Amid an ongoing public dispute between President Donald Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson over the contents of a phone conversation Trump had with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, some conservatives have turned their attention to Wilson’s past policies on military veterans.
On 21 October 2017, the conservative Western Journalism web site reported:
Rep. Frederica Wilson has cast herself as the champion of veterans and their families with her recent attacks on President Donald Trump over comments he denies making to a Gold Star family.
However, when it was time to cast a vote for veterans, the record shows that the Florida Democrat has not supported key legislation — or any legislation supporting veterans at all, for that matter.
The article goes on to accurately describe parts of Wilson’s voting pattern on veterans-related legislation but also fails to mention other bills that she has co-sponsored and voted for, which were intended to assist veterans. Thus, the article gives a woefully incomplete and misleading picture of Wilson’s legislative history in regards to military veterans.
The claim, in the Western Journalism article’s headline, that Wilson has “never supported a pro-Veteran bill” is utterly and demonstrably false.
The VoteSmart.org web site—cited by Western Journalism, and in an earlier Fox News report—does not exhaustively list every bill which was in any way related to veterans, or had implications, but rather selects “key votes.” This incomplete collection is the basis of both articles.
That VoteSmart.org summary states that since Wilson became a member of the House of Representatives in 2011, she has:
- 29 March 2011: Voted against the HAMP Termination Act, which would have ended the TARP-era Home Affordable Modification Program and directed the Secretary of the Treasury to study the impact of the HAMP program on military and veterans’ families. Voted with the vast majority of House Democrats.
- 21 March 2013: Voted against the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act in March 2013, which appropriated billions of dollars in spending for the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies and government departments. Three fifths of House Democrats voted for the act, unlike Wilson.
- 1 October 2013: Voted against the Veterans Benefits Continuing Appropriations Resolution, which provided for the continued payment of benefits to veterans during the government shutdown. Voted with the vast majority of House Democrats.
- 29 July 2015: Voted against the VA Accountability Act, which aimed to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire, suspend or demote employees for reasons relating to misconduct or their performance, and to limit the appeals process, which involves employee unions. Voted with almost every Democrat in the House.
- 23 June 2016: Voted against the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, a major military appropriations bill which also provided funding for the federal government’s response to the Zika crisis. Voted with almost every other Democrat in the House.
- 14 September 2016: Voted against the VA Accountability First and Modernization Act, which was very similar to the VA Accountability Act of 2015. About two thirds of Democrats voted against the bill, like Wilson.
- 16 March 2017: Voted against the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, which would change regulations to allow veterans deemed mentally incompetent to own firearms. Voted with almost every other Democrat.
- 16 March 2017: Voted against the VA Accountability First Act, which was very similar to the VA Accountability Act of 2015. Voted with almost every other House Democrat.
- 13 June 2017: Voted against the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which established an office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Voted with a minority of Democrats. The bill was passed through the House 368-55, with 137 out of 193 Democrats supporting the Republican-sponsored bill.
There are many legislative measures that were not included in the “key votes” summary on VoteSmart.org, or in the Western Journalism article. The following is a very small sample of Wilson’s participation in legislation intended to help military veterans. An extensive list can be found here.
- 14 March 2011: Co-sponsored House Resolution 930, which aimed to make it easier for military veterans to receive disability compensation for mental health problems related to post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual assault stemming from military service. Joined 31 other Democrats and two Republicans as a co-sponsor.
- 29 September 2013: Voted for the Pay Our Military Act, which provided that military personnel would continue to be paid in the event of a government shutdown. Voted with almost every member of the House.
- 11 June 2014: Co-sponsored the Manufacturing Jobs for Veterans Act, which aimed to set up a pilot program in three states which would provide training, apprenticeships and certification specifically for military veterans, in the manufacturing industry. Joined 56 other Democrats as a co-sponsor.
- 18 June 2014: Co-sponsored the Help Hire Our Heroes Act, which aimed to extend the veterans retraining assistance program in the 2011 VOW to Hire Our Heroes Act until September 2014. Joined 13 other Democrats and five Republicans as a co-sponsor.
- 10 June 2016: Co-sponsored the Medical Leave for Disabled Veterans Act, which would have lowered eligibility thresholds for medical and hospital care specifically for military veterans. Joined 34 other Democrats and two Republicans as a co-sponsor.
- 17 May 2017: Co-sponsored the Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act, which would provide permanent funding for death gratuities to the family members of deceased military veterans, even during budget deadlocks. Joined 70 other Democrats and 37 Republicans as a co-sponsor.
- 8 June 2017: Co-sponsored the Voices for Veterans Act, which would extend membership of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to LGBT veterans. Joined 72 Democrats and one Republican as a co-sponsor.
- 25 September 2017: Co-sponsored the Veterans Jobs Opportunity Act, which would create a “small business start-up tax credit for veterans creating businesses in underserved communities.” Joined 29 other Democrats as a co-sponsor.