A political action committee, that supports Senator Rob Portman’s reelection, have a TV advertisement running that says Ted Strickland joined a liberal special interest group that claimed members of the military are paid too much and praised the VA despite veterans having died while waiting for care. But is that really true? The claims are a misleading attempt at ‘guilt by association’ and ignores Strickland’s actual views and record on veterans issues.
Here is the ad in question, produced by the Fighting for Ohio Fund, that is being run in my area:
“Strickland’s record in Washington is even worse than his failed record as governor. In Washington, Strickland joined a liberal special interest group – a job he calls “a dream job” that paid him “more money than I’ve ever made in my life.” This same group claimed members of the military are paid too much, and then praised the VA despite veterans having died while waiting for care.”
Ted Strickland did work for a special interest group but it is debatable if it is liberal in the context the ad is meaning – as a smear.
In 2014, Ted was hired by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which is the part that lobbies on policies and solutions developed by the separate Center for American Progress (CAP) think-tank. CAP leans-left but it’s nonpartisan like all 501 (c)(3) nonprofits need to be. Governor Strickland worked for the 501(c)(4) part of CAP.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is the new president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, an arm of left-leaning think tank in Washington.
The Democrat, who a month ago was stirring speculation about a run for U.S. Senate in 2016, begins in the role April 1. He also will serve as a counselor to the Center for American Progress, the education and advocacy nonprofit’s sister organization.
Strickland, according to a Wednesday announcement from the center, will focus on national issues such as economic equality, poverty and climate change. And at the state level he is expected to advocate for expanded voting rights and increasing the minimum wage.
Did the Center for American Progress claim the military was paid too much?
In the report referenced in the anti-Strickland ad, CAP states:
To ensure the force attracts and retains high-quality recruits, the Defense Department ties basic military pay to civilian salaries as measured by the Employment Cost Index, ensuring that service members are paid in-line with comparably educated civilian employees. But in 2004 Congress mandated that military pay increase by the Employment Cost Index plus 0.5 percent through 2006 and continued authorizing these larger pay increases—against the Pentagon’s wishes—through 2011. Congress also ignored the fact that the Department of Defense has met or exceeded its recruiting and retention goals each year since 2006, indicating that the compensation package was very competitive and allowed the military to maintain the force it required.
But by repeatedly passing pay raises above and beyond the Pentagon’s request, Congress has driven military pay out of line with the Pentagon’s own standards. Basic pay accounts for about half of military cash compensation—service members also receive tax-free allowances for housing and subsistence, a variety of other tax breaks, and an array of special and incentive pay. By 2006 the average service member earned $5,400 more in cash compensation than a comparably qualified civilian counterpart, and the average officer earned $6,000 more than a civilian with similar education and experience. This disparity has continued to grow in the past six years. What’s more, these numbers do not include the value of the generous health care benefits received by military personnel.
Whether the result of a lack of congressional understanding of the full range of military compensation or political expediency, repeatedly raising basic pay above the Employment Cost Index is fiscally unsustainable. It ignores the advice of military leadership and the recommendations of the Pentagon’s own commissions such as the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation.
CAP wants to reform military compensation and it points out how out of norm military pay is compared to the civilian workforce and how Congress even ignores what the “generals want” when it comes to pay matching the pay civilians receive.
CAP does say the military is paid too much, but the insinuation, along with the ominous voice, wants the viewer to think the worse when talking about reforming military compensation.
I’m sure at the time of the report a backlash probably included claims that pay and benefits would be cut. CAP added a special note at the end of the web page to address the concern:
Nor can [these reforms] be characterized as a bait and switch or are they an attempt to balance the federal budget on the backs of retirees or veterans. If anything, these proposed changes will not only strengthen our national security but will also provide more benefits to those who volunteer to serve their country.
The proposed reforms aren’t any different when Republicans demand budget cuts to social programs because the money being spent is out of control but because the reform here involves a left-leaning group and the military it’s being inferred that Ted Strickland doesn’t support the troops.
This point in the ad is misleading as is usual in a GOP ad. That’s beside the point that the report the ad references was published two years before Strickland worked for CAP.
CAP still called for military compensation reform in May of 2015 and noted:
After years of punting the issue, Congress has adopted several reform recommendations in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of this year’s defense authorization bill, including a major change to the retirement system that would require DOD to contribute to a 401(k)-style plan for every service member. This is a great start, but much more remains to be done. The military pay, health care, and retirement systems need to be updated to meet the needs of the current force, while making sure that they will support the flexible future force that U.S. national security will require. The real question is whether Congress will maintain the political will to act.
CAP believes in supporting the troops and retirees but in a manner that makes sense for the federal budget and creating a system that works for the armed forces today and beyond.
If you want to know what not supporting the troops is really like check out the reporting on how often the GOP has voted against supporting veterans in the past few years.
The second allegation the anti-Strickland ad makes is that CAP “praised the VA even after veterans died…”
This charge is related to the Waitlist scandal that hit several Veterans Affairs hospitals in 2014. Some ill veterans died while waiting for appointments with VA doctors. It was found that some hospitals were massaging their numbers to hide the fact that the hospitals weren’t meeting their service goals.
The Center For American Progress wrote a fact sheet about the issue in May of 2014. In the report it noted the problems in need of reform at the VA while also praising the overall work of the agency.
It’s possible to support the overall work of a group or government but find an issue or two or three in need of improvement. In this case, again, the anti-Strickland ad wants the viewer to believe that because CAP took this reasonable route calling for reforming the VA, Ted Strickland doesn’t support the troops.
Fighting for Ohio forgets that it is the right that has called for privatization of the VA and all the runaway costs and lack of coverage that will bring from the private sector:
Four years later, however, as Rachel has noted on the show, some of the 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls have included at least partial VA privatization plans in their platforms – Ben Carson went so far as to say, “We don’t need a Department of Veterans Affairs” – despite the VA’s record of excellence, and the fact that the VA system as a whole “outperforms the rest of the health care system by just about every metric. Surveys also show that veterans give VA hospitals and clinics a higher customer satisfaction than patients give private-sector hospitals.”
It’s important to remember, though, that GOP proposals are part of a broader ideological campaign. In their latest issue, my friends at the Washington Monthly published a fascinating investigative report on the effort to privatize the VA launched by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a conservative outfit that’s received support from the Kochs’ operation.
Which do you think supports the troops? Cutting the benefit so much so some guy makes a profit or reforming a good service we have?
I think throwing out a service that works in general and is overall better than private healthcare is not supporting the troops. The government asked these people to fight and they must get the best care. That can only happen if the government provides and pays for the service and not letting wounded veterans be a revenue stream to some faceless corporate entity.
The anti-Strickland ad “Even Worse” makes some claims about Strickland not supporting the military based on the group he worked for back in 2014. Both claims are a misleading attempt at ‘guilt by association’ and ignores Strickland’s actual record on veterans issues.
Also published on Medium.