2014-05-24 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Benishek and Cannon Are Allied on Vets
By George Weeks

Second-term U.S. Representative Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) and Democrat ex-Kalkaska County sheriff Jerry Cannon are engaged in a spirited battle to determine who will represent Michigan’s sprawling 1st district that periodically has had incumbents from both parties.

But Benishek, a former surgeon at the Iron Mountain vets hospital and now a member of the House Veterans’ Committee, and Cannon, a retired National Guard major general with overseas service, are allied on one of the hottest topics on Capitol Hill: the scandal of delayed treatment of America’s veterans at a hospital in Phoenix, where whistleblowers say as many as 40 veterans might have died while waiting for appointments.

(Benishek has a primary opponent: Alan Arcand of Iron River, a former Air Force jet repairman who has an auto repair shop in Iron Mountain.)

On the veterans issue, Benishek said: “The VA has not cooperated with us during the course of our investigations, providing vague responses to questions and absolutely zero assurances that real changes within the system will be made. They have consistently stonewalled us and hindered any attempts by Congress to get to the bottom of what happened at Phoenix.

“Our veterans deserve the best treatment possible, and I am committed to using every measure made available to us in our investigation to hold those responsible for their actions.”

Cannon said: “If any of the unconscionable allegations of veteran maltreatment are true, then we have a failure of leadership, and there is serious cause for concern.

“The time for change in the Veterans Administration culture has passed. The trust and confidence of our veterans and their families hangs in the balance. I call for immediate action to ensure our veterans receive the timely, high quality care they deserve.”

A degree of change came late last week when Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki asked Robert Petzel, who was planning to leave, to depart earlier. Some critics call for Shinseki to leave.

The issue also has come up in the U.S. Senate campaign. The office of 14th District U.S. Representative Gary Peters, who is competing with former Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land to succeed retiring Senator Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving senator, issued this statement:

“As the son of a World War II veteran and a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Gary is very concerned about reports showing veterans’ health being put at risk. Gary believes it is unacceptable for our servicemen and women who put their lives on the line to defend our nation, not to have access to the care and benefits they have earned. He is meeting with Michigan veterans on Monday about these concerns and will be holding the VA accountable.”

Plus and Minus for Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder was endorsed last week by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, which proclaimed the state “has gained construction jobs every year under (Snyder) and at the same time, Michigan construction worker incomes have also increased.”

“This success is why builders and contractors across the Great Lakes State are supporting Governor Rick Snyder in his bid for re-election.”

Not so favorable to Snyder was a comment from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s director Rich Robinson, who said:

“Four years ago, when Rick Snyder was a largely unknown, self-funded gubernatorial candidate taking on some of the most prominent Republican politicians in Michigan, his campaign published an ethics platform. Its headline read: ‘Create a Culture of Ethics in Michigan’s Government.’

“It was an important tool that Rick Snyder used to differentiate himself from his opponents. It mattered to the candidate, and it mattered to the voters. I wish that Governor Snyder’s ethics had remained consistent with candidate Snyder’s. They didn’t. They ‘evolved’ in some very fundamental ways.”

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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