Oklahoma veterans want political games to end over VA funding

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Veterans want Democrats and Republicans to stop playing politics and focus on the needs of its men and women that served the country in combat.

“The only ones that are getting screwed are the veterans in the middle, and that’s the shame of it,” said Larry Van Schuyver, State Commander of the Oklahoma Purple Hearts.

Last week both Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford voted “no” on the PACT Act, the bill at the center of controversy.

Inhofe said the bill adds $400 billion in mandatory spending that does not go towards veterans services.

Steve Russell, former 5th Congressional District Representative, agreed with Inhofe’s position.

“It’s just so that they can sneak in a lot of the things that they want to do outside of the rules,” said Russell.

The former representative is a veteran himself. He served in the United States Army for over two decades in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Russell argues that the bill does not have “quantifiable or hard evidence” behind it.

“They even lay it out where if you have hypertension as a senior adult, that they just assume because you’re a veteran that that was created by the military and therefore we’re going to, you know, unload the government coffers,” said Russell.

“It’s absolutely 100 percent not true,” responded Dr. George Monks, after hearing about Russell’s statement.

Monks served in the first Gulf War with the Army National Guard.

He said the funding would fine-tune the burn pit registry that helps identify causes and effects of hazardous exposures during military service, including toxic burn pits from the Gulf War and Agent Orange from service in Vietnam.

“We know there’s cancers associated with it and we know there’s a constellation of symptoms, long term fatigue and things like this that some of the veterans are experiencing,” said Dr. Monks. “We’re still learning.”

Senator James Lankford said in a statement to the media that wait times will increase at the Department of Veterans Affairs if this legislation is passed.

“Oklahoma veterans continue to share their frustration with the length of time it takes for the VA to get through its paperwork and care backlog to offer their quality services to our veterans,” said Lankford.

Van Schuyver said money should be used to expand resources for the VA to reduce those wait times mentioned by Lankford.

“I really don’t give a damn about the VA being overwhelmed,” said the Purple Heart recipient. “I care about veterans and veterans only, so step forward and hire more people.”

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