Our Third District Representative is pretty much a non-starter when it comes to helping our district and its residents. Since he took office in 2010, Stutzman has spent a great deal of time raising money to ensure his hold on a lengthy political career as a Washington insider – one of those hated creatures of the night hanging out in the halls of Congress. Mere weeks after his election, he brought a corporate lobbyist on as his Chief of Staff.
And, in no area are his lackluster efforts more apparent than in the area of helping our veteran population. First, a little history. In 2004, then Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Principi, announced that the inpatient beds at the local VA hospital would be closed. That one announcement triggered a firestorm of opposition and a struggle lasting for years to rally support to save the inpatient beds. Our small group, Veterans for Better Health Care, participated in dozens of parades, wrote letters to the editor, handed out thousands of flyers, attended town hall meetings, and argued our case to anyone who would listen every chance we got.
I was fortunate enough to be further included in two studies done by Booz Allen Hamilton, a Washington-based research company, addressing the future of the VA hospital, both as to outpatient care and inpatient care. The final recommendations included a spacious new 220,000 square-foot Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). The inpatient issue was still somewhat up in the air, but at least we had been told our new CBOC would add a much-needed component to the care our veterans deserved.
Then, abruptly, in April 2011 we were told we had understood “incorrectly” and that, instead of a 220,000 square-foot, we would now get a 27,000 square-foot mental health and addictions clinic. When pushed on the issue, Representative Stutzman simply rolled over, put on a happy face, and called the decision a great advancement for the care of veterans in our area. While I agree we need a mental health and addictions facility for our veterans, Stutzman made no effort to find out what happened to the original plans.
He simply accepted the new decision and twisted the situation to match his inability to make a difference. At the Republican Lincoln Day dinner in April 2011, Stutzman said “he was pushing for a new, 27,000 square foot expansion for a mental health annex.” Pushing? Pushing for something that we had already been told would be shoved down our throats? He should have been outraged that the fight that had gone on for years had been totally disregarded sending us back to square one and that the promised 220,000 square-foot clinic had been sliced by almost 90%.
But, Stutzman has taken the path of least resistance not only as to veterans’ issues but also in other issues affecting our Third District. With this approach, he is establishing his “modus operandi” of hovering under the radar, poking his head though when absolutely necessary – leading to the question of “Marlin Who?”