(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) rebutted statements made by President Bush in the third presidential debate on two key election issues: securing America's borders and funding veterans' programs. AFGE represents 600,000 federal workers throughout the United States in agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
"Government employees know the reality of America's porous borders and the care veterans are not getting. That reality directly refutes the assertions made by President Bush in last night's debate," said John Gage, AFGE national president.
In August of this year, AFGE conducted a poll
among the frontline federal workers who secure U.S. borders, Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection inspectors. Almost two-thirds said they have not been given the "tools, training and support" they need to successfully complete their mission, which includes preventing terrorists from entering the country, and nearly half said the nation is no safer today than it was on September 11th, 2001. Adding to the difficulty of protecting Americans from terrorism is a hiring freeze throughout DHS, which has directly impacted the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection divisions.
"When a clear majority of America's frontline border protection agents consistently asserted in the survey, in question after question, that not enough has been done to secure our borders, the staffing and the resources should have been added immediately," added Gage. "To the risk of every American, that didn't happen under President Bush."
On the issue of funding for veterans' programs, President Bush's own Secretary of the VA, Anthony J. Principi, admitted that Bush shortchanged the VA system by $1.2 billion in 2004. The Bush Administration plans to increase out-of-pocket fees and co-pays
next year, which by its own admission, will deter 200,000 veterans from utilizing the VA care system. At a time when the veteran population is aging and will require more care, President Bush has proposed cutting the number of VA hospital beds by 37 percent. Despite rhetoric about supporting our troops President Bush has proposed cutting the staff that enrolls veterans in the VA system and processes healthcare claims. So far, about 20,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan
have requested either services or benefits from the VA.
"America made a promise to our soldiers, to care for them when they returned home as veterans. Under President Bush, America is breaking that promise to our veterans," said Gage.