Statement of Pete Ashdown at Utah Democratic Party Veterans' Caucus Press Conference
EMBARGO UNTIL 11:30 AM NOV 11, 2005
Contact: Brett Garner
Office: 801.983.PETE
Cell: 801.573.4759

Statement of Pete Ashdown at Utah Democratic Party Veterans' Caucus
Press Conference

SALT LAKE CITY, UT--Pete Ashdown, US Senate candidate (D-UT), made the
following statement at the Utah Democratic Party's press conference
announcing the formation of the Veterans' Caucus.

"If you go to the Salt Lake City Cemetery, the northeast section is
dedicated to graves of servicemen and women.  On this day, I urge
everyone here to visit those graves and reflect on the sacrifice that
these men and women gave.  While you are there, you will notice many
gravestones are sunken down to the names, leaning to one side or
another, or otherwise in disrepair.  If you ask the sexton of the
cemetery why such disrespect has been shown to our veterans who have
died, sometimes in combat, he will tell you that the veterans' section
is under Federal auspices.  He only has funds to maintain the grounds,
but not the stones of these soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women.

"These headstones are emblematic of the disgraces our government gives
to veterans, living and dead, every day.  While our deceased veterans
are sinking into the ground, some living veterans are sinking under
piles of student and household debts; others sink away into the depths
of poverty; some are barely standing because they are unable to
receive the medical and psychological care they were promised.  It is
emblematic of the incredible disconnect between the needs of America's
veterans and those who are elected to serve them.  If they do not give
honor to those who have died, how can we expect our lawmakers to give
respect to those who are living?

"The answer is we cannot.  I applaud the veterans of the Democratic
party who have said that they will no longer tolerate these disgusting
inactivities.  They realize that their obligations to fight for our
freedom and honor did not end when they were discharged.  The
formation of this caucus shows that they still fulfill their oaths to
'bear true faith and allegiance to the [Constitution of the United

"Similarly, government at all levels must remember their obligations
to these veterans and their families.  I wholeheartedly endorse the
efforts of our state legislators in their efforts to give more
benefits to Utah's veterans and their families.  At the same time, I
cannot endorse the actions of our Senators, for they seem to have
forgotten the promises they made to our veterans.

"Four times this year, Senator Hatch has voted against veterans health
care benefits (Roll Call Votes Vote #251, 10/5/05, #89, 4/12/05; Vote
#90, 4/12/05; Vote #55, 3/16/05).  The last vote on October 5
attempted to establish the automatic funding mechanism, tied to
inflation, that is supported by: American Veterans, the Veterans of
Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.  Senator Hatch
followed the flawed logic that Veterans do not are not entitled to
expect the Cabinet department dedicated to them be adequately funded
(Congressional Record--Senate, 10/5/05, page S1117, statement of
Senator Craig).  I believe that, if there is no better group of
Americans entitled to our unending support than our veterans!

"Senator Hatch's record against veterans is too long to note in this
presentation; in the past 5 years, he has voted 14 times against
veterans' benefits, sometimes to protect tax cuts for millionaires.

"On this day, I propose a GI's Bill of Rights for the 21st Century.
Our veterans benefit structure will have difficulty dealing with the
new veterans of our current wars if we continue with things as they

"Among the provisions of this new GI Bill of Rights would be:

"First: Eliminating benefit distinctions between Active Duty, Reserve,
and National Guard Units serving in current Combat Zones (Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Kosovo).  With Reserve and Guard units being
utilized, on the front lines, like never before, we need to treat them
equally and give them equal veterans' benefits.  An article in today's
newspaper highlights this problem: Reserve and Guard veterans of the
War on Terror have been eligible for the same student aid benefits
Active Duty veterans receive.  However, for the past two years, the VA
has sent zero checks, those veterans who are eligible do not know that
they are, and the VA has problems creating the database required to
determine eligibility.  We are denying a generation of Chapter
1607-eligible veterans the student aid and benefits they have earned.
(See Salt Lake Tribune, 11/11/2005.)

"Second: Increasing funding for psychological treatment of returning
soldiers.  A Walter Reed Hospital study found one in eight returning
servicemen and women had symptoms of PTSD, an unprecedented number.
However, our VA clinics are straining to support these heroes in there
hour of need; this is unacceptable.

"Third: Increasing funding for the Readjustment Counseling Service of
the VA.  Do we realize that our nation relies on less than one-half of
one percent of its population to serve? That puts an incredible strain
on those who come back from combat into a society that has no idea
what they have been through.  At some college campuses, they have
veterans' assistance centers. We need that for every segment, though;
that is what the RCS does and we should give them the resources they
need to accomplish their goal.  By the way, in September, Senator
Hatch voted against increasing its budget.

"These are a few proposals for issues I think need to be addressed;
there are many more and I urge those with other ideas to log on to my
website,, click on the 'Collaborate' link, and
share them.  My campaign is about getting the best ideas from all
Utahns and putting them to work in the Senate.

"If there is one issue which I think cannot wait until I am elected,
it is fixing those gravestones at the City Cemetery and every Cemetery
in the country.  I ask all Utahns, including Senator Hatch, to help
fix this problem.  I put this as a test on Senator Hatch: if does not
fix this by Memorial Day 2006, I personally organize a service project
to fix those stones.  In his Second Inaugural, President Lincoln said
that it is our duty to "care for him who has borne the battle, and for
his widow and his orphan."  I promise to do that; Utah Democratic
Party promises to do that, and I thank the veterans who have organized
this caucus for continuing to care for our nation.  Thank you."

Senator Hatch's voting record on Veterans' Rights:

On 9/22/2005, he voted (on party lines) against $109 million for the
Readjustment Counseling Service, which helps returning soldiers make
the transition back to civilian life (Roll Call Vote 242); the
amendment failed Previous to the Bush Administration revising the FY
2005 budget to provide $1.5 Billion in emergency funding for the VA,
Hatch voted against Democratic amendments to restore from $1.5-2.5
Billion in funding (Roll Call Votes 55, 89-90); the amendment failed

Hatch did support an amendment that gave less than $500 million, most
of the money coming from foreign aid, including AIDS prevention
budgets (Roll Call Vote 54). Amendment passed When Bush did request
the funding, he, along with a unanimous Senate, voted for it (Roll
Call Votes 165-66, 174). All passed.

In Previous years:

He voted against indexing the veterans health care budget to inflation
(108th Congress 2nd Session, Roll Call Vote 145); the amendment failed

He voted against creating a reserve fund to allow for an increase in
Veterans' medical care by $1.8 billion by eliminating abusive tax
loopholes (108th Congress, 2nd Session, Roll Call Vote 40); the
amendment failed

He voted against creating a reserve fund to allow for an increase in
Veterans' medical care by $2.7 billion and lower the national debt by
reducing the President's tax breaks for taxpayers with incomes in
excess of $1 million a year. (108th Congress, 2nd Session Roll Call
Vote 34); the amendment failed

He voted against increasing FY 2004 funding for the discretionary
programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs by $1,019,000,000, so
it matches the level proposed by a coalition of veterans groups in the
Independent Budget; to decrease the deficit by a similar amount; and
to use the unreconciled tax cut to pay for it. [meaning ending a Bush
tax cut]. (108th Congress, 1st Session, Roll Call Vote 74); the
amendment failed

He voted against increasing discretionary funding for veterans medical
care by $1.718 billion in 2002 and each year thereafter to ensure that
veterans have access to quality medical care. (107th Congress, 1st
Session, Roll Call Vote 84); the amendment passed.