August 29, 2014

Johnson defends vote against VA bill

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) is defending his vote against a bill that would reform portions of the Veterans Affairs medical system.

The Wisconsin Republican was one of three members of the Senate to vote on Wednesday against the measure, which is aimed at addressing treatment delays in the VA medical system that have sparked a massive controversy in recent weeks. The measure would have allowed veterans who face long wait times to go outside of the system, while also giving the VA the funding to hire more doctors and staff.

Johnson says he supports making sure veterans have the care they need, but told affiliate WIBA on Thursday that he had concerns about how quickly the bill was being pushed through. “I like the concept, I want to solve this problem, I want to honor the promise of the finest among us,” but he says lawmakers did not receive cost estimates on the bill until minutes before they were expected to vote on it.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation would cost taxpayers $35 billion in the first two years and $50 billion a year after that. Johnson says there was nothing in there to offset those costs. He says there’s clearly a problem at the VA, but the process being used to react to it is the same one that put the country $17 trillion in debt.

The U.S. House has also passed legislation reforming the VA, which differs from the legislation the Senate took action on. That will send the proposals to a conference committee, which Johnson hopes will produce a bill he can support.

Ryan slams Obama at security conference

Congressman Paul Ryan

Congressman Paul Ryan

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) slams the president during his speech to a security conference in Washington Wednesday.

Ryan emphasizes the need to fortify the military, have a stronger vision for foreign policy, and not to prematurely leave Afghanistan.

During a meeting of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, the Janesville Republican criticizes President Obama for not backing up his own words with actions. “Our friends think we’re adrift, and our rivals think we’re sinking. Our credibility is at risk, and with it our security. So our job, as I see it, is to rebuild our credibility — both our resources and our reputation. We have to develop the full range of our power.” And, Ryan says, “That means we have to develop our military. But we shouldn’t be quick to use it.”

AUDIO: Ryan says if we want to lead our allies into the 21st century, then we need a military that’s ready for the 21st century. :45

The 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee explains, “We prepare for war so we can keep the peace.” Ryan says the United States has to convince friends and rivals that our country is strong. “Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers are in nooks and crannies all around the world. And all too often they hide in the shadows of their state sponsors. We should be ready to use every weapon in our arsenal to root them out: drone strikes, direct strikes, or economic sanctions. And we should deny weapons of mass destruction to their state sponsors.”

AUDIO: Ryan says the greatest threat to American leadership is our national debt. :27

Ryan tells the group the fight against terrorism is global, and the U.S. needs its partners to help fight it. He slams Obama for cutting defense budgets every year, and says it’s “hurting both our current and our future capabilities.” Ryan also stresses the importance of bringing the troops home from Afghanistan “as soon as possible,” he says, “but not before we finish the job.”

Remembering D-Day at the Wisconsin Capitol (AUDIO)

Veterans look on during a D-Day remembrance at the Wisconsin Capitol. (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Veterans look on during a D-Day remembrance at the Wisconsin Capitol. (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Hundreds of people gathered at the Wisconsin Capitol Friday, to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Veterans, their families, and current military were all in attendance for a noon-time ceremony remembering those who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago. State Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos says it was a day that changed the course of history, striking a blow against the Nazi regime in the effort to “defeat the evil forces of fascism and military imperialism.”

97-year-old Raymond Nelson, a World War II veteran from Beloit, was among those honored during the ceremony. Nelson shared his experience as a 1st Sergeant of a glider infantry unit, when they landed on the beaches on D+1.

AUDIO: Raymond Nelson (7:18)

More than 160,000 allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France on this day 70 years ago, to fight Nazi Germany. Over 9,000 allied soldiers were killed or wounded.

Related: What does the “D” in D-Day mean?

70th anniversary of D-Day

American assault troops in a landing craft approaching the Northern Coast of France on June 6, 1944 (Photo: US Army)

American assault troops in a landing craft approaching the Northern Coast of France on June 6, 1944 (Photo: US Army)

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.

The day of the Normandy landings, D-Day, has been called “the day that saved the world.” University of Wisconsin-Madison Military History Professor John Hall says that’s an over-simplification.

“It is a critical event in the war; I think to say that it is the one event that wins the war for the allies is probably an exaggeration.” He stresses, “D-Day is hugely important in terms of speeding the destruction of the Third Reich.”

More than 160,000 allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France on this day 70 years ago, to fight Nazi Germany. More than 9,000 allied soldiers were killed or wounded.

AUDIOWisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos addresses the crowd at a Capitol ceremony Friday marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. 1:03

D-Day is a common designation in military lingo; however, considering it is synonymous with June 6, 1944, some folks mistake it to mean “death” day or some other variation.

Hall explains it’s the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. “It makes it a fairly arbitrary point in time so that if they have to shift the operation due to weather or new intelligence or anything like that, all of the times in the plan remain exactly the same because they are defined by a variable rather than a fixed point in time.”

AUDIO: Hall explains what the “D” in D-Day means. :51

While the term is routinely used, Hall says the military attack 70 years ago to liberate western Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II is the only instance in which that designation has entered popular lexicon as a proper noun. That deadly invasion is precisely what Americans think of when hearing the term, even though many other operations — before and after that historic invasion — had a designated D-Day.

A ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day is scheduled for noon in the Capitol Rotunda.

Statement from the governor:

Governor Scott Walker issued a proclamation today commemorating the 70th anniversary of the World War II Normandy invasion, commonly referred to as “D-Day”, which marked the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.  Approximately 320,000 men and 9,000 women from Wisconsin served in the armed forces during World War II and 8,390 Wisconsinites gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“Today, we remember the monumental courage, devotion, and skill displayed by those who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago to fight for the end of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe and guarantee our security and freedom,” Governor Walker said.  “D-Day significantly changed the course of the war, and we will never forget those who were lost on that historic day.  We remember those who died and honor all who served.”

Related: Remembering D-Day at the Capitol

Ribble proposes health care options for vets

Congressman Reid Ribble

Congressman Reid Ribble

Congressman Reid Ribble (R-Sherwood) stopped by the new VA clinic in Green Bay Wednesday afternoon to talk with officials about any problems or delays they may be having. The stop is in response to major delays at some VA clinics across the country that led to several deaths.

The congressman from northeast Wisconsin says the local VA clinic is doing all right. Ribble says depending on the specialty, there are some wait times as long as eight or nine months at the local clinic.

“Fortunately Wisconsin is not as bad as some other parts of the country — in both quality of care and wait times — but the wait times are still too long.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating more than 40 VA facilities across the nation for neglect. There hasn’t been evidence indicating any problems at hospitals in Wisconsin.

Ribble is proposing a bill that would allow military veterans to choose between going to the VA clinic or their own doctor to help reduce wait times.

Rick Schuh, WHBY