Veterans' group says McConnell blocked $21 billion for health ca - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Veterans' group says McConnell blocked $21 billion for health care

Senator Mitch McConnell (Source: WAVE 3 News) Senator Mitch McConnell (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Marty Goley (Source: WAVE 3 News) Marty Goley (Source: WAVE 3 News)
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A veterans' group launched its first TV advertising campaign in Kentucky to accuse Sen. Mitch McConnell of blocking billions of dollars for veterans' health care.

The national group VoteVets.org, which describes itself as progressive and backs a list of Democratic candidates on its website, is spending at least $300,000 on the ad.

“Sen. McConnell, I did my duty,” says Charles Erwin, who the commercial says is an ailing Vietnam veteran from Mayfield. “But after 30 years in Washington, you've failed to do yours. Time for you to go.”

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McConnell's campaign said VoteVets.org was “cherry-picking” a single vote on veterans' issues and pointed out that McConnell voted for a compromise bill that created new health clinics this summer.

The vote questioned in the ad happened in February, when Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote on a $21 billion bill meant to expand military veterans' health care options over concerns about how Democrats planned to pay for the legislation.

Democrats and Republicans accused each other of playing politics with veterans' health. Lawmakers later acted after scandals involving the cover-up of long wait times at VA hospitals were revealed.

McConnell spoke in favor of, and voted for, a measure reportedly worth $16 billion in July. It allowed some veterans the option of seeking care outside the VA system if they faced long wait times or lived far from a clinic, and President Barack Obama signed it into law.

McConnell's campaign said the final legislation was part of McConnell's record of supporting veterans.

“Of course a liberal Obama advocacy group that specializes in misleading ads has descended into Kentucky on behalf of Alison Lundergan Grimes,” said Allison Moore, a McConnell spokeswoman.

Andrew Horne, a spokesman for VoteVets.org, said McConnell's initial “no” vote delayed the legislative response to a crisis.

“Essentially, Sen. McConnell led the pact that blocked that emergency money,” Horne said. “It was a critical issue for us, and that's why we got involved.”

Marty Goley, the state commander for the American Legion in Kentucky, said people should be more focused on maintaining funding for veterans' care than politics.

“I've not had any issues, and I've not had anybody come to me and say, ‘I'm having a problem (with the VA)'” Goley said. “And we speak with a lot of veterans.”

Goley said his own experience with the VA was “remarkable” during a recent battle with pneumonia that forced him to get treatment in intensive care.

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