Abercrombie protests silencing of veterans
U.S. REP. Neil Abercrombie has joined Democrats' protest of an end to joint House-Senate hearings to work on the president's budgetary recommendations for veterans' programs.
Veterans are also upset because House Veterans Affairs Chairman Steve Buyer terminated the long-standing practice of veterans' groups addressing a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. The decision was announced Thursday -- a day before Veterans Day.
On Monday, 12 Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee sent a letter to Buyer protesting the decision.
Abercrombie, who is not a member of the committee, said in a written statement: "Veterans groups perform a unique and multifaceted role. They offer valuable services to their individual members, they serve as a primary social network for millions of men and women, and they are the lead advocates on behalf of those who have served our country in uniform."
The Democrats say they intend to develop "an alternative but similar forum."
Critics say Buyer is trying to cut protests on funding by veterans' group once they see the military budget now being worked out by both houses of Congress.
Abercrombie said he finds veterans' advice "indispensable when it comes to veterans legislation" and that these joint annual hearings are "an important forum for letting Congress know how well we are doing our job and alerting us to emerging issues that demand attention."
Last week, Disabled American Veterans National Commander Paul W. Jackson called the decision "an insult to all who have fought, sacrificed and died to defend the Constitution."
Jackson added: "The tradition of legislative presentations by veterans service organizations dates back to at least the 1950s.
"The right to fully participate in the democratic process is a cornerstone of our nation," Jackson said.
Buyer, R-Ind., last week during a visit to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., said he would hold a budget hearing for House lawmakers alone, and in February rather than March, to get veterans involved in the process earlier each year.