WASHINGTON – Tennessee's two Republican senators angered the American Legion with recent votes against expanding veterans' benefits.
Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker explained their votes in different ways Friday, but each said the legislation they opposed would not have solved the problems in veterans' care that have come to light recently.
In February, the Senate considered a $21 billion proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, that would have expanded a wide range of veterans benefits — touching on issues such as college tuition, pension benefits and job training — while also calling for 27 new VA medical facilities nationwide.
The bill was stopped on a Republican procedural motion just short of the 60 votes it needed to advance.
Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Tennessee Republicans, joined the majority of their GOP colleagues in voting against it.
Afterward, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said
"I don't know how anyone who voted 'no' today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote. Our veterans deserve more than what they got today."
Sanders proposed paying for the legislation with savings from other areas of government, but Republicans expressed skepticism about those savings materializing.
"Senator Alexander voted against the Sanders legislation because it would have flooded VA facilities with millions of new patients and made these problems worse for low-income veterans and those with service-related injuries who are now eligible for medical care at these hospitals and clinics," said the senator's spokesman, Brian Reisinger.
Corker said through a spokesman that the problems at the VA go beyond the amount of money spent on veterans.
"VA funding levels have increased well over 60 percent since 2009, yet our veterans continue to struggle with access to VA medical services and the timely processing of their benefits claims," according to his office.