WASHINGTON (CNN) – Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance, but was told by lawmakers that it would be "dead on arrival" if sent to Congress.
Washington Sen. Patty Murray used that blunt terminology, telling Shinseki that the idea would not be acceptable and would be rejected if formally proposed. She made the remarks during a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing about the 2010 budget.
No official proposal to create such a program has been announced publicly, but veterans groups wrote a pre-emptive letter last week to President Obama opposing the idea after hearing the plan was under consideration. The groups also noticed an increase in “third-party collections” estimated in the 2010 budget proposal—something they said could only be achieved if the VA started billing for service-related injuries.
Asked about the proposal, Shinseki said it was under "consideration."
"A final decision hasn't been made yet," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Veterans groups are warning President Barack Obama against going ahead with a possible administration move to charge veterans' private health care for service-related injuries.
In a letter sent by 11 of the most prominent veterans organizations, the groups warned that the idea "is wholly unacceptable and a total abrogation of our government's moral and legal responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much."
CNN obtained a copy of the letter sent to the White House last Friday by groups including The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
A White House spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the option is being considered.
"The details of specific proposals will be transmitted with the full submission in April. The president has made it clear that meeting the needs of veterans is one of his priorities, and as a result has requested an 11 percent increase in discretionary funding for 2010, and the administration is actively working with the veterans community to ensure we get the details of this budget right," said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.
In the letter, the groups said they have been told by sources on Capitol Hill and at the VA that the idea under consideration would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to bill health insurance for a treatment of a disability or injury that was a result of military service.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved all four Pentagon officials nominated by the Obama administration, including a Raytheon lobbyist whose potential conflict of interest led to objections to the nomination.
The nominations still need to be voted on by the entire Senate.
Ratheon executive William Lynn was nominated to be deputy secretary of defense, the number two position under Secretary Robert Gates. Lynn was given
special waivers so that he could be appointed despite President Barack Obama's
ethics rules, which would have seemed to make him ineligible to operate in that
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Michigan Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who had raised questions about deputy defense secretary nominee William Lynn’s lobbying activities, stressed today that he still supported the nomination. The deputy defense secretary is the second highest position in the Pentagon, under the Secretary of Defense.
“I haven’t seen anything that would cause me not to support it,” the Democrat said Friday.
The comments from the chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee come a day after Arizona Sen. John McCain sent Lynn a stern letter charging that the nominee had not given the committee the right answers about his lobbying, and how he might recuse himself in relevant situations.
Levin said that information could be sent to the committee soon, and that he was hoping to vote soon after it arrives. Lynn has been asked for information about what projects Lynn lobbied on for Raytheon, as well as the more complicated issue of what areas he may have to recuse himself from if he is confirmed.
Levin said the issues raised regarding Lynn are not new - they’ve been raised before about others – and the senator feels that there are appropriate provisions to deal with the nominee’s conflicts in the near term as he divests himself from his Raytheon stock holdings and gets his final bonus from the company.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The head of the Senate Armed Services committee said Thursday that he needed more information on how the nominee for deputy secretary of defense would handle conflicts of interests in his Pentagon post.
President Obama has nominated William Lynn, an undersecretary of defense during President Clinton's second term, to be deputy to Secretary Robert Gates.
Lynn was a senior vice president at Raytheon, which has billions of dollars in Defense Department contracts. It is is the maker of the Army's Patriot missile system and the Navy's Tomahawk missile and is developing a global positioning satellite communication system for the Air Force.
As deputy secretary, Lynn would be involved in the process of budgeting and acquisitions, in addition to running the day-to-day operations of the Defense Department.
(CNN) - In a somewhat sheepish statement at the open of his first press conference as Secretary of Defense for President Obama, Secretary Robert Gates informed the press he will be having surgery on Friday because of “tractor-related” accident.
Gates tore his bicep tendon while trying to attach his snow plow blade to his tractor.
Since he will be having surgery, and because the nominated deputy William Lynn has not been confirmed, outgoing Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England will be the acting Defense Secretary on Friday while Gates has surgery.
Earlier in his tenure, Gates wore a sling for some time after hurting his arm slipping on ice.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Hours before the parade started, the stands at the end of the route started filling up with an excited crowd.
The seats, right near where President Obama will sit to watch the parade were treated to an explanation of the day's events by the announcer.
Hours before Obama was scheduled to join them in the presidential reviewing stand, the announcer told them the newly sworn-in president would be eating lunch at the Capitol.
"So while you are freezing, they are having a wonderful time," the announcer joked over the parade route speakers.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A few minutes after Obama spoke, Vanessa Reed reflected on the speech as she sat with her daughters across from the presidential reviewing stand at the end of the parade route.
"It was beautiful. It spoke to the issues of the moment," said Reed, who worked for the campaign. "I am proud this country saw what we saw in him."
Not as impressed: her youngest daughter Brooke.
"It was so boring," said Brooke, 4. Reed said her daughters, Brooke and older daughter Gabrielle, 6, understood the moment.
"They understand it is all a celebration," said Reed, who added that they were really excited about seeing Miley Cyrus at the inaugural concert this weekend.
ABOARD THE WASHINGTON METRO (CNN) - By a few stops in, it was standing room only on the second red line subway train in to Washington. A trained filled with bodies, with the added density of many layers.
Benica Tripleti and Cole Campbell were among 54 from Eastern Kentucky University who started the day with a 2 am bus ride from their Gettysburg, Pennsylvania hotel to the first subway stop in the Washington suburbs.
The group was planning to plant themselves on the Mall. They professed the temperature was colder than these Southerners were used to but were undaunted by the anticipated crowds.
"We are Southerners, so we don't say anything 'can't do'," said Tripleti.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Visitors were showing off their Obama pride outside the White House Saturday as the reveled in the anticipation of the President-elect’s impending inauguration.
School teachers Pat Hargis from Bucyrus, Ohio and Norm Huber from Crestline, Ohio showed off their best Barack Obama buttons as they perused the inaugural parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue. The teachers were in town with their colleague Carolyn Helbert to see as many of the events as they could. As for their students, they'll have to wait until February to come to Washington. Right now, "it's too crazy," said Hargis.
The inauguration won’t be the first time the three friends have crossed paths with the President-elect and the Vice President-elect. The three previously met Barack Obama and Joe Biden on the campaign trail when the two men courted voters at rally in Dublin, Ohio last year.
Helbert told Biden he had a cute smile and Biden said she had a cute smile too.
"That's Carolyn's claim to fame," Hargis said Saturday.
Not far from the three friends, a group of dancers from Washington calling themselves "Dancers for Change" was also staging what they called a "happy protest.”