Senator rebukes Gansler's statements about Veterans Administration processing

The Baltimore Sun

A Maryland state senator who heads the General Assembly's veteran's caucus rebuked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler Tuesday night over the Democratic gubernatorial candidate's claim he could fix problems with federal processing of veterans' claims better than his campaign rival.

Sen. Douglas J. J. Peters of Prince George's County criticized Gansler for claiming he would reduce the delays in processing by the Veterans Administration where Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, his rival for the Democratic nomination, has not.

The Baltimore office of the VA has some of the worst claims-processing times in the nation, and Gansler blamed Brown for that Monday after the lieutenant governor released a five-point plan for veterans.

Peters said that as a veteran and a state senator he felt compelled to respond.

"The Federal government is, of course, solely responsible for processing Veteran's Administration claim. The delay is a federal problem, and, therefore, requires a federal solution," Peters said.

Gansler, emerging Wednesday morning from a tour of a South Baltimore facility that serves homeless men including veterans, acknowledged that the lieutenant governor has no statutory responsibilities for federal agencies. However, he criticized Brown for being part of an administration that he said had let down veterans.

"While it's a federal agency, there ought to be pressure on those that are running the VA," Gansler said.

Gansler said he didn't see any way that he could have addressed the issue through litigation as attorney general.

"I don't know what that suit would be," he said.

Gansler's criticism of Brown, an Army Reserve colonel who served in Iraq, brought a rebuke from a veterans' organization.

"It's somewhat disturbing that someone running to be the Governor of the state seems to have no idea what a Governor actually does," said Jon Soltz, chairman of and an Iraq War veteran. "While the backlog of claims at the VA is a huge problem, to claim that the lieutenant governor of Maryland has the ability to make changes to a federal department shows a severe lack of understanding of how government actually works."

Gansler spent about an hour Wednesday morning touring The Baltimore Station, a nonprofit in Sharp-Leadenhall that houses 92 men -- many of them veterans dealing with such issues as homelessness and substance abuse. While the event was on his campaign schedule, it was closed to the press.

After the tour, Gansler said "it's good that places like this exist." He said that he hopes to be in a position as the next governor to help veterans.

"We either ignore the fact there are these veterans returning home from their service to this country or we can help them" he said.

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