In what has to be one of the most illogical, unreasonable, hypocritical, and downright disrespectful decisions made by the new VA Secretary James Peake, the VA will not allow voter registration assistance in VA facilities. The National Voter Registration Act was passed in 1993 and imposes an obligation – indeed, a duty – on federal, state, and local governments to promote the exercise of the citizens’ fundamental right to vote.

VA Secretary Peake has a different take on promoting the right to vote, especially when those citizens are veterans. Peake’s position is that:

“the VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission.”

Diverting of substantial resources? Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the internet and copied in a matter of minutes. I have helped at several different events where we registered voters, and helping with the form must take a whole 2 or 3 minutes. If VA personnel are asked to spend a few extra minutes with VA patients, I bet they would gladly do it. To think otherwise is to dishonor those who have served our country and those who serve our veterans.

Peake also insists helping veterans to register to vote is “partisan.” Voter registration does not require that the registrant declare a party. Obviously, he does not know the definition of partisan which means allegiance to a party or cause.

An interesting twist in the whole debacle is that armed forces recruitment offices are mandated to develop and implement procedures to ensure that those registering at the recruitment offices have the opportunity to register. The following is a section from the National Voter Registration Act of 1993:

ARMED FORCES RECRUITMENT OFFICES- (1) Each State and the Secretary of Defense shall jointly develop and implement procedures for persons to apply to register to vote at recruitment offices of the Armed Forces of the United States.

(2) A recruitment office of the Armed Forces of the United States shall be considered to be a voter registration agency designated under subsection (a)(2) for all purposes of this Act.

Since the passage mandates recruitment office voter registration assistance, I decided to call one of the local Army recruitment offices to see if they provided voter registration assistance, and, yep, they do. I spoke to a recruiter and asked one simple question, “Do you have voter registration forms?” His reply? “We sure do.”

The hypocrisy is staggering. The Bush Administration sends our military to fight and die in needless wars. Volunteers are provided the opportunity to register at the front end as they enlist. But at the back end, as our wounded return to lives filled with adjustments and frustrations and physical and emotional therapy and missing limbs and suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, the Veterans Administration denies help with one of the very basic rights that our veterans fight to protect – the right to vote.

Could it be that after service in wars, our veterans are more likely than not to vote against those who sent them? Keeping faith with our veterans requires more than laudatory speeches – it requires matching those speeches with actions.

Photo Credit:

A young soldier in DaNang, Vietnam – August 3, 1965



  1. Reduce combat pay, increase tour length, allow Walter Reed to become vermin-infested, and refuse to help with voting but show up for photo-ops serving turkey … this is the Bush administration’s way of supporting our troops.

    His term in office won’t end soon enough for me.

  2. After this debacle by Bush, our military will be in a shambles – in numbers as well as physical, emotional,and mental condition.

  3. Thanks for your great article.
    We just got this through at the office here- have you seen it?

    Department of Veterans Affairs VHA DIRECTIVE 2008-023
    Veterans Health Administration
    Washington, DC 20420 April 25, 2008
    1. PURPOSE: This Veteran Health Administration (VHA) Directive defines the policy for assisting patients who seek information on voter registration and voting.
    2. BACKGROUND: VHA is committed to assisting veterans exercise their Constitutional right to vote; longstanding Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy ensures patients assistance and the opportunity to exercise their voting privilege. The right to register and vote is one of the explicit rights set forth in the VA patients’ rights regulation at Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 17.33. Pursuant to this regulation, information about these rights, including the right to vote, is posted at each nursing station, and each patient is provided a copy when they are admitted to a VA facility. This policy establishes a uniform approach to assembling and providing information on voter registration and voting to veterans who request it.
    3. POLICY: It is VHA policy to assist patients who seek to exercise their right to register and vote.
    4. ACTION
    a. Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) Directors and facility Directors are responsible for ensuring that each facility has a policy that addresses assistance to VA patients who seek to exercise their right to register and vote.
    b. Each facility Director must ensure:
    (1) There is a written published policy on voter assistance that addresses the following:
    (a) Patients are granted authorized absence for such periods of time as are necessary to register and to vote, subject to the opinions of their health care providers.
    (b) Assistance is provided for registering and for voting by absentee ballot, if patients are unable to leave the facility.
    (c) That information on the voting assistance program is posted on inpatient wards, domiciliaries, and nursing homes.
    (2) The facility Voluntary Service Officer, or designee, is responsible for:
    (a) Informing all inpatients or residents of the opportunity to receive voting assistance information. NOTE: This also needs to be done when the patient is admitted to the facility.
    (b) Ensuring all VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) personnel (including volunteers), prior to providing any information or assistance to VA patients who seek to register to vote or to vote, annually review and sign the “Political Activities Fact Sheet” provided by the Office of General Counsel; and maintaining the completed forms.
    (c) Obtaining and maintaining all materials used to assist with voter registration and voting.
    1. As the requirements and procedures for absentee voting vary widely by state and because there is currently no single form that allows a voter in the United States to request an absentee ballot from any and all states, VAVS offices at each facility need access to timely and accurate state voting information.
    2. Non-partisan voter resources include the following:
    a. National Voter Registration Form is available at: and,
    b. Information is also available at: and
    (3) Ensuring any request by an outside organization to hold a voter registration drive on VA property is forwarded for review by the Office of General Counsel.
    a. Title 38 CFR § 17.33.
    b. Title 38 CFR § 1.218(a)14.
    6. FOLLOW-UP RESPONSIBILITY: The Office of Voluntary Service (10C2) is responsible for the contents of this Directive. Questions may be referred to (202) 461-7300.
    7. RESCISSIONS: None. This VHA Directive expires April 30, 2013.
    Michael J. Kussman, MD, MS, MACP
    Under Secretary for Health
    DISTRIBUTION CO: E-mailed 4/28/08
    FLD: VISN, MA, DO, OC, OCRO, and 200 – E-mailed 4/28/08

  4. I was just doing some web browsing on my Nokia Phone during my break at my work place, and I happened across something I thought was interesting . It linked to your website so I jumped over. I can’t really find the relevance between your site and the one I came from, but your site good none the less .

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