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Topics: Veterans Affairs

Bruce Braley missed 79 percent of full Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings as scandal heated up

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Veterans Affairs,Iowa,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Ashe Schow,Veterans,Bruce Braley,Joni Ernst

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, missed 79 percent of full Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings between 2011 and 2012 -- when the Veterans Affairs scandal was starting to heat up.

Braley attended just four of the 19 hearings during the 112th Congress, when he was a member of the committee — just 21 percent.

This also gives him the second-lowest attendance record for the committee, according to a Washington Examiner analysis of committee minutes. Only Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., had a worse attendance record (at 16 percent). The average attendance rate for the committee was 60 percent, and just 15 of the 24 members had attendance rates above 50 percent.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. -- the committee chairman -- and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., had the best attendance, at 95 percent.

Braley missed only two of the 17 hearings for the Veterans’ Affairs Economic Opportunities Subcommittee. Including those hearings with the full committee hearings brings Braley’s total attendance up to 50 percent.

It should also be noted that Braley attended all seven of the committee’s markup sessions, which included 29 votes on legislation. These are the most important meetings where bills are drafted and voted upon.

Braley is seeking a Senate seat in November against Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iraq War veteran and Iowa National Guard officer who's currently serving a two-week stint on active duty. His campaign told the Washington Examiner that many of the missed meetings were due to other responsibilities, including meeting with veterans.

On April 5, 2011, and November 30, 2011, Braley skipped the Veterans' Affairs committee hearings to attend concurrent Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearings.

On May 3, 2011, Braley missed the full committee hearings to attend the subcommittee hearing with Andrew Connolly, who inspired Braley's bill to assist disabled veterans in retrofitting their homes to make them more accessible.

On June 6, 2012, Braley missed two committee hearings to visit wounded veteran Taylor Morris. Morris' mother blogged about the meeting the next day.

On August 13, 2012, the committee visited the Orlando VA center to discuss its problems, however, the only committee members who attended were the Florida representatives. Braley was in Iowa, attending a veterans parade.

On September 20, 2012, Braley missed a Veterans’ Affairs committee hearing to attend another Oversight and Government Reform hearing.

But that only accounts for six of the 15 hearings Braley missed. A campaign spokesman did not respond to a followup question.

Braley attended an Oversight and Government Reform hearing instead of a Veterans' Affairs hearing on a day he also attended three campaign fundraisers, according to the Des Moines Register. The hearing Braley missed was on the lack of oversight for the Veterans Affairs Department.

Two years ago, the problems at the VA were just starting to come to light, including reports of wasteful spending. Outside groups also were beginning to make noise about the backlog of disability claims.

In a November 2012 hearing, Miller had finally had enough “stonewalling” from the agency and vowed to provide “much more oversight” regarding those issues.

Ron Healey, a U.S. Army veteran and member of Veterans for Braley, told the Examiner that it was “wrong” to try and smear Braley with veterans.

“To suggest that Bruce has done anything but fight for Iowa veterans is misleading and dishonest,” Healey said. “Truth is, Bruce has been an outspoken voice for Iowa veterans — he fought the Pentagon to get back-pay that was denied to hundreds of Iowa National Guard members, he fought across party lines to improve veterans’ disability benefits, and passed tax cuts for small businesses to hire veterans.”

Kevin Daley contributed to this report.

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