WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 – Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders today welcomed a statement from The American Legion that Iran sanctions “have no place” in a comprehensive veterans bill now before the Senate.
In a Senate floor speech, Sanders (I-Vt.) also cited a statement from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which also criticized injecting Iran sanctions into the debate over veterans benefits.
The veterans’ organizations were referring to legislation offered yesterday by Republican senators who want to add language to the veterans bill imposing new sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program.
Commander Daniel M. Dellinger of the 2.4-million-strong American Legion said the Iran sanctions language should not be part of comprehensive legislation to expand health care, education opportunities, employment and other benefits for veterans.
“Iran is a serious issue that Congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to S. 1982, which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of U.S. military servicemen and women home from war,” the Legion commander added. “We can deal with Iran – or any other issue unrelated specifically to veterans – with separate legislation.”
In a separate statement, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America called on the Senate to pass the veterans omnibus bill without bogging it down in the “gridlock in Washington,” and in a tweet the organization said Iran sanctions “are not relevant” to the bill.
“In 2013, veterans were not immune from gridlock in Washington. This year has to be different,” IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff said. He went on to call the bipartisan bill “a game changer that will change the trajectory for millions of veterans for decades to come.”
In a Senate floor statement, Sanders welcomed the strong statements from the leading veterans groups against efforts to sidetrack the debate with a discussion of Iran. “Please do not inject the Iran sanctions issue into a debate on how we can improve the lives of veterans and their families,” Sanders said.
In an interview on CNN, Sanders said the Iran amendment is an attempt “to torpedo this very important piece of legislation.”
Sanders’ legislation would change the way veterans benefits are funded to make certain benefits would not lapse in the event of another government shutdown. It also would improve health care services, expand educational and job opportunities and help the VA address a disability claims backlog.