#GOPTaxScam Targets Disabled Veterans

The Republican Tax Scam will have serious, even devastating, consequences for the nearly 20% of Americans who have disabilities-- greater tax burdens and decreased opportunities.

As Robyn Powell explained last week to Rewire readers,

"People with disabilities already have massive expenses and far less income, on average, than their non-disabled counterparts. Many of their medical necessities-- such as long-term care and certain wheelchairs-- are not covered by some insurance plans, including Medicare, and can cost an individual tens of thousands of dollars. These services are not just about one’s health; having access to a power wheelchair or in-home care can be the difference between living in an institution or a private residence. Right now, taxpayers may deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses if they exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income. Notably, 8.8 million people-- primarily people with disabilities and seniors, as well as their caregivers-- benefited from this important deduction last year." But to make life a tad more bearable for overburdened private jet owners, Trump's and Ryan's Tax Scam eliminates the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction.

Los Angeles area Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), a veteran and an Air Force colonel is the West Coast regional Vice Chair for the DCCC. He told us that "The GOP tax scam will be a disaster for our veterans and our country. It is particularly disgusting that Republicans have proposed repealing tax credits to hire disabled veterans while at the same time giving billionaires and corporations a huge tax cut. Tax policy is ultimately a statement of priorities-- and Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are showing us what their priorities are, and it isn't our veterans." 

And Lieu is exactly right: the Tax Scam falls especially hard on disabled veterans. Blue America talked to some of the progressive veterans running for Congress, in light of the passage of the Tax Scam in both Houses. 

I wonder if all those self professed Christians in the Republican Party ever think of Jesus' admonition: “That what you do to the least of these, so do you do to me." This morning, Randy Bryce texted us that he had been going over parts of the GOP Tax Scam and one of the parts that infuriated him was how it penalizes veterans wounded in the line of duty. "After serving in the Army I returned home to Southeast Wisconsin," he told us. I saw fellow veterans without homes and I worked hand in hand-- through my union and with the Democratic Party and state government to bring needed assistance their way. That is the best of America and is the America I was proud to protect and serve. Targeting disabled veterans who served their country is especially cruel and unAmerican. Seeing this tax scam try and rip needed services away from my brothers and sisters who served sickens me. We didn't serve to protect a billionaires ability to fly a Learjet on the cheap. We served to protect the best of our American values. These frauds are shameful, and we will repeal and replace their leader in the house, Paul Ryan-- a man who appears to truly enjoy hurting those in need in order to see his billionaire buddies smile."

Doug Applegate, the progressive former Marine colonel running for a a San Diego/Orange County seat held by Darrell Issa: "Once again Veterans get the short end of the stick. The problem lies with the decline of Vets sitting in Congress and voting Veterans’ interests. Don’t just “thank a Vet for their service”; that doesn’t come close to paying the bill. We need to thank Veterans with our votes!"

As Pennsylvania's Tom Prigg put it: "We fought for our country. Some returned home wounded. All we want is the ability to live a good, normal, productive life. To take care of our families. But now Keith Rothfus and the Republican’s new  tax bill will eliminate the Disabled Access Credit and the Work Opportunity Credit  tax credits for businesses who hire disabled people like our vets. This heartless bill not only takes away our wounded warrior’s ability to work and take care of their families, it also takes away their dignity by undermining their livelihood. Keith Rothfus, a congressman who never misses an opportunity for a veteran photo-op, supports this bill that will hurt tens-of-thousands of American Veterans and their families."

Tom's concerns were echoed by all the veteran candidates we talked with. James Thompson is running for the Wichita, Kansas seat, held by Ryan rubberstamp Ron Estes. "Ron Estes is a hypocrite," he told us. "He gives lip service to supporting veterans by showing up to some high profile events to get free media coverage. Yet when the rubber meets the road, and he is given a real opportunity to help veterans, especially disabled veterans, he didn't have their six. He voted in favor of the Republicans’ Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which will give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans, like the KOCH brothers here in my district. This is not tax reform, it is tax robbery paid for by robbing disabled veterans to pay the privileged princes of Wall Street. Ron Estes and his ilk, at the direction of these modern day robber barons, removed the Disabled Access Credit and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Simply put, the Work Opportunity Credit incentivizes companies to hire disabled veterans, while the Disabled Access Credit allows them to actually hire disabled vets by making it possible for those same companies to afford special accommodations like ramps. Ending these two credits, harms veterans. PERIOD. Veterans need representatives to watch their six, not use it as an opportunity to stab them in the back. I promise every veteran out there, regardless of party, I will have your six, and will lead the way in making sure our countries heroes are taken care of when they go to war and when they return from it. I hope everyone will call and encourage their Senators and Representatives to vote FOR VETERANS by voting no on the #GOPTaxScam."

Jared Golden is the Maine House whip. He told us that: "Bruce Poliquin and his corporate allies in Washington are intent on funding their tax cuts on the backs of our children and disabled veterans. By adding over $1 trillion to the debt, future generations will be on the hook for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Where the tax plan does make up costs are on the backs of the disabled including our wounded fighting men and women. These tax credits are designed to create an incentive for businesses to hire disabled veterans and others with disabilities, I find it morally reprehensible that these laudable and effective tax credits are where Rep. Poliquin and the Republicans in Congress want to find 'savings' so that millionaires and billionaires can buy an extra yacht, or a corporation can move more jobs overseas." 

Please consider helping these military vets with their congressional campaigns by contributing what you can at this link.



Progressive Veterans Running For Congress

Unless you live in his district, you probably never heard of Ohio teabagger Warren Davidson, the Trumpist nut who won Boehner's seat when GOP extremists forced their own Speaker out of office. Last week Butler County's Journal-News reported Davidson told a room full of veterans that one way to clean up the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system is to get the "moochers" out of it. "Part of the problem," he said, "is there are some vets that are moochers and they’re clogging up the system. And we do as taxpayers want to make sure the VA filters out these folks that are pretenders." A spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars responded that "Honorably discharged veterans with service-connected wounds, illnesses and injuries, or who are indigent due to circumstances beyond their control, are not moochers."

If you feel, like we do, that the real moochers we have to worry about are careerist conservatives in Congress, please check out a new Blue America ActBlue page we just started to support progressive military veterans.

Recently Veterans For Bernie founder and National Director, Tyson Manker, announced his group's endorsement of U.S. Marine Colonel Doug Applegate, the Blue America-backed progressive running for the CA-49 seat (Orange and San Diego counties) that Darrell Issa operates out of.

"Colonel Applegate deployed to Ramadi, Iraq in 2006," said Manker. "He shouldered the burden with the 2.5 million Americans who laced up their boots and headed down range after September 11th. I know the Colonel will ask the right questions and ensure we are only sending our forces overseas when it is the last choice, not our first option. Veterans swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic... We must elect Representatives with proven leadership. We must elect those that have the skills to reach across the aisle to end the paralysis that has brought our Congress to a stand-still. Colonel Applegate’s opponent, Darrell Issa (U.S. Army veteran), voted to authorize the Iraq war, voted to cut an increase to military benefits, and dismissed 9/11 as 'just a plane crash'. That is why we endorse our brother, retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate to be the next Representative of California’s 49th Congressional District."

I came away from my long interview with Doug Applegate with a feeling that part of why he's running for Congress is because he felt that 95% of Congress who never served in a combat zone, has sent our sons and daughters to endless wars without any real strategy since 9/11. He told me clearly that he knows we "can't kill our way out of the world’s problems." He has experienced the realities and trials of war and learned firsthand how decisions to use our military impacts our all-volunteer force and everyday Americans. An infantry officer and a military lawyer since 1980, Doug already understands and stands ready to provide the type of leadership Congress so sorely lacks. I asked him in which areas specifically he felt he could make a difference in Congress. He talked about Congress' being lacking in what he identified as “4 critical areas:”

  1. sexual assaults in the military
  2. defense contracting that wastes trillions of American taxpayer dollars
  3. restructuring of the Veteran Administration that is inadequate, underfunded, overcrowded, and ill-prepared
  4. renewable energy program repeatedly needed and requested by the Defense Department

Doug doesn't sound anything like Warren Davidson.

Neither does Tom Wakely, a Blue America-backed candidate in the Austin-San Antonio area of Texas (TX-21, a seat held by Trump-fanatic Lamar Smith). "Simply put," he told us this week, "I've always put my country before politics. It's not hard to do. Though I was a noncombatant, I signed up with the Air Force right after I graduated high school. I understood that when your country needs you, it's important to answer that call. Our country's in dire need of elected officials who understand the most basic concepts of duty and compassion. I'm ready to answer the call again in District 21." He got right into the issue that separates him immediately from Davidson, Smith and the other Trumpists-- support for the V.A. 

As a veteran, I receive all my healthcare through the VA. I've seen the lines. I've experienced the service (or lack thereof). We've come a long way in reforming the VA but we must go much further. Our veterans deserve so much better. I've met with many veterans across the district who are ready to see real change. The media is happy to cover the return of our troops from overseas but oftentimes once those same troops become veterans, they become afterthoughts. We must keep them in our hearts and minds if we're going to progress as a nation. It must be all of us, together. That's why I'll be urging Congress to provide for the VA to cover full vision and dental. What good are we as a nation to our veterans if they can't see or incur serious periodontal disease?  It's why I want to work with various veterans and medical policy institutes to develop a new comprehensive mental health program at the VA which focuses on behavioral therapy and counseling as the true first line of defense. I'm personally a believer that healthcare is a human right and as this country moves toward that direction, we can learn a lot from what we are able to do in the VA. All too often our veterans become over-prescribed and misunderstood.

Lamar Smith is always ready to send our troops into harm's way, but votes against raising combat pay and properly insulating our barracks abroad. Being pro-war doesn't grant you the mantle of being pro-vets, pro-troops, or even pro-country. That hasn't stopped Smith from claiming a right to all of the above despite a record that proves otherwise. I'm ready to tackle the issues veterans face because I live it. I'm ready to listen. I'm ready to answer that call.

Our candidate on the South Shore of Long Island (NY-02), DuWayne Gregory, is the Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature. A native Long Islander from a military family, DuWayne enlisted in the Army right out of college. He served as a lieutenant in the field artillery and he told us that his time in the Army taught him the importance of working together and refusing to back down in the face of any challenge-- lessons he brings to politics.

"My service in the military," he said, "was the greatest honor of my life. I saw great acts of bravery; I saw displays of courage and conviction. But I also saw firsthand issues that need to be addressed, such as men and women working over forty hours a week living in poverty.

I learned many important life lessons while serving in the military, the most important of which is the importance of leadership. Peter King's leadership has fallen short when it comes to important issues pertaining to our veterans. He and Congress have failed those in our military who are living on public assistance. They have failed when it comes to reforms in the VA. They have failed when it comes to the high unemployment rate for returning war veterans. I will use my military experience to lead on these issues and to demonstrate the commitment our veterans deserve. When there is a job to do, partisan politics shouldn't get in the way. I will provide the leadership that Congress needs to get the job done."

Please consider helping us make sure that when Congress considers military matters, not all the voices come from the far right, like Issa's and Davidson's. Let's make sure there are more progressives with military experience, like exemplary Blue America alumnus, Ted Lieu, in Congress.




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