by Peter Freyne
Vermont leaders of several veterans organizations, Monday, praised Congress in general and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in particular for recently approving "the greatest increase in veterans health care in history."
The Veterans Affairs committee is one of four, sorry, five committees Sanders sits on and on Monday, representatiuves of the American Legion, the VFW and Disabled American Veterans joined Ol' Bernardo at his Burlington office to thank him and thank Congress for approving the largest increase in veterans benefits in the VA’s 77 year history. That's the VFW's Ed Laviletta of Highgate in the photo with Bernie.
On September 6 the U.S. Senate passed an $87.5 billion funding package, similar to one already passed by the House - that’s $3.6 billion higher than what President Bush requested.
"Congress can be criticized for a lot of good reasons," said Sanders, "but when Congress does do the right thing," he said, their action should be highlighted.
As for the current quagmire in Iraq and the upcoming congressional debate this month over continued funding for the Iraq War, Sanders told reporters he preferred to focus on veterans issues and did not want to discuss the Iraq War other than to promise that in the next couple weeks there will be "a whole lot of discussion" on Capitol Hill about continued funding for the war and the Vermont senator promised he will be active in the debate.
Ed Laviletta said the veterans groups were "not talking about our current war per se. We're talking about the wounded and the people that need it and the people from previous wars that need to be taken care of. This is what we're praising Bernie for. Nothing else.
"Our delegation from Vermont is top drawer when it comes to these issues," said Laviletta the national legislative officer for the VFW in Vermont. "We don't look to the right or the left of it. We're looking right down the center to veterans issues and nothing else.
As for his opinion of Bush’s nomination of former federal judge Michael Mukasey to be Alberto Gonzales’ replacement as Attorney General, Sanders said he didn’t have an opinion. In fact, Vermont's junior senator said he knew virtually nothing about Mukasey other than what he’s read in the newspapers.