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Carol Shea-Porter & Veterans: Why She Should Be Re-Elected

Carol Shea-Porter & Members of the Exeter Young Democrats Club
Carol Shea-Porter & Members of the Exeter Young Democrats Club
Jon Hopwood

Carol Shea-Porter, who has served in Congress from New Hampshire's First District for three non-consecutive terms (2007-2011; 2013-present), should be returned to Washington because of her commitment to community and constituent services. While in Congress, Shea-Porter was a stalwart defender of Granite State veterans. She helped revive the veterans hospital in Manchester that had fallen on hard times.

New Hampshire is unique in that it is the only state that lacks a full-service V.A. hospital. Why is that? I believe it is because the Republicans want it that way. They are against "socialized medicine" and thus are antagonistic to the V.A. hospital system. Frank Guinta, who defeated Shea-Porter in 2010 and was, in turn, defeated by her in 2012, was lousy when it came to veterans services, criticized by even the normally sympathetic Union Leader, a right-wing rag, for his having failed veterans. Guinta and his fellow Republican Congressman Charlie Bass (who eventually was defeated by Annie Kuster in the Second District) both claimed during the 2012 campaign that they were for a full-service hospital, but had failed to achieve their goal. The question is: Why?

Privatizing the V.A. Healthcare System

During the George W. Bush administration, when Republicans filled all four seats in N.H.'s congressional delegation, the Manchester V.A. hospital was allowed to decay. Bush implemented the "Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services" plan that closed veterans hospitals, cut staffing levels, outsourced services, tightened eligibility requirements, and made vets pay for their drugs. Eligible but dispossessed vets were reimbursed for accessing private medical care.

The American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing V.A. employees, characterized Bush's CARES plan as a push towards privatization and a voucher system. Manchester V.A. hospital staffing was allowed to drop to scandalously low levels.

At the time, veterans protested vigorously against plans to push many of them into for-profit HMOs. The then-serving Senate Majority Leader, Republican Bill Frist, happened to be part of a family that owned the largest private hospital chain in the world.

After the election of Democrats Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes to the House in 2006, staffing was boosted at Manchester's V.A. hospital. The defeat of U.S. Senator John E. Sununu, Jr., Republican, by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 2008 sent another veteran-friendly legislator to serve in the Granite State's Congressional delegation. Eventually, there were over 160 new hires. The level of care in Manchester improved.

Vouchers

During the 2012 New Hampshire Presidential primary, Republican candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney vowed to make the Manchester V.A. hospital a full-service facility. However, Romney never made an official pledge to do so. In fact, in the spin room at Saint Anselm's N.H. Institute of Politics, after debating his opponent Annie Kuster, Charlie Bass, who was part of the Republican congressional delegation when Manchester's V.A. hospital was allowed to decay, said vouchers were good in that they allowed vets to utilize local hospitals.

The Republicans had to be very careful with the "V" word as many veterans who were veterans of the Bush-era battles to save the V.A. healthcare system translated "Voucher" as "Privatization".

I believed back in 2012 that the Republicans have no desire to make the Manchester hospital a full-service provider, and I have been proven right. Their agenda has always been anti-V.A. The Republicans hate to see money being spent on a federal government program that could line the pockets of private sector fat cats who finance their campaigns. It is likely that if the Republicans could pass an infrastructure bill that mandated erecting a fence not at the U.S.-Mexico border but over the entire American air supply, we'd all be charged by the private sector company that had been awarded the outsourcing contract for every breath we took.

Carol Shea-Porter always did intend to return the Manchester veterans hospital to full service status, but she was blocked by the opposition of House Republicans and the Granite State's own Kelly Ayotte, who consistently voted along with her Republican peers to deny funding increases to the V.A. healthcare system.

The lack of funding is responsible for the recent scandals that have roiled the V.A. healthcare system. This cycle of scandals which replaced Benghazi in the news cycle as the top story of cable TV news started with revelations out of the Phoenix, Arizona system in the home state of Kelly's BFF, fellow war hawk John McCain.

Ironically, it was McCain who stripped New Hampshire and the rest of the blue states of funding for V.A. healthcare back in the late 1990s. Rather than boost funding across the board, McCain championed legislation cannibalizing the funding of veterans healthcare services in the blue states to ship to the Sun Belt -- and STILL his V.A. system was lousy. This financial legerdemain, signed off by Judd Gregg and other members of New Hampshire's Congressional delegation, led to the disaster at the Manchester V.A.

The Republicans wanted vouchers as part of a move to privatize the system. By denying funding boosts that led to poor quality of care outputs, they got their wish. It is a Judas-like game the GOP plays with veterans.

Carol Shea-Porter doesn't play those type of games. She is a stand-up person, a former military wife who cares deeply for the men and women who have served their country under arms. She is not a career politician, but a social worker who was politicized by the Bush-era disaster that was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She came back home to the Granite State after pitching in down in Louisiana, and ran for Congress and won.

Caarol Shea-Porter is a great friend of vets as well as the people of New Hampshire. She deserves to be sent back to Congress.