President Trump Blocked This Veterans Group On Twitter, But They're Pushing Back

Not many veterans organizations will push back on Trump's policies, but VoteVets will.

When President Donald Trump blocked VoteVets.org on Twitter — an organization representing the largest progressive group of veterans in America — Iraq War veteran and VoteVets founder Jon Soltz took it as a message.

"I think the reason we got ignored was that we were responding to Trump and talking about colluding with a foreign enemy on Twitter at 7:30 in the morning," Soltz told A Plus. "Trump wants to live in a world where things are positive for him. I think he pushed block. I think he did it and that tells you how poor his temperament is. What kind of Commander in Chief doesn't listen to the people that serve this country?"

For Soltz, and his organization, being overlooked, or not listened to, has been the impetus for their entire mission. VoteVets is a contingent of about 500,000 people: veterans, family of veterans, and supporters, all on a mission to represent more left wing values that traditional military organizations ignore.



"When you have a bunch of veteran service organizations, all led by Caucasian men over 60, is that really a representation of everybody?" Soltz asked. "There are a lot of white working class individuals that are part of our organization, that's true. But do you think that African Americans, and Latinos, and members of the LGBT community, and women feel like they're a part of those veterans groups?"

Soltz says if you want veterans to get involved in politics, you have to "manufacture" it. In that capacity, VoteVets has done a lot of work. Through their Vet Voice Foundation, they gave out fellowships to put veterans on the hill and in the offices of politicians. 

They've spent "big money" getting behind campaigns to elect veterans such as Tulsi Gabbard, Tammy Duckworth and Ted Leiu, Soltz said. They've worked on legislation such as the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell — a policy the Clinton administration instituted in 1994 that prohibited discrimination against closeted members of the LGBTQ community, but barred any gays, lesbians or bisexuals from serving openly. Soltz says 75 percent of young Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans supported repeal of the bill, yet none of the traditional veterans groups helped get the legislation repealed. 

July 27, 2016: Congresswoman Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth walks to the podium at the Democratic National Convention.
July 27, 2016: Congresswoman Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth walks to the podium at the Democratic National Convention. Shutterstock / Gregory Reed

"There are less and less veterans today because there is no draft, so we give veterans a voice," Soltz said. "And that starts with helping veterans have a voice in politics. Everyone runs around and says, 'Oh my gosh there are no veterans left in politics' — well … you have to do the work to help them get elected. You can't just do that as a 501c3 non-partisan entity."

Now, as the new administration takes over, VoteVets is also facing new issues. Near the top of their list is doing their best to protect the health care of veterans, which Soltz says is in serious jeopardy as Trump and the Republican-led Congress try to push through a repeal of Obamacare. The legislation, which will be voted on after July 4, has long-term cuts to Medicaid — which 1.7 million veterans use — and is expected to leave as many as 15 million uninsured by next year.

"Where are traditional veterans groups standing up and saying not all veterans qualify for VA care?" Soltz said. "There are millions of Veterans who use the ACA. Where are your traditional veterans groups saying hundreds of thousands, if not millions of vets, who rely on Medicaid could lose that if Trumpcare passes?"

Soltz also expressed frustration that Trump signed a bill which makes it easier to fire employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a move the administration sold as a chance to overhaul the agency. 

"That's not an answer to fix the VA," Soltz said. "Veterans want more doctors, want more nurses. I'm not saying we shouldn't fire people that aren't good. Obviously, people who aren't doing a good job shouldn't be there. But to sell that as an answer to the VA when you're going to kick 1.7 million vets off their health care plan? That's not the answer."

Then, of course, there's the actual issue of being Commander in Chief and the decisions Trump is making about the active duty military. Trump recently delegated much of his power to the Pentagon, handing over some decision-making power on things like troop levels abroad. Quickly, the Pentagon used that power to add 4,000 troops in Afghanistan. 

There has also been increased activity in Syria, U.S. troops have died in five countries since Trump took office, and a botched raid in Yemen that ended the life of a Navy SEAL has gone largely unexplained. According to Soltz, Trump is yet to answer questions about why and how these soldiers lost their lives, what his plan is in Afghanistan, and why he's doing exactly the opposite of what he said he'd do in Syria. In response, VoteVets is hoping to leverage their resources and bring forth legislation that improves Congress's ability to authorize war. 

"A lot of people in the military and the vets community are concerned that this president is just going have endless war, that he's not engaged, that he delegated his role as Commander in Chief," Soltz said. "And we're going to continue to hold him accountable."

Cover image via Shutterstock / Gregory Reed

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