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GOP Lawmaker: Congress ‘Total BS’ on Veterans’ Care

07-19-22 WR Rep. Mast
07-19-22 WR Rep. Mast
Washington Report

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., says Congress isn’t adequately funding medical care for military veterans after they exit services like the National Guard.

“Congress, speaking self-reflectively, does a very good job of calculating the cost of bombs and bullets,” he said during the third and final day of this year’s first NGAUS Capitol Summit today in Washington, D.C.

“It does an absolute shit job of counting the cost of care for service members after they return from the battlefield,” added Mast, who served more than 12 years in the Army.

Mast cites caring for personnel exposed to toxic materials as one area where lawmakers are failing the military.

The Republican notes the war in Afghanistan had many potential risks for U.S. soldiers.

Mast lists airborne toxins from burn pits, water bottles and ordnance as some of the dangers facing Americans during the conflict.

“The cost of dealing with that after 20-plus years of war, now, many members look at the cost and say, ‘I recognize that’s a problem, but that price tag right there on it, that might not be something that we can address,’” he said.

“Well, that’s a problem that Congress wasn’t looking at in terms of what would be the cost of war moving forward,” Mast continued.

Mast also criticized congressional members who oppose automatically enrolling veterans into the Department of Veterans Affairs after they finish serving.

“You guys put on a uniform,” he argued. “You serve your country. Why create an additional hoop to get the care that you’ve earned?”

“Because it’s going to cost a few dollars more,” Mast finished, pointing to the price of exit paperwork. “To me, that’s total BS.”

Mast admits problems like exposure to toxic materials are bringing Democrats and Republicans together.

“This is one of the biggest areas of common ground,” he said. “I’ve worked with a number of members on both sides of this in spearheading this issue.”

“Very bipartisan, something we’ve been working on to make sure it doesn’t become the Agent Orange of our generation as it is often quantified as,” Mast concluded.

Mast’s remarks came before the nearly 50 Guard company-grade officers attending the Capitol Summit were scheduled to meet with multiple House and Senate offices on Capitol Hill.

The Capitol Summit is one of two officer professional-development programs NGAUS currently offers Army and Air National Guard company-grade officers.

This year's second Capitol Summit is scheduled for Oct. 2-4.

The group also heard from senior National Guard Bureau officers and members of the NGAUS board and staff.   

Now serving in his third congressional term, Mast entered office in 2017 after deploying to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Mast worked as a bomb disposal expert under Joint Special Operations Command.

In 2010, Mast lost both his legs after an improvised explosive device detonated.

Last week, the House passed much-anticipated legislation that would expand benefits for veterans with health problems stemming from toxic material exposure during their service.

If the measure becomes law as expected, the VA will add 23 burn pit and toxic-exposure related conditions to the agency’s list of presumptive service connections.

The list details the conditions the VA presumes come from military service, including exposure to hazardous conditions.

Prolonged exposure to burn pit toxins can cause sicknesses like cancer, which may take years to develop in victims.

 - By Mark Hensch