by Max Brantley
LITTLE ROCK — On Friday, the Cotton for Senate campaign issued a press release shamelessly politicizing the VA tragedy and flatly misleading Arkansans about Sen. Mark Pryor’s response to the situation. Cotton’s brazen attacks simply don’t stand up to the facts, and his willingness to falsely exploit this serious situation for political gain speaks to his blind ambition and temperament.BACKGROUND FROM PRYOR CAMPAIGN:
CLAIM: On Friday, Cotton claimed that “Pryor maintains silence on the VA scandal”
FACT: Since the scandal came to light, Pryor has repeatedly weighed in, calling the revelations “extremely disturbing” and promising to get to the bottom of what happened on behalf of all our veterans. He wrote a letter on May 21 to the VA secretary calling for answers and immediate reforms.
CLAIM: On Friday, Cotton’s campaign claimed that Pryor opposed legislation aimed at increasing accountability at the VA
FACT: On Thursday, the day before Cotton’s campaign went on the attack, Pryor voted to advance the very measure Cotton claims he opposes. If passed, the VA Management Accountability Act would be effective immediately, giving the VA Secretary additional authority to fire those responsible for the scandal.
“Playing politics with a tragedy is bad enough, but exploiting a tragedy by making blatantly false claims is insulting and Congressman Cotton should be ashamed of himself,” said Erik Dorey, Pryor for Senate spokesman.
Today, a Washington group funded by two out-of-state billionaires echoed Cotton’s false attack in a new television ad. See attached backup for a line-by-line breakdown of the ad’s false claims.
Pryor Voted For “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act” As An Amendment To The FY 2015 Military Construction-VA Appropriation Bill. According to Congressional Quarterly, “Responding to the VA medical care concerns, appropriators adopted by voice vote a Jerry Moran, R-Kan., amendment that would give the VA secretary the authority to discharge or remove employees from the Senior Executive Service if the secretary believes it is warranted. Similar legislation (HR 4031) passed the House 390-33 on Wednesday.” [CQ Markup & Vote Coverage, 5/22/14; FY15 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Report, 5/22/14]
Pryor Voted For “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act” As An Amendment To The FY 2015 Military Construction-VA Appropriation Bill. According to Army Times, “Just a day after the House passed new legislation making it easier for top VA executives to be fired, senators included mirror legislation in their annual VA appropriations proposal. Amendment sponsor Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., called the move a reaction to ‘systemic dysfunction and a lack of leadership’ in the department. ‘VA personnel should be accountable for their actions,’ he said. ‘Otherwise, the current system of mediocrity and failure will remain.’ The measure would give the VA secretary broader authority to fire senior executives for poor performance or mismanagement. Both the White House and VA have expressed concerns over the legality of the measure, but said they will work on it with Congress.” [Army Times, 5/22/14; FY15 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Report, 5/22/14]
“Pryor Signed Onto The 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act.” “On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor signed onto the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, which would require audits of Benefits Administration regional offices, annual reports on the backlog and more information to veterans about completing the claim requests.”[Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 5/16/14]
Pryor Sent A Letter To Shinseki Calling For Immediate Reforms To Address The VA Situation And Ensure Our Veterans Receive The Care They Deserve. According to Saline River Chronicle, “Following numerous reports of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ failure to provide timely medical care for veterans, U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today sent a letter to Secretary Shinseki calling for immediate reforms to address this situation and ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve. ‘Recent reports about the VA’s systemic failure to take care of our vets are extremely distributing. These brave men and women laid their lives on the line for our country, and they must be treated with the utmost respect,’ Pryor said. ‘I won’t let up until I know the VA has taken steps to correct this problem. Our veterans deserve answers now.’” [Saline River Chronicle, 5/21/14]
Pryor Said “The VA Disability Claims Process Needs ‘A Complete Overhaul.’”According to The Associated Press, “Arkansas U.S. Sen. John Boozman is asking Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki for more information on wait times that Arkansas veterans face to receive medical care at VA facilities. Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee but couldn’t attend Thursday’s hearing because he’s recovering from heart surgery. In a letter, Boozman said a full analysis of the future of VA health care is needed. Sen. Mark Pryor also said Thursday that the VA disability claims process needs ‘a complete overhaul.’ Shinseki says he hopes to have a preliminary report soon on how widespread treatment delays and falsified patient scheduling reports are at VA facilities nationwide. The hearing in Washington follows allegations that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at a Phoenix VA center.” [The Associated Press, 5/15/14]
Pryor: “The VA Needs More Than A Few Minor Changes To Its Flawed Claims System — It Needs A Complete Overhaul.” According to the Arkansas News Bureau, “Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., also issued a statement Thursday calling for legislative action to reform VA’s disability claims process. Pryor said a backlog in processing disability claims has left thousands of Arkansas veterans waiting for years to receive their earned benefits. ‘The VA needs more than a few minor changes to its flawed claims system — it needs a complete overhaul,’ Pryor said.” [Arkansas News Bureau, 5/15/14]
Pryor Voted To Require The Veterans Affairs Secretary To Submit A Plan To Reduce The Backlog Of Pending Claims For Veterans Benefits. On November 29, 2012, Mark Pryor voted yes on Senate vote #208. Congressional Quarterly reported the vote as: Cornyn, R-Texas, amendment no. 3158 that would require the Veterans Affairs secretary to submit a plan to reduce the backlog of pending claims for veterans benefits. [CQ Floor Votes; Senate Vote #208, 11/29/12]