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Alan Grayson accuses David Jolly of wanting to “dismantle” the V.A.

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Florida Democratic Senate candidate Alan Grayson has sent a mass e-mail to supporters, asking them to sign a petition denouncing GOP Senate candidate David Jolly for proposing to dismantle the Department of Veteran Affairs.

“Say you won’t let him dishonor our veterans like this by adding your name to our petition right now,” the statement says, calling on those who sign the petition to list their name, email address and postal code.

On a Boston radio program last week, Jolly, a Pinellas County congressman, seemed momentarily open to the idea of  dismantling the VA, though a close listening of the interview makes it clear he wasn’t committed to the idea.

“You know, it may be,” Jolly responded to a Boston Herald Radio reporter’s question about dismantling the VA. “Government never gets into services and reduces cost and reduces size. It always increases costs, increases inefficiency.”

The exchange was carried in the liberal blog Think Progress on Tuesday.

Later in the day, Grayson seized on the report, in an e-mail asking supporters to sign a petition.

Dear Friend,

Florida is home to one of the largest veterans populations in the nation, and we have a responsibility to make sure they get the care they’ve earned.

Unfortunately, it appears I’m the only candidate who actually believes that.

Here’s the quote:

“The leading GOP candidate running to represent Florida in the Senate announced that he’s open to ‘dismantling’ the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and devolving it to the states …” 

That’s David Jolly, one of my Republican opponents (and coincidentally, Patrick Murphy‘s close friend, according to the National Journal), openly attacking veterans benefits by calling for dismantling the VA. Our veterans deserve first-class care, both in the field of battle, and at home — they’ve earned it, and we have promised it to them. No one has the right to try to take that away.

Sign our petition today if you believe we need to protect the VA

However, the remainder of that Boston Herald radio exchange includes Jolly saying that while he initially thought that privatization was the way to go after hearing about how the long wait times at VA health care facilities in Phoenix last year contributed to a number of veterans’ deaths, he thought otherwise after talking to other vets.

“As I mentioned, probably 80 percent of the veterans that I talked to wanted to stay in the VA,” Jolly told the radio show. “They believe that there was a promise that was made. They liked the health care that they received there. They liked the community that is provided there.”

Jolly then went on to tout his proposed legislation to alleviate the VA crisis. The bill, called the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act, would give every veteran a new “Freedom Card” to offer them the opportunity to receive hospital care and medical services from non-VA health providers regardless of proximity to, or wait times at a VA facility.

“So I do think that when  you empower the patients, we will see a dramatic reduction in the VA  over the coming decade,” he added, concluding that part of the interview.

Jolly has previously been name-checked by Grayson in speeches, indicating that he believes the GOP representative from Pinellas could be the strongest Republican that he’d have to encounter if he  defeats Patrick Murphy in the Senate democratic primary next year.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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