those calling for the end of the VA and privatization of veterans health care are wrong. We continue to see The American Legion as partners and friends of the VA. We know they can and will do better." [American Legion, 8/28/14]
Paralyzed Veterans of America warned that privatizing the VA would create a “cottage industry” of “ambulance chasers.” In opposing the idea of privatization, the Paralyzed Veterans of America said, “Privatizing health care for veterans will create a cottage industry for ambulance chasers who will be the only available option for veterans with medical malpractices cases.” [Military Times, 2/26/15]