Some politician’s distaste for veterans

So if you were wondering if our elected officials have our best interests at heart, I direct your attention to the article that was submitted/published today (28 June 2016 at 2:37 p.m.) on the Military Times website, titled: “Marijuana provision stripped from Veterans Affairs funding bill” written by Patricia Kime. It’s amazing to see politicians, who don’t ever have to worry about healthcare, nor do they need to worry about pain medications, deny something that could benefit tens of thousands of veterans who suffer from everything from PTSD to chronic pain. These are the ailments that our veterans have to live with/through each and every day. It is not like we wake up and magically feel like we are 16 again.

In this article (linked below), it mentions that the funding bill for the Veterans Affairs (VA) had a provision in it (one of many) that would have made it legal for VA doctors to discuss/prescribe medicinal marijuana to their patients, but that provision “disappeared” from the funding bill, which was passed last week (approved 239-171 vote).

Because the Senate failed “to forward the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill for a vote” it “provides an opportunity for the marijuana provision to be put back in” (Kime, 2016). Plus, since the Senate failed to pass a procedural vote because there was a dispute over funding related to combating the Zika virus, the bill can be reconsidered once the politicians come back after their 4th of July break. Supporters of medicinal marijuana are hoping that the provision will be put back into the bill.

The funny part is that the lawmakers explained that the medicinal marijuana provision had bipartisan support and the provision should have been non-negotiable. Senator Steve Daines (Republican from Montana), Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat from Oregon) and others stated: “We feel the failure of the conferees to include either [the House or Senate] provisions is a drastic misfortune for veterans contrary to the will of both chambers” (Kime, 2016). It seems that in May 2016 an amendment for medicinal marijuana was offered by Representative Earl Blumenauer (Democrat from Oregon), and passed the House 233 to 189 vote, and was voted for a second time as part of the larger Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, which passed 295 t0 129 vote. Our Senate included a similar medicinal marijuana measure in their version of the VA funding bill, and that was approved with an 89 to 8 vote.

Why would anyone want to remove this provision? At this point, it would seem that medicinal marijuana would be welcomed as it has been proven to provide comfort and remove pain for many patients (especially cancer patients). So why would anyone want to deny this? I can think of a reason, and this is purely my view and I do not have any proof that this is a legitimate reason, but I could see big pharmacy being concerned if medicinal marijuana was introduced into the VA. The VA healthcare system is so vast and requires so much money to operate and supply our veterans with medications, the big pharmacies are making billions (if not trillions) of dollars off of our veterans.

You would have to have been living in a cave if you do not think that politicians are making money to vote a certain way on things. I am pretty confident that if investigations were to take place, real investigations by an independent party who has no ‘dog in this fight’ so that corruption would be minimized, things would be brought to light. That, however, probably would not happen because the blood of our veterans are not even a thought for many of our representatives up in D.C., especially up in the ‘big office’. Sad, makes me even sadder that I have to wake up each morning feeling like I have been run over by a zamboni for 12 hours, to remind me of what I succumbed to while serving this great Nation and many of our representatives have never served a day. So very sad.

The story continues to state that on June 23rd of 2016, while the Democrats conducted their sit-in for more gun control (once again, what is their purpose of impeding on any Americans’ rights? Follow the money), the House Republicans proposed the negotiated version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill to be voted on. At this point the bill was supposedly missing many provisions, to include the medical marijuana provision. It was also missing the provision to ban flying the Confederate Battle Flag in our national cemeteries. At this point, the House Appropriations Committee has not revealed who on the committee was responsible for taking out those provisions.

I believe that to be a travesty. I think that the American public should absolutely know who it was that proved to be haters of our veterans and any possible avenue that could reduce or eliminate any amount of pain: physical or mental.  The voters deserve to know, our citizens have a right to know. We all deserve to know so when it’s time to vote, we can vote someone into office that actually cares about our nation’s citizens more than their FAT paycheck!

Of the eight House members who were on that panel and negotiated the bill, five voted against Blumenauer’s amendment, to include: Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Charles Dent of PA., Jeff Fortenberry from Nebraska, Martha Roby from Alabama and David Valadao of California. In May, during the debate of these measures, Charles Dent (of Pennsylvania) stated that medical experts and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should weigh in on the matter. He continues on by stating “I’m uncomfortable in trying to dictate policy on medical marijuana without input from the FDA and National Institute of Health” (Kime, 2016). If we dig deep enough, I believe that he would be proven to be a huge hypocrite with that statement as I am sure he voted on plenty of bills without having to go to someone else to see what they thought of it. Why were they elected? Why are they still serving in D.C.? More-so who are the people that voted them in?

The following representatives signed a letter that was sent to the Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan (Wisconsin), Democrat Nancy Pelosi (Minority Leader-California), Republican Mitch McConnell (Majority Leader-Kentucky), and Democrat Harry Reid (Minority Leader-Nevada): Daines, Merkley, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Democrat Barbara Boxer (California), Democrat Cory Booker (New Jersey), Democrat Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Democrat Ron Wyden (Oregon), Blumenauer, Democrat Jared Polis (Colorado), Democrat Dina Titus (Nevada) and Democrat Ruben Gallego (Arizona).

The use of marijuana for medical purposes has been approved in 26 states and Washington D.C. (where you would think would be the last place that would have approved medicinal marijuana), and another 16 states passed laws for the legal use of the compounds derived from marijuana plants. Currently, marijuana is still illegal federally (federal law).

This article finishes up by explaining that marijuana is not barred from use for veterans who live in states where medicinal marijuana is legal, however, their doctors at the VA cannot recommend it to the veteran, nor fill out any administrative paperwork for the veteran so they can gain a medical marijuana card. Any veteran that is found to have used marijuana “cannot lose his or her access to health care or disability compensation. VA doctors, however, reserve the right to decide whether to continue prescribing some medications if a veteran is found to use marijuana” (Kime, 2016).

This legislation would not commit the VA to paying for the cost of medicinal marijuana for the veteran. So what does that mean? It means that if the veteran chooses medicinal marijuana instead of pain-killers/narcotics/NSAIDs, then they would have to pay for it out of pocket. This is why I mentioned that big pharmacy would lose out on a lot of money because of this. It is bad enough as it is that big pharmacy jacks up the prices of medication to the point where the patient, if paying out of pocket, would not be able to afford anything more than a couple of pills (which probably costs pennies on the dollar to create/make).

That is one of the things that bothers me greatly: big pharmacy can charge exorbitant amounts for the medications they produce, despite the overall cost-per-pill being quite small. Where were they when business ethics was being taught? Should they omit making a profit off of the consumer? Not at all, because they would quickly go out of business, but they could change the way the consumer (patients) looks at them by developing a plan that offers discounts by age and the older the patient, the less they pay for their medications. This would ensure our elderly are not without their required medications, whereas currently many elderly go without their medications because they just cannot afford to pay for groceries AND their medication. This should not be, we should want to take care of our elderly (U.S. citizens could learn a lot by observing how those from Asia treat their elders).

Below is the full text of the letter that was submitted by the Representatives and can be viewed at KTVZ.com (news source from central Oregon)(link to story is below):

Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, and Minority Leader Pelosi:

We write to express our serious concern with the conferenced Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The Conferees failed to include a provision passed by bipartisan votes in the House and Senate that would allow VA doctors to discuss medical marijuana and make recommendations regarding its use in states where it is legal. The provisions that appeared in both the House and Senate bills were substantially similar and had broad bipartisan support.  We strongly believe the inclusion of either the House or Senate language in the final text should have been nonnegotiable.

Currently, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing for the medical use of the cannabis plant to treat certain conditions, and sixteen more have laws allowing for the use of some its constituent compounds.  However, under VHA Directive 2011-004, the Veterans Health Administration effectively prohibits VA physicians from taking any steps toward providing their own clinical judgment when discussing or recommending the use of cannabis with their patients.

For the second year in a row, language correcting this and giving veterans a life changing benefit has overwhelming passed the Senate after being adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee, this year by a bipartisan vote of 20-10. A substantially similar amendment passed the House by a vote of 233-189.  There is precedent and an expectation that identical or similar language is to be accepted in the final version of conferenced legislation. Additionally, both the House and Senate sponsors of the legislation wrote to the Conferees requesting inclusion of the language and providing guidance on a preferred outcome. As you will note, the texts of these provisions are drastically similar.

Senate Text: SEC. 247. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs in this Act may be used in a manner that would interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a medicinal marijuana program approved by a State; deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program; or limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.

House Text: SEC. 523. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Veterans Health Administration directive 2011–004 (or directive of the same substance) with respect to the prohibition on “VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program.”

We feel the failure of the Conferees to include either provision is a drastic misfortune for veterans and is contrary to the will of both chambers as demonstrated by the strong bipartisan support for these provisions. We urge you to act to ensure one of these provisions is included in any final funding bill sent to the President. (KTVZ, 2016)

If you want to read about how politicians use people as pawns for their own agenda, please read the article published by Jordain Carney (2015) that outlines the strategies that were initiated by Senate Democrats, who blocked a VA funding bill, just so they could negotiate a bigger budget deal with the Republicans. These politicians do not value any lives other than their own. It is quite obvious that they do not value the lives of veterans, because if they did then they would cease using veterans’ bills as a chess piece and start applying moral and ethical standards to their actions in the political position they current sit (after being voted into office by the citizens of the U.S.). Although this article was written in 2015, this bill was for the 2016 budget (fiscal years are not the same as calendar years for those that are not familiar with fiscal years: Fiscal years are a point in time, within the calendar year, that the entity (business or government) will choose as the ‘start’ of their year. This allows organizations to capitalize on tax breaks by strategically initiating their fiscal year during specific buying-times, such as Christmas, where they would make the most, or when they make the least, whereas a calendar year is January 1st to December 31st).

Please get your heads out of the sand and start doing something about those that represent us citizens: call your representative and tell (not ask) them to stop using veterans as pawns, write a letter to all of your representatives (you can use google to find the addresses of your representatives) informing them that you will remember how they treated the veterans when it comes election-time, participate in charities that actually help veterans and not just pay themselves an inflated salary first and then worry about the veterans second, and finally, throw your hat in the ring! What that means is: if you want to make a change, complaining about things will not help matters in their entirety, run for elected office so you can make the change. Do not think that you cannot do it, do your research and start asking questions on how, then: BE THE CHANGE!

References

Anonymous. (2016, 06 28). Lawmakers urge: Let vets talk to VA docs about medical pot. Retrieved 06 30, 2016, from KTVZ.com: http://www.ktvz.com/news/Lawmakers-urge-Let-vets-talk-to-VA-docs-about-medical-pot/40265794

Carney, J. (2015, 10 1). Senate Democrats block VA funding bill. Retrieved 06 30, 2016, from The Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/255643-senate-democrats-block-va-funding-bill

Kime, P. (2016, 06 28). Marijuana provision stripped from Veterans Affairs funding bill. Retrieved 06 28, 2016, from Military Times: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/06/28/marijuana-provision-stripped-veterans-affairs-funding-bill/86471448/

Links to the stories:

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/255643-senate-democrats-block-va-funding-bill

http://www.ktvz.com/news/Lawmakers-urge-Let-vets-talk-to-VA-docs-about-medical-pot/40265794

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/06/28/marijuana-provision-stripped-veterans-affairs-funding-bill/86471448/