Criticisms of the New IAVA Scorecard (Actually, ALL Scorecards)

| October 21, 2010 | 23 Comments

[Look folks, I realize this shit is dry enough to light on fire and use for heating, so you don’t need to read it all, but IAVA put a lot of effort into it, and so I want to give it an equal amount. Read until you fall asleep, and when you wake up, wipe the drool off your chin with a readily accessible wet nap and scan down to the divider line and read the conclusion.]

Prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Duke Power Company had a policy whereby African-Americans were only allowed to serve in the manual labor branches, and could not be selected for managerial or upper level positions. Clearly the CRA was intended to end this, and so Duke changed their policy to one where any candidate for selection to a higher position had to demonstrate that they had a High School Diploma, and meet a minimum score on a standardized IQ test. The Court in this case held that while the “intent” of the promotional scheme was not racially motivated, the “disparate impact” on various ethnicities was.

In pertinent part, the Court held that:

The Company’s lack of discriminatory intent is suggested by special efforts to help the undereducated employees through Company financing of two-thirds the cost of tuition for high school training. But Congress directed the thrust of the Act to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation.

As I read through IAVA’s second annual Report Card, I kept coming back to that case. I’m willing to concede for the sake of argument that IAVA never intended for their scorecard to lean left. (Or, just plain fall over to the left.) Let me be precise on this, because I am likely to get beat up by both sides. I think it is demonstrably true that Paul Rieckhoff and many others high up in IAVA are Democrat Leaning. Fine. One can certainly counter that VFF leans to the Republicans. All of that is fair. However, for whatever one might hold against Paul, I’ve never heard it suggested or even intimated that the dude wasn’t sharp, and that he didn’t want to help veterans. Some might take issue with that here, but I mean among veterans advocates, he’s generally seen as a straight shooter. Additionally, if IAVA has a weakness, it is that it is perceived to be left of center. Paul, more than anything I am sure, wants more veterans in his group. And so, it would stand to reason that he wants to appear as non-partisan as he can.

This is why I wonder what he thought when he looked at the results of his Report Card. For clarity’s sake I am sticking to the Senate votes in this, Part I of what will either be a one or two part post. I’m not sure I can add much on the House side once I show the infirmities of the Senate one.

The rest is after the jump.

Again, this is a critique more of Scorecards in general, and less of IAVA. Last year I bashed on IAVA personally, but this year, I am not doing so, because I believe at the least they made a good faith effort. I think making up an objective, factually based report card on veterans issues is not only a waste of time, I posit that such a task is rendered impossible by the vagaries of the way our legislative branch works.

Nonetheless, as with the Griggs v. Duke Power Company case I mentioned above, let us begin by looking at the results of the scorecard and then look to see what magical powers of divination went into conjuring them up.

[NOTE: I do not have a link to the Scorecard, I merely received it in .pdf format, if I get one, I will hyperlink here.]

In the Senate:

Democrats receiving “A” scores: Begich (AK), Boxer (CA), Gillibrand (NY), Johnson (SD), Lautenberg (NJ), Lincoln (AR), Schumer (NY). Stabenow (MI), Wyden (OR).

Republicans receiving “A” scores: None.

Democrats receiving “D” or “F” scores: Feingold (WI)

Republicans receiving “D” or “F” Scores: (Too many to list, there are 32 of them)

So, of Democrats, 15% got “A”’s, and less than 2% got in the bottom scores.

On the contrary, 78% of Republicans failed.

Now, there are two potential things to look at here. Either Republicans fail to espouse and vote for positions that benefit veterans, or the methodology here is flawed. Now, certainly some will argue that the first is true. Unlike many however, I have never argue that one party is better for veterans than the other. I know Jonn believes that Democrats are worse for veterans and service-members, but I myself do not ascribe to that theory. I think the focus of each party is different, and thus depending on where your focus lays one will see a party closer on these issues. Let’s just skip that discussion for the time being and look at some interesting things.

Let me start by asking this question, and I want you guys to actually think of it before you go on. I am going to give you two actual bills, distilled as best I can. One of these was considered in the scorecard, the other is not. I would ask that you decide for yourself which one is more indicative in “find[ing] out who in Washington really supports our troops and veterans.”

Bill A:Making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for other purposes

This bill would provide a $500 bonus to troops who were on stop/loss. In addition, this bill contains an expansion of $1 billion to the Cash for Clunkers program; provided $2.4 billion in aid to Pakistan; $5 billion+ to the IMF; $420 million to Mexico; $720 million to the UN for missions in the Congo, Chad and Central African Republic; and $660 million to the West Bank and Gaza. There are a host of other things contained therein that can be seen here.

And now….

Bill B:
To transfer funding for the United Nations contributions to offset costs of providing assistance to family caregivers of disabled veterans.

This amendment to the Veterans’ Caregivers Bill reduces the contributions that the United States makes to the United Nations by a sufficient amount to provide caregiver benefits to ALL severely disabled wartime veterans.

Now, have you read them both? I assume you know where I am going with this. Bill A was included in the grading, however Bill B was not. Would not Bill B be more apropos to veterans than Bill A? While Bill A does have a bunch of veterans stuff in it, they are merely ornaments on a tree that contains such things as the now infamous “Cash for Clunkers” program, whereas Bill B deals exclusively with veterans and taking money from the United Nations. Put another way, Bill A merely spends money, whereas Bill B shifts it. Since We The People are paying either way, I would argue that finding a way to pay for it, as Bill B does, is a better means of valuing something than Bill A which merely uses us as an accoutrement to a bunch of unrelated and (fiscally speaking) unpaid for funds shipped overseas.

And this is at the heart of my complaint with the IAVA scorecard. Essentially, all money spent on Veterans, even if it is a small portion of a gigantic bill, is good, whereas trying to find the money from an existing program is bad. In essence then, isn’t the IAVA scorecard merely a reverse of a scorecard that could be made by an organization arguing for fiscal constraint? I don’t see how the Senator arguing in favor of Bill B (in this case Senator Coburn) could be viewed as less “veteran-friendly” than the person arguing in favor of Bill A, assuming that they were mutually exclusive.

Let’s look at what Coburn had to say specifically on this piece (Bill B):

“I support keeping our commitment to the veterans who have selflessly sacrificed for our nation and I believe Congress should prioritize funding for their care. However, I am opposed to sinking our grandchildren in debt and jeopardizing the sacrifices of those this bill intends to help,” said Dr. Coburn. “Our wounded veterans have demonstrated tremendous courage, yet members of Congress are searching for a backbone. This vote shows that Congress is still refusing to make the hard choices between competing budget priorities every family in America makes every day.”

Now, you may or may not like Coburn, and I do both on a weekly basis, but how can one plausibly argue that the man is not correct on this one?

Let’s look at how IAVA scored the Senate this go around. You’ll recall that last year I took issue with the metrics they used to score them. This year is no different, as IAVA scored 9 votes and 3 co-sponsorships. Taking the latter first, IAVA scored co-sponsorship of the Advanced Appropriations Bill, the “New GI Bill 2.0” and “Veterans Employment.” Although I might quibble with the titles, I also contacted my legislators asking them to cosponsor all of these bills. I think they were all excellent bills, my argument lies in using co-sponsorship as an indicator. Because co-sponsorship on these bills didn’t do anything.

Co-sponsorship of S. 423, Advance Appropriations, 56 cosponsors. The bill passed by unanimous consent. That means no one objected to it. Did the 56 co-sponsorship folks object less to it than the folks who didn’t object to it? 56 cosponsors or none, it went through. Isn’t that the goal?

Co-sponsorship of S. 3447, New GI Bill 2.0, 27 cosponsors. This bill is in committee, and has not moved since Senator Reid sent it there in August. It may or may not move after the election.

Co-sponsorship of S. 3234 (Veterans Employment, 17 cosponsors) and S. 3398 (Veterans Employment, 12 cosponsors). Again, both good bills, both sent to committee with no action.

Ok, now, in fairness to IAVA, here is why they say they score cosponsorship:

IAVA Action recognizes members of Congress who take a leadership roll by cosponsoring bills tied to our top legislative priorities. Cosponsorship plays a critical role in elevating these issues into the national debate, making it possible to secure a vote. They receive one point for each of the priorities they support.

Now, I find two immediate problems with this line of thinking. It assumes that anyone not cosponsoring does not support. As I showed with the first of these, that isn’t always true. There are many reasons someone might not co-sponsor, and yet would support. Since this bill was unanimous, can’t we assume that everyone did, in-fact, support the IAVA priority? Second, this supposes that bills with high cosponsorship move forward, whereas those without that do not. This second is demonstrably not true. Take for instance this rather innocuous House bill that I am completely agnostic towards:

H.R.24
Title: To redesignate the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.

Now, if one supposes that cosponsorship “plays a critical role in elevating these issues into the national debate, making it possible to secure a vote” then anything with over 219 co-sponsors should be headed to the President’s desk faster than Rosie O’Donnell can leap on free donuts. In the House it had an absurd 425 cosponsors. It passed easily, and moved to the Senate, where it has 79 cosponsors. And it has been sitting in the Committee on Armed Services since February 27th of last year. That is a long damn time. If cosponsorship=leadership, then what does one make of this bill?

So, in terms of the grading here, how important is the cosponsoring? The difference between a “B” (Sen Baucus) and a “D” (Sen McCain.)

Anyway, let’s look at the scored votes they used as well. There are nine of them, four of which passed by huge margins. The only one marginal was the “Bill A” I discussed above where 5 Senators voted against it. I looked through their reasons, and not a one of them that I could find had any grave opposition to the aspect that IAVA is purporting to score, opposition to the stop/loss bonuses. The other 3 votes were: 98-1-1 (Coburn), 100-0, 98-0-2. So, those are your freebies, with some negative points to Coburn because the Doctor is rather curmudgeonly. That leaves us with 5 votes.

Now, I said earlier that I don’t believe that IAVA went into this with the intent to make the GOP look bad, and the DEMs look good, and here is why. One of their scores was for something they call the “Crush the Stigma of Seeking Help.” They actually lay this out fairly well, and I know that because I helped move some of this bill along, and worked with parties on all sides on this one.

SUMMARY: To end the suicide epidemic and forever eliminate the stigma of seeking treatment for combat stress injuries Congress must knock down all barriers for veterans seeking care. Three years ago, Congress was considering critical suicide prevention legislation called the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act. When this desperately needed bill came to the Senate floor for a vote, rumors spread that the legislation would cause veterans, seeking help for PTSD, to lose their Second Amendment rights. Even though the National Rifle Association stated that the Joshua Omvig bill would have no impact on gun rights, critical sections of the Suicide Prevention Act were watered down in response. Unfortunately, even today IAVA still hears from veterans who worry that if they reach out for help that they will lose their second amendment rights. IAVA Action has strongly supported legislation, including this amendment, which would clarify that veterans seeking help from the VA would not be denied their Second Amendment rights for doing so. This amendment failed 45-53.

Now, I don’t want to get into this bill with anyone, because like IAVA, I got more phone calls on this retarded bill than any other. The Amendment should have gone through and it would have significantly impacted how many crazies were calling me. The thing is…..the 45 supporting this were 40 GOP and 5 Democrats. In other words, in terms of actual numbers, this is the only bill in two years that where a partisan divide appears, IAVA went to the GOP side. If they wanted to just outright shaft the GOP, why include it? I would argue that IAVA knows that they have to play this down the middle, and this is their attempt to do so.

Anyway, that aside, we are left with 4 votes, which were decided by decent margins: “Cut the VA Budget” 38-60-1, IAVA opposed; “Full Fund the VA” 53-43-3; “Mandatory in Person Mental Health Screenings” 68-29-3; and “End to Late VA Budgets” 57-35-8.

Now, how does that breakdown by party for those 4 votes?

Democrats voted in favor of the IAVA position 222 times, and against it only 7.
Republicans voted in favor of the IAVA position 16 times, and against it 138.
[Note: some abstained on some votes, those are not included.]

Clearly this is the bread and butter of where the democrats get higher scores that the GOP. This is where the rubber meets the road, so let’s look at both the road and the rubber. I’m simply going to list the vote, what IAVA purports about it and then the response of some folks who voted contrary to the IAVA endorsed position, or who said something pertinent.

1. “Cut the VA Budget” 38-60-1, IAVA opposedThis amendment (McCain Amdt. No. 882) was opposed by IAVA.

IAVA: SUMMARY: Over the past three years Congress has fully funded the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have access to benefits and care they so desperately need. This amendment to the 2010 budget resolution would have slashed over $50 billion from the VA’s budget and forced veterans to compete for funds to pay for basic benefits like disability and education. With the surge of veterans returning home from Iraq and the expanding number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan, IAVA Action adamantly opposed this amendment. The amendment failed in a vote of 38-60.

NOTE: This amendment was a complete alternative to the Congressional budget and contained many other non-veteran related provisions. This vote was selected because it was one of the few budget amendments that specifically cut the VA budget in order to pay for other domestic priorities.

Now, note that last sentence, read it again, paying special attention to the part about it “specifically cut[ting] the VA budget.” Well, not according to the colloquy statement from Democrat chairman of the budget committee Senator Conrad who stated:

Disturbingly, next year, when we will still be recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, the budget advanced by the Senator from Arizona would cut nondefense discretionary spending, compared to the resolution before us, by $23 billion. Those cuts would affect virtually every discretionary function, although not defense and not veterans. I commend him for holding them harmless, but that means everything else has to be cut more. That means education, the health care accounts–all of those would have to be cut.

So, even Democrats who got higher scores from this vote acknowledged at the time that what IAVA is purporting as accurate is not. Interesting, no?

2. “Full Fund the VA”, 53-43-3: Conference Report to Accompany S. Con. Res. 13;
An original concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2010, revising the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal year 2009, and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2011 through 2014.

Let me start with this: A Budget Resolution is not a law. And when Congress doesn’t want to follow it, they use the most expedient manner available: they ignore it. So this is a vote on something that isn’t truly binding, unless they feel like it.

IAVA:

SUMMARY: Every year veteran service organizations release the annual Independent Budget (IB) that details the budgetary needs of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the upcoming year. The IB is designed to help Congress have a clear picture of the needs of our nation’s veterans and ensure that every veteran has access to high-quality medical care and are not forced to wait for the benefits they have earned. The IB is released in February so as to correlate with the Congressional Budget Resolution for the upcoming year. The Budget Resolution essentially sets the bottom line allocation that the VA/MilCon Appropriations committee must work within. Those committees can decide where within the VA the money is spent, but once the Budget Resolution is passed the decision to fully fund the VA is already made. The Budget Resolution for fiscal year 2010 fully funded the Department of Veterans of Affairs budget, allocating over $97 billion for the VA. IAVA Action is proud supporter of the IB and believes that choosing to fully fund the VA is a critical vote for our nation’s veterans. The budget passed on a vote of 53-43.

NOTE: The Congressional Budget Resolution sets a fiscal blueprint for the entire federal government and covers issues unrelated the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, considering the importance of fully funding the VA and the number of amendments that sought to slash VA funding we included this vote.

Again, I find that last sentence unsettling. If there were a “number of amendments that sought to slash VA funding” then why not score them? And if the Congressional Budget Resolution is so vital, why is last years one scored, and yet this years is not? Because the Senate didn’t even take one up! The Budget Committee voted for one, but it never made it to the floor. Now, again, if passage of a CBR is so vital, shouldn’t those who didn’t pass one this year be held accountable? I mean, if we are going to just be arbitrary anyway, why don’t we detract points from those in charge if they don’t pass this great and powerful Wizard of Oz non-biding resolution?

One of those voting against the Budget Resolution was Democrat from Nebraska, Senator Ben Nelson, who stated:

“I support the Administration’s outline for addressing challenging programs like energy and health care, but if we’re going to address critical programs and policies like these, we need to cut spending in other programs. This budget doesn’t achieve that so I voted against it.”

“When I was Governor of Nebraska I balanced 8 budgets in a row. We may be known as the Big Red State but we are not big on red ink.

“Unfortunately, the conference report on the budget goes the wrong direction in terms of spending, deficit, and debt levels. In addition, the budget includes fast-track procedures for student loan cuts and health care reform.

“I have already spoken out against using reconciliation to fast-track contentious policy matters, and am disappointed to see it included in this budget. These issues are too important to preclude bipartisanship and shut out centrist voices like my own.

“I highly encourage my Senate colleagues to work together and move forward in a thoughtful and bipartisan fashion by not using reconciliation measures.”

For your fiscal restraint you are hereby awarded 1 negative point from IAVA. It remains 4th Down.

3. “Mandatory in-Person Mental Health Screenings” 68-29-3.

Vote description: Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 2647; National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010

IAVA:

SUMMARY: A recent DOD report on Suicide found that between 2005 and 2009, more than 1,100 servicemembers committed suicide—an average of 1 suicide every 36 hours.
During that time suicide rates in the Marine Corps and Army have severely increased and the Army rate has more than doubled. Since 2001, 260 servicemembers have killed themselves while in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, in the effort to stem the rising tide of suicides the Department of Defense (DOD) was relying on an ineffective, antiquated system of paperwork to conduct mental health evaluations. As a result, thousands of su$ering servicemembers fell through the cracks. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2010 contained a provision that would require every returning servicemember to be confidentially screened in person by a trained mental health professional. IAVA Action had been advocating for this provision for over three years. The NDAA also contained many of IAVA Action’s other legislative recommendations including: increasing the number of mental health providers in the military, minimizing servicemembers’ exposure to hazardous waste by severely limiting the use of open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and granting meaningful voting protections for overseas servicemembers (§575-589). (§ 575-589). The NDAA passed on a vote of 68-29.

NOTE: The NDAA also contained the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which increased the penalties and sentencing requirements for hate crimes directed towards race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. Although IAVA Action takes no position on this issue, the NDAA contained a significant number of our priorities to warrant its inclusion in the report card.

Fellas, I looked to find just one Senator who opposed the in-person mental health screenings. I looked, and yet I could not find. I remain INCREDIBLY SKEPTICAL that a single person in Senate, and more than 12 people in the country not in insane asylums opposed that particular portion. As IAVA notes, most of those opposed where opposed for the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Act portion. Senator Kyl best represents those folks:

Mr. KYL. Madam President, I am voting no on the conference report to the fiscal year 2010 DOD Authorization Act.

This was not an easy decision. This is a very important bill in view of the important policies it puts in place for our men and women uniform and I commend the leadership of the committee’s chairman and ranking member for their commitment to the well being of our nation’s armed forces. This conference report also contains several important provisions I authored or coauthored.

However, I believe is unconscionable that this bill has been taken hostage by the far Left to advance its hate crimes agenda. I cannot provide my vote for a bill that uses our military in this way if we permit it this time, where will it end?

Because of this, while this is an important conference report, and mostly a good one, I cannot vote in favor of it today.

Another who voted against this was Senator Feingold, who supported the Hate Crimes Legislation, but who opposed on other grounds:

Mr. FEINGOLD. Madam President, I oppose this legislation because it does nothing to bring our open-ended and disproportionate military commitment in Afghanistan to an end and/or to ensure that our troops are safely and expeditiously redeployed from Iraq. I am concerned that our current military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan may undermine our ability to combat al-Qaida while imposing a tremendous burden on our brave servicemembers and on American taxpayers.

This bill includes several important provisions, including provisions I authored that will help improve care for wounded warriors and the hate crimes legislation that was first introduced over 8 years ago. But I cannot support a bill that does not do enough to protect our country from our top national security threat, al-Qaida.

Senators Feingold and Kyl would both get “D”‘s, despite the fact that they both agreed to the underlying reason that IAVA is scoring this vote.

4. “End to Late VA Budgets” 57-35-8.
Vote description: Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 3288; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

IAVA:

SUMMARY: Congress has been late passing the Department of Veterans Affairs budget twenty times out of the past 23 years and 2009 was no exception. Late budgets lead to inadequate planning and rationed health care for veterans. In response to these late budgets, all of the leading veterans groups including IAVA, requested that Congress approve the VA budget two years in advance, otherwise known as advance appropriations. The Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2010 included just such an advance appropriation for 2012, finally putting an end to the rationing of veterans health care. This appropriations bill passed 57-35.

NOTE: This bill also contained funding for DOT, HUD, Commerce, Justice, Treasury, Labor, HHS, Education and State departments. The vote for Advanced Appropriations is counted twice by IAVA Action because this is the vote that actually ended the rationing of VA health care. Previous version of Advanced Appropriations did not make it in to law. We also included this vote despite all the other agencies involved because several members were blocking any movement on any bills forcing the VA budget to be late by months.

I also worked on this bill, and were the vote to be exactly as IAVA purports, I would be fine with it. Advanced Appropriations is the most important piece of veterans’ legislation in MANY years. Frankly, it is absurd that we needed it, but since Congress can’t seem to do it’s job by passing timely budgets, this was a corrective work-around. However, as IAVA notes after that, this had funding for a SLEW of things in it, none of them related to veterans.

For the counter argument I will go to my own Senator, who I don’t always agree with, but who pegged this one:

Washington—Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) today called on President Barack Obama to veto a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill that cleared the Senate by one vote over the weekend.

“The president didn’t create this mess, but Congress must be restrained,” Bayh said. “We have to take the credit card away from the politicians who just want to spend, spend, spend. More than one trillion dollars of spending was just way too much. This may not win me a popularity contest in the halls of Congress, but it’s the right thing to do.

Bayh was one of only three Democrats, along with Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), to cross party lines and oppose the massive year-end spending bill, which will raise spending for a host of federal programs at more than four times the rate of inflation.

“I would hope the president would veto this bill,” Bayh said. “It’s bad for our country’s finances. It’s bad for our children because we are going deeper into debt to China. It sets a terrible example by showing that politicians are totally out of touch with the sacrifices middle class Americans are making.”

The appropriations bill now on the president’s desk includes federal spending for all FY2010 spending bills that Congress failed to consider on their own merits this year. Overall, the spending bill increases FY09 spending levels by almost $34 billion, or 8.1 percent, and includes more than 5,200 earmarks totaling almost $4 billion.

Senator Bayh was one of only two Democrats to vote against the FY09 omnibus appropriations and one of only three Democrats to vote against the $3.55 trillion federal budget because of unsustainable spending levels. The current year-end spending bill is even more irresponsible than last year’s, Bayh said.
“At a time when families and businesses are struggling to make ends meet, for Washington to increase federal spending at four times the rate of inflation is just irresponsible. And to have 5,000 pork barrel earmark appropriations in there, with politicians showing no willingness to cut back at a time when ordinary folks must—well, that is just deeply wrong.

“Voting against this kind of spending, voting for fiscal responsibility, and voting against pork barrel earmarks was the right thing to do. I am going to continue to stand up against the powers that be in Congress and make the case that it is past time to get our fiscal house in order.”

I think that is enough comment on this one.

____________________________________________________________

Is it true, as IAVA suggests through its vote selections, that any action in support of fiscal discipline is a vote against veterans? I would hate to think that this is true. But it seems that Congress, and IAVA, hold those responsible for voting against further debt as less supportive of veterans. This might make sense if the vote was something simple, where one voted “Aye” or “Nay” on adding $2 billion to the VA Budget in a vacuum. But no such votes ever take place. It’s not A or B with these folks, it’s almost always ABCDEFG or no on ABCDEFG. If you oppose any of those and vote “No” IAVA assumes you opposed every other letter in there.

This (again) isn’t a critique of IAVA as much as it is an indictment on anyone who purports to “score” veterans votes. You just can’t do it. The system is not set up for it. Bills seldom come to the floor in an unadulterated, unadorned state. You get things like a Defense Bill that also had protections for Transgendered persons. And then along comes IAVA who says you must support the latter, or you are opposing the former. I could probably come up with a scoring card right now that would move Senator Feingold from a “D” to an “A” and at the same time move Reid from a “B” to an “F”. But it wouldn’t be fair, because both Senator Feingold and Reid have been great on veteran’s issues. I don’t say that to rile up my friends on the right as much as to state the obvious: without Reid we would be screwed on the “Disabled Veterans Tax.”

The take-away from all this is that this scorecard only shows how people voted on certain bills, amendments and resolutions, it does not (as it is billed) show “Who in Washington Really Supports Our Troops and Veterans.”

If you want to know who truly supports veterans and troops in Congress, then call them, get to know their staffers, find out what they are doing to correct deficiencies. Don’t look at nebulous Christmas Tree bills that contain one tiny nugget that is good for us, buried in 1,000 tons of shit that has nothing to do with us.

Category: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Politics

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  1. However, for whatever one might hold against Paul, I’ve never heard it suggested or even intimated that the dude wasn’t sharp, and that he didn’t want to help veterans.

    I haven’t gotten through all of the post yet (I just finished the part where you give the examples of Bill A vs Bill B and where the IAVA included Bill A in grading, yet not Bill B) but…

    If you’re going to make the assumption that Paul Rieckhoff is a “sharp guy” and then turn around and explicitly show us that he and his group put together a completely retarded way of grading legislators with regards to their support of the military, I can come to one of two conclusions:

    (1) If Rieckhoff really is a sharp guy, then he knew EXACTLY what he was doing when he made up this bullshit grading system or…
    (2) Rieckhoff is NOT as sharp as everyone thinks and that’s why he and the other idiots in IAVA came up with this bullshit grading system

    I’m going to continue reading the post, but my opinion of Rieckhoff and IAVA has not changed thus far after I found out about last year’s grading system. And now you’re telling me they did it again? I’m leaning heavily towards my conclusion (1) above. They support Democrats, so they fixed the grading system so Democrats would come out looking golden and Republicans would look like dirt.

  2. TSO says:

    Michael- A very fair point.

    This is what I think: I think Paul genuinely wanted to put out a quality scorecard. And I think he sort of had to based on the abuse we heaped on him last year. And so they started finding votes that they could use. None of them are enough on target for me, but apparently your mileage may vary. I think he added the gun one to try to even stuff out.

    The reality is, you just can’t make a scorecard because there are too many votes contingent on too many things. This isn’t a 1 line bill like the Flag Protection Amendment. These things take up volumes, and in order to opppose one sentence therein, one most oppose the whole package.

  3. I would argue that IAVA knows that they have to play this down the middle, and this is their attempt to do so.

    And I would argue that the IAVA is not supposed to be “play[ing] this down the middle”, they are supposed to be objectively looking at bills — regardless of the partisanship of the vote — and grading them specifically on their importance to the military community.

    You say that Rieckhoff and the IAVA didn’t deliberately set this up to help Democrats and hurt Republicans, yet you turn around and speculate they picked and chose certain bills to do just that, only decided to pick this certain bill to “play this down the middle”.

    If the RESULT of the vote is being looked at, then that’s not being objective. The only thing that should be looked at is the bill itself. Period.

    I’m about half way through this right now (I’m currently here: Again, I find that last sentence unsettling. If there were a “number of amendments that sought to slash VA funding” then why not score them?) and I’m more and more convinced of my Conclusion (1) above. Instead of looking at Bills objectively based on their importance to the military and then grading them accordingly, the IAVA deliberately chose bills based on the votes.

    I’m not seeing much difference here between IAVA and VFW-PAC and VoteVets and how they do business. They start off with their liberalism and then go find a way to justify supporting liberal Democrats and sell them to military members. That is NOT what an objective, supposedly “non-partisan” group does.

  4. TSO says:

    Oh, I agree with 99% of what you wrote there. I also agree they should be more objective, my overall point is that objectivity in vote scoring is impossible in veterans legislation.

    And I speculated that they found a bunch of bills they wanted to use (the last 4 I discuss) and then realized that it would again result in All dems getting A’s and B’s, and threw in the gun vote as a sop.

    I think they tried to do the impossible, and when they realized how flawed it was, used another flawed mechanism to even it out.

    Honestly, I think the whole thing is crap.

  5. And Blackfive solidifies my opinion of IAVA and Rieckhoff. I had forgotten that guy gave the DEMOCRATIC response to President Bush’s radio address. If you’re a non-partisan group, you don’t act on behalf of a political party. PERIOD.

    That coordination with Democrats + their first BS grading system + their new BS grading system = Democrat partisan HACKS. Period.

    And I disagree with you, TSO. If someone truly is a “sharp guy”, one could come up with a good grading system. I consider most of you here pretty sharp, as well as the guys at BlackFive and Mudville Gazette also (the main military blogs I read). If someone really wanted to make a good grading system, they could take all the bills and comments to bills and analyze them as you have done here, TSO. Someone else could then analyze the statements related to the military that legislators have made throughout the last cycle and grade them on those.

    It is possible, it would just take a lot of work. Work that Rieckhoff and his hacks at the IAVA obviously did not do, since they are in the bag for liberal Democrats. So they did just enough research to get good grades for Democrats — with one bill thrown in to “play it down the middle” — and that’s it.

    You know, the main reason that I frequent TAH, Blackfive, Mudville, etc is because of your integrity. I don’t always agree with your political views, but I know when I frequent your blogs that you will give it to your readers straight and with no BS. The reason I do NOT consider groups like IAVA, VFW-PAC, VoteVets and IVAW credible is because of their partisan hackery and their long history of NOT playing things straight.

  6. Mr Wolf says:

    Soooo, IAVA wrote the VFW-PAC endorsements, or vice-versa?

    As you said in that debacle, it’s impossible under our system to try to ‘score’ an outcome. It’s also impossible to put your own biases aside. Look, they took ad money from the Ad Council. IAVA, and now the VFW setup, just proves what we’ve been saying all along: it’s all about Veterans as Victims.

    And who better to ‘victimize’ vets in order to ‘help’ them than Dems? Who’ve done the same to EVERY group that votes for them?

    IAVA should just own up to their bias, admit it, and MoveOn.

    Oops. Did I say that out loud?

    Wolf

  7. Mr Wolf says:

    Oh, and I forgot to ad-

    One DAMN FINE article.

    Just. Wow.

  8. Old Trooper says:

    In all honesty, I have a difficult time with any of the “scorecards”, because they can be weighted in any way the creator wants. Just like they do with polls; they base them on the questions asked and know which way the poll will lean before they call their first person. As always: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. They can be manipulated any way you want just by inserting or removing a piece that doesn’t fit the way you want the outcome.

    I look at who is harping about a certain bill and the lack of support for it. For instance: The first example you give (bill A) is exactly what you said it is; pork with a smattering of Vet stuff sprinkled to make it look like a Veterans bill. When people vote against it, not based on the Veterans stuff, but rather all the other bs, the other side starts bellowing that “so and so doesn’t support Veterans because they voted against this bill”! Which is complete bullshit, but it plays well to the sheep.

    I ignore scorecards in general, no matter who puts it out.

  9. The system is not set up for it. Bills seldom come to the floor in an unadulterated, unadorned state. You get things like a Defense Bill that also had protections for Transgendered persons. And then along comes IAVA who says you must support the latter, or you are opposing the former.

    And this right here is THE problem. I think you mentioned early on in your post a bill that had one thing related to military/veterans matters and say 5 other things completely unrelated to same. So when all the Republicans voted against the latter, they were graded as being anti-military/veteran. That is ridiculous. But what is most ridiculous is all the tacking on of unrelated issues to a major bill in order to try to get them passed. That needs to end. That’s BS.

    I think they tried to do the impossible, and when they realized how flawed it was, used another flawed mechanism to even it out.

    Honestly, I think the whole thing is crap.

    I 100% agree. And if Rieckhoff and his IAVA crew were as “sharp” and honest as you give them credit for, they would have scrapped the entire grading system BS and never released it in the first place. But they did release it, because they wanted to help Democrats. So that right there loses them all their credibility in my eyes. You may want to say they did this in good faith, but the fact they released a completely bullshit grading system proves, at least to me, they were not acting in good faith. Why you and others still give them the benefit of the doubt, I don’t know. They are in VFW-PAC and VoteVets territory as far as I am concerned.

    As a side note, question for all here… if a legislator had an A grade on veterans issues, but an F grade on fiscal issues, would you support/promote him/her?

  10. TSO says:

    Would I personally? Absolutely not. Not even a little. And for a rather VoteVetsian reason….you know how VoteVets claims everything is a veterans issue? Highways, fuel, price of tea imports, all veterans related. Well, for me, saddling future generations with debt is a HUGE consideration. That’s why I prefer my Democrats conservative, and my Republicans pure.

    In short, stop spending my damn money unless there is some demonstrably feasible reason you are doing it.

  11. “In all honesty, I have a difficult time with any of the “scorecards”, because they can be weighted in any way the creator wants. Just like they do with polls; they base them on the questions asked and know which way the poll will lean before they call their first person.”
    ==========

    100% agreed.

    This also happened with regards to the conservative vs RINO throw-down in the 2008 primaries. McCain supporters kept bringing up his ACU score, as if a score of 75% tells the complete story of anything.

    An ACU score of say 70% is meaningless if 7 out of 10 things are insignificant legislation, while the 3 out of 10 are Amnesty, Cap-and-Trade and Obamacare. Or let’s say someone had an 80%. Looks great until you see their 2 things were Cap-and-Trade and Obamacare, two of the biggest economy-destroying bills in history.

    So, TSO, I agree, you and Old Trooper are right about these scoring systems. 99% of the time they are meaningless and biased and rigged. I guess I’m such a stats freak that I feel that these things can actually be done correctly if gone into with a truly objective mindset. Unfortunately, as you say, biases almost always get in the way.

    However, a truly good military organization will put their biases aside and do what is good for military members and veterans.

  12. And for a rather VoteVetsian reason… you know how VoteVets claims everything is a veterans issue? Highways, fuel, price of tea imports, all veterans related.

    Well, that’s my point. I agree with VoteVets that everything is a Veterans issue, in the sense that Veterans are American citizens as everyone else, and suffer or succeed based on legislation written affecting the general public. As you say, if you’re writing legislation like Cap-and-Tax and Obamacare that cripples future generations with debt (in addition to jacking up taxes and energy costs on everyone), veterans are included in that. Cap-and-Tax is a “veterans’ issue”, since it affects veterans. So a vote for/against that should be of major concern to veterans and their families too, not just legislation on direct veteran issues like funding of the VA.

    So, yes, your answer is the one I was hoping for and hope everyone has. While single issues are important to specific groups, everyone is affected by the legislation that applies to the general population and should consider all of that for their vote. (ie if someone is pro-life, they should not support a pro-life Democrat who’s fiscally irresponsible vs a pro-choice Republican who’s fiscally conservative)

  13. Kanani says:

    Is there a Cliff Notes version of this? ;)

    Seriously, this is a very detailed and fair analysis. Personally, I’ve always found organizational “report cards” stacked. This is why I pay very little attention to them when they come in the mail.
    Perhaps IAVA was trying to come up with a slate of candidates who echoed their mission and values, obviously their system of analysis was flawed. It seems they are making a lot of assumptions as to what constitutes supporting veterans. The examples you gave was excellent.
    Can they right it next year? I’d say it all depends on the desire of whomever is in charge and the board of directors.

  14. Justplainjason says:

    When I first got back I was a member of IAVA, because I really thought it was about OIF/OEF vets. I pretty much quit when Reichoff went on Bill Maher and didn’t say anything about all the shit Maher talks about soldiers. He was on the show and had the opportunity to defend troops, but instead he was more interested in celebrity than doing what he should have done. The IAVA is his way into celebrity status…plus the douche did that crap movie with Matt Damon.

  15. Mary says:

    Yeah…he is a sharp guy. He figured out a way to profit form being a very left-leaning former military member. He has Soros money. And that is all I need to know that the IAVA has a dangerous agenda. Thanks for the details on this.

  16. Dave Thul says:

    I agree JustPlain. IAVA isn’t slanted towards the left because it is ideologically left, it aligns with the left because it sees most veterans as victims of the military and the VA.

    There are plenty of examples of our government screwing vets over, like Agent Orange, the VA hospital scandal, and a pile of others. But as a veteran, I refuse to see myself as a victim of our government. I served, and I want the benefits I am entitled to.

    But IAVA and many of the Congressmen they support see veterans as a victim entitlement group that they can represent and pull in pork for. They want to go way beyond the benefits we earned and move us into being getting benefits they THINK we deserve. They are just another facet of the entitlement mentality, and veterans happen to be the group the represent, but it could just as easily be minorities, senior citizens, or homeless.

    IAVA grades Congressmen based on how much money they bring in, and that is really it. I’d much rather have the respect of my Congressman than some new program. I would rather have a Congressman who respects veterans, rather than sees them as another group to pander to when it is time to get elected.

  17. WOTN Editor says:

    Great Analysis of the scorecard TSO, but you give Rieckhoff too much credit. He cares about the DNC, not Veterans and certainly not the Military.

    Rieckhoff is a cheerleader for Matthews, Maddow, and Soros, not to mention Obama. His “veteran issues” are PTSD & Suicide, which are very real issues but severerly overblown by partisans who oppose Veterans, Troops, and the Military at every turn, unless it means money to their districts.

  18. In all honesty, I have a difficult time with any of the “scorecards”, because they can be weighted in any way the creator wants. Just like they do with polls; they base them on the questions asked and know which way the poll will lean before they call their first person. As always: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. They can be manipulated any way you want just by inserting or removing a piece that doesn’t fit the way you want the outcome.

  19. John Mudd says:

    The rating scheme truly is fair and balanced. The facts are that the D’s tend to support veterans in most legislation and the R’s couldn’t care less. It is what it is. The IAVA and Reichhoff capture it and present it. You ASS CLOWN right-wing veterans prefer to see a “lybral” agenda in everything you disagree with. Plain and simple. In the meantime, corporate greed which is the $$$ behind the right, continues to erode away your and our quality of life.
    Yet you continue to rant: “ITS THE LYBRALS FAULT!” A people deserve the leadership they get.

  20. TSO says:

    Thanks John, really valuable insight there. Except you know, just the opposite. You didn’t of course point out either a factual error in my argument, a disagreement with an opinion I had stated, you falsely imply that I attached “lybrals” and then added the sadly obligatory “corporate” argument that has jack shit to do with it.

    So, thanks for the comment. Always great to see another idiot trying to prove just how idiotic he actually is.

  21. TSO says:

    Also, good job avoiding that I largely used Democrats arguing my points to claim the evil is Republicans.

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