When it comes to caring for our nation’s veterans, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has undergone an astonishing transformation in the last nine months. In January, she proposed a wildly unpopular plan to slash $4.5 billion in veterans services and reduce disability compensation for 150,000 veterans. Veterans groups blasted the proposal as “heartless,” “totally out of step with America’s commitment to our veterans,” and “showing contempt for American servicemembers’ sacrifices.” Facing an avalanche of criticism, Bachmann eventually withdrew her proposal.
But now that she’s running for president, Bachmann is billing herself as a great defender of veterans benefits. The Washington Independent reports that during a speech at the annual convention of the American Legion in Minneapolis last Thursday, Bachmann vowed to support and strengthen veterans medical care:
“It is our duty, first and primarily, to protect our veterans and to make sure that you receive not only the respect, but also the care that you have paid for very heavily with your service to our nation,” Bachmann told members of the American Legion Thursday.
“As president, I will assure that those who serve today as well, and in the past, have the highest access to the best care, both of health, mental health and rehabilitative care that the world has to offer.”
But Bachmann’s January plan, which was touted as a way to avoid raising the debt ceiling, would have brought about dramatic cuts to veterans services.
Bachmann’s plan would have frozen the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care spending and reduced the amount veterans receive in Social Security Disability Income. The congresswoman offered no explanation for her sharp reversal on the issue, but it’s hard to interpret her promise to strengthen veterans benefits nine months after trying to cut them as anything other than empty pandering to an important political constituency.
But regardless of the circumstances, it’s nice to see Bachmann embrace the sort of government-run health care program she typically denounces during her campaign stops as “unconstitutional” and “the crown jewel of socialism.” The Department of Veterans Affairs health care program is perhaps the best example of an entirely government-administered health care system, complete with its own doctors and hospitals.