Political Fix (4 February, 2016)

Debbie Does Double Dipping

Remember when Dr. Evil put his pinky on the corner of his mouth and declared that the world would be held ransom for ONE MILLION DOLLARS? That movie moment is what came to mind when reading about Assemblyman Devon Mathis’ newest attempt to pass a bill. His signature bill for 2016 is requesting approval of ONE MILLION DOLLARS to be used to ensure that veterans are receiving their benefits.

Many vets are not getting all of the benefits they deserve because they don’t know about them. Mr. Mathis’ bill tries to fix that problem. His efforts are noble, but what struck me as a little too ironic is his abundant concern with veterans getting their benefits, while staffers formerly in his inner circle felt that he was inappropriately collecting his.

Soon after Mr. Mathis was elected, he and his staff had a discussion about his Veteran’s Administration (VA) benefits and what he received from the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). His staff felt strongly that he should stop receiving his benefits or donate them back to the VA while he was in office. They felt that if Mr. Mathis were collecting his veteran’s benefits, while collecting his state salary, he would be double dipping.

Mr. Mathis collects 100% disability benefits from the VA because of a head injury he sustained on tour in Iraq. The 100% designation doesn’t necessarily mean that he is completely disabled, it just means that as long as he is getting treatment for his injury he receives the benefits.

It’s unknown exactly how much Mr. Mathis receives, but his former staff said they believe it is somewhere around $3,000 a month from the VA. Also according to former staff, his wife receives in the ballpark of $2,000 a month from the WWP as a home healthcare-aid to take care of him because of his disability. That alleged $2,000 a month from WWP is on top of his state health benefits, which are considered the best in California. One Republican establishment politician described it as triple dipping. Another former staffer had this to say, “Fiscal conservative my %*#.”

Another wrinkle is, if it’s true that his wife does receive money from the WWP to take care of her husband, does she travel with him and their newborn twins to Sacramento?

No one would deny that Mr. Mathis has earned his VA benefits. But Mr. Mathis has the sacred duty of representing his constituents as he stands on the floor of the California Assembly. If he is declared 100% disabled by the VA, does his disability interfere with his job in serving the citizens of Tulare County? Or does his disability not interfere with his work? Which brings us right back to whether he should be receiving his VA benefits, and on top of that, his state salary at the same time?

It also begs the question, how did Mr. Mathis square his decision to keep his VA and WWP benefits with the opinions of his former staff who wanted him to give them up?

I think the key word in all this is “former.”

I jest about the reference to the Austin Powers movie, but it brings me to another point about his benefits. If Mr. Mathis serves out his 12 years as he intends to do, his Veterans benefits would add up to more than $700,000. That would cover almost an entire year of the cost of his legislative bill. The movie joked about the little the amount it was required to hold the world ransom, but it’s no laughing matter when you are taking taxpayers’ money. As another former staffer said about Mr. Mathis’ double dipping, “Legal does not mean moral and it certainly flies in the face of everything he’s talking about regarding veterans being taken care of.”

Mr. Mathis hasn’t done anything against the law, but as a local Veterans Advocate said, “it is troubling.” Double dipping isn’t fraud, but is a way of gaming the system without going to jail. He may not be going to jail, but he also may not be going back to Sacramento next January.

I’ll Drink to That!

You would think that watching the seventh Republican Presidential debate wouldn’t be so much fun, but it was. I came up with a drinking game where everyone, meaning me and my husband, had to drink shots of beer every time Senator Marco Rubio said, “when I am President of the United States.”

I guess Mr. Rubio has read “The Secret” and was manifesting his future during the debate, because he said the refrain so often that I was passed out under the table within 30 minutes.

I always thought Mr. Rubio was going to get the Republican nomination and obviously he does too. If everyone polling under 10% would just drop out, he would. Another advantage Mr. Rubio has is that he is the number one pick of the Koch Brothers. The Koch brothers are actively campaigning against Donald Trump because they do not believe Mr. Trump is a conservative and they are savvy enough to know Mr. Trump’s presidential nomination will destroy the Republican Party.

I wasn’t really passed out on the floor. Instead of slamming a drink each time Mr. Rubio said, “When I am president,” I found myself yelling at the TV and wanting to have a drink.

Though I see him as the only viable candidate, I don’t understand what everyone else sees in him. Is it me or is Mr. Rubio constantly in attack mode with his laundry list of cookie cutter answers? I feel his pain being the youngest candidate and constantly having to defend himself against his older and bigger siblings. But grow up already.

Next to Governor John Kasich, Mr. Rubio looks so immature. How can the audience watch Gov. Kasich’s performance and not think that he looks, acts, and is, more presidential?

Even Governor Jeb Bush looked more presidential than normal during the last debate “without the elephant in the room.”

And when Rand Paul said that he is the only true fiscal conservative on that stage, while pointing his finger in Mr. Rubio’s direction, why doesn’t that get more traction?

Republicans plan on spending more on the military while cutting taxes. Mr. Paul asks the logical question, “How do you plan on paying for that?” The American Military Industrial Complex is the biggest thing in the world by leaps and bounds. Do we really want to make it bigger? Can’t we just get a little smarter?

Also, one cannot call oneself a fiscal conservative and approve of spending three million per inmate a year at Guantanamo as Mr. Rubio supports. He even wants to increase the population at Guantanamo by sending ISIS fighters who survive an American attack. What the heck do we want them for? Send them to Saudi Arabia and let the Saudis do what they do best, and hang their enemies.

Let’s Caucus

This rant leads us to the Iowa Caucus that took place earlier this week. If you skipped the whole thing and binged watched Long Island Medium here is a painless review.

My prediction the day before was that Mr. Rubio would do much better than anyone predicted, and he did. His performance was the biggest news of the evening. Ted Cruz won the caucus and Mr. Trump was a four-point second.

But Mr. Rubio’s thin third place behind Mr. Trump lead him to give what was considered by many a victory speech. The television viewer was actually treated to five victory speeches that night by first, Mr. Rubio, followed by Mr. Cruz, Mr. Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

It was an unusual night where it seemed everybody was a winner.

But here is the skinny on the Iowa Caucus. Iowan Democrats are 99% white and liberal. So it’s no surprise that Mr. Sanders almost tied Mrs. Clinton. Let’s see how he does in not so white South Carolina on February 27. Iowan Republicans are 99% white and evangelical.

So it was no surprise when Mr. Cruz won. Let’s see how he does in not so evangelical Nevada on February 23. One thing is for sure after the Iowa caucus, now that the Republican freak-out is in full bloom over the possibility of Mr. Cruz or Mr. Trump getting the nomination, the establishment’s money will start pouring into Mr. Rubio’s coffers.

Another sticking point about the Iowa caucuses is that they have not been picking Republican winners. In 2012 they couldn’t even decide on a winner. First they declared that Rick Santorum won.

Then they said that Mitt Romney won. Then Ron Paul’s team members showed up a few months later en masse and claimed the majority of the convention delegates.

On the Democratic side of the race, Iowa will eventually declare Mrs. Clinton the winner but just barely. Even so, Mr. Sanders will have earned almost half of the delegates. Ironically it was Mr. Rubio’s “victory” speech that illustrated why Mr. Sanders has waged such a successful campaign.

Mr. Rubio said about his parents, “Less than a decade after they arrived here with nothing, my father a bartender on Miami Beach, they owned a home. Not a mansion, but a safe and stable home in a safe and stable neighborhood.”

Is anyone still deluded enough to believe that a bartender, or anyone else in the service industry, could afford to buy a home in 2016?

Mr. Rubio’s anecdotal story that he repeats over and over just fuels the fire. It is why two long shots like Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders’ grassroots campaigns have swept the country. Americans are angry that working hard does not mean financial security for them or their children, and the Clinton and Bush political machines severely underestimated the power of that anger.

Calling all Tulare County Middle-Aged Men

No really, calling all Tulare County middle-aged men, because I think there are still a few who haven’t filed their paperwork to run for Tulare County Supervisor District 1. If any more declare, all the candidates won’t even fit in a clown car. There are currently seven candidates with more to file, I am sure. Filing just opened and goes to March 16 if no incumbent files. Normally filing ends March 11, but Supervisor Allen Ishida is the incumbent and he has declared his candidacy for Governor.

The Candidates are: Edward “Ted” Macaulay, former mayor of Exeter and three-term city councilman; Kuyler Crocker, Strathmore farmer and Sup. Ishida protégé; Dennis Smith, owner of National Builders Supply in Farmersville and president of the Central Valley Tea Party; Vincent Salinas, Visalia real estate agent and former Visalia Planning commissioner and former Redevelopment Agency member; Angel Galvez, employee of the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, Mental Health Branch; John Elliot, publisher of The Kaweah Commonwealth of Three Rivers and a current Tulare County Planning commissioner; and Jim Qualls, Visalia Unified School Board member since 1989.

Though Mr. Quall’s current term runs to 2018, ironically he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to run for an open seat. At the time it looked like a simple race. Now it’s a like a running of the bulls.

One political pundit said, “it’s like it’s all one guy. How do we choose?”

So how to choose? The Foothills Sun Gazette and the Valley Voice have decided to put on a candidates’ forum in May in the heart of Tulare County Supervisor’s District 1. And even though the numbers are looking like the Republican Presidential race, we promise no kid’s table.

15 thoughts on “Political Fix (4 February, 2016)

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  1. I am disturbed with Ms. Doe’s comments about Assemblyman Mathis. I have known Devon Mathis for several years. I have had the pleasure of having him in my classes at Porterville College. I would watch his knuckles go white as he dealt with the pain of his injuries. Every day he must work through the effects of his injuries. In spite of them he excelled in my classes and graduated with Honors. He has gone on to prove that even with his injuries, he will succeed.

    Mr. Mathis is a combat Veteran who was severely injured while serving in a war zone. He is entitled to the compensation. His term in the legislature will eventually end but these injuries will be with him for the rest of his life and we do not know what the long term effects of those injuries will be.

    He is now in a position to advocate for others who have served. This is desperately needed. The Military has never done a good job of transitioning Vets from active service to civilian life. Those Veterans who were injured while serving have, until recently, been left to figure it out on their own. We need people like Mr. Mathis who understand, can advocate for them, and make the transition easier. We need to reach out to those Vets who have slipped through the cracks. With 22 Veterans committing suicide every day, Vets need all the help we can provide.

    From my experiences with Mr. Mathis, I would have to say that he is in a better position to serve his constituents and Veterans than many others in the legislature. Do his injuries affect his job? Yes, they do! They drive him to set the bar higher, work harder, and to achieve more.

  2. Another Combat Wounded Veteran’s perspective. I find it very troubling that I, as a combat wounded Veteran, am expected to stay home after being severely wounded. All the benefits that I receive, won’t make my arm grow back, won’t take away the nightmares, won’t give my short term memory back or make my life the way it was prior to injury. I wish that were true, but it isn’t. Our lives will never be the same, forever changed. We could just stay home, and rot away doing prescription drugs (or nonprescription), put the bottle to our head and pull the trigger and maybe live a life thinking back on how great it was when we were barrel chested freedom fighters. Or, we can choose to make a positive impact. For you to degrade the sacrifice Mr. Mathis made on behalf of all of us, to include you is frightening to read. For you to say that those who are injured on the battlefield shouldn’d be placed in leadership positions sets anyone with disabilities back. To me, it says to all of who served in combat that we don’t deserve the benefits, nor are we good enough for employment so we should just stay home. In this case, I’m sure those who aren’t fans of Mr. Mathis would love that. Mr. Mathis has overcome adversity like so many other Combat Wounded Veterans. Instead of applauding him, we get this article instead.

    Norbie Lara
    Combat Wounded Veteran

  3. Ms Doe’s remarks are from “former staff”. Obviously there is a reason for that as clearly stated throughout this article. It’s election time again and they have a runner to endorse with negative attacks on the Incumbent. The attacks on Mr Mathis by the writer are cheap shots and show a lack of professionalism, as well as being an unrespectful attack on Disabled Veterans. Mr Mathis fights hard for the Veterans and is doing excellent work for them in Sacramento. I trust the readers of this paper will see the article for what it is and take it with a grain of salt.

  4. Good Evening
    I am in Viet Nam Vet 1967-1969 USMC Infantry
    I lost 14 Killed and 34 wounded by North Vietnamese Communist.
    56,000 Americans were killed in War.
    Worse 80,000 Vietnam Veterans have killed themselves sinc 1972.
    Both my sons are combat Vets Dave 32 USMC Iraq 2007 and Afghanistan 2009 Peter 28 USA Rangers 2013-2014 Afghanistan, Son in Law Brian Senior Chief soon to be Chief Warrant Officer 2

  5. I note that you did not qualify your sources, was “former staffer” an effective employee? Was he terminated or did he resign? What was the military service performed by the referrence Veteran ? Did it include a combat tour? I suggest the military medals of Mr.Nathis and his experiences be compared with thosed of the rerterrenced Vet. Most of all I suggest that in order to be creditable you should do your research before publishing such a critical article
    Your article is so typical of those in your industry who have not been in the service of our Country and don’t understand the cost and the individual efforts required to maintain our freedom.

  6. The remarks that have been made by Ms. Doe truly shows the mentality of one who has never had or been willing to write a check for everything including their life for their country. Then having to endure the ridicule and disdain from those that you risked your life to protect their right to have the freedom to their opinion no matter how wrong or warped it may be. Assemblyman Mathis wrote that check to serve his country when called and paid a high price in doing so. The fact that he is disabled in some ways does not negate his ability or desire to continue to serve his country and constituency! The fact that he collects for his disabilities has nothing to do with his crusade for the Veterans in this state, or his ability to represent us in Sacramento. Being a Vietnam Veteran 69-70 myself, I can relate to the noises being made by Ms. Doe, I too can remember being called names and being spit at in airports, and on the streets and all for doing my duty and serving my country. Now I like many others of our time and war are put on the back burner, ignored, and put on hold to get what we earned from a people and government that would just rather us disappear. Assemblyman Mathis earned his disability serving our country and has a right to it and has a right to also be paid to continue to serve us in Sacramento! An honest days pay for an honest days work. Ms. Doe, let Assemblyman Mathis do his job, and maybe instead of trying to smear his name for some disgruntled former staffer that probably is getting ready to run for the Assembly; you should be trying to do something positive for your country!

  7. I have known Devon Mathis since 2009 when he was a student in several of my classes at Porterville College (PC), and feel compelled to comment on the editorial entitled “Debbie Does Double Dipping.” Editorials, I realize, represent the personal views of the author and as such, are not constrained to factual boundaries. The allegations in this piece regarding Mr. Mathis’ financial situation come from an unnamed former staff member (or members), and fall into the category of hearsay, not fact. Then, based upon that hearsay, the editorial goes on to suggest improprieties on his part. Here are a few facts regarding Assemblyman Mathis:
    1. On two different occasions, he was “blown up” by roadside bombs (IEDs) while serving with the United States Army in Iraq. The result of these incidents was a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury.
    2. When he returned home he used his GI Bill benefits to earn an AA degree at Porterville College and later, a BA at Fresno State. While at PC, he was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community colleges, and he maintained a high grade point average throughout his college career.
    3. Mr. Mathis became an advocate for veterans during his college years and was in the forefront of veterans’ affairs at both schools.
    4. In 2014 he won a hard-fought race for the District 26 Assembly seat.
    In my mind, the above represent an honorable and laudable behavioral progression. Does Mr. Mathis receive VA benefits for his traumatic brain injury? I certainly hope so. Neither you nor I know the amount of that benefit, but whatever it is, it was determined by a team of qualified professionals within the VA system. Does his wife receive $2,000.00 per month from the Wounded Warrior Project? I very much doubt that . . . why don’t you just ask him?

  8. These so called “former staffers” obviously did not know Devon when he was sent home from the war and do not know what he has had to go through physically to get to where he is right now. I remember going to the VA hospital with him because of continuous excruciating headaches and body that would give way to the point that he would have to be drug or picked up and carried due to his injuries. Instead of choosing drugs so willingly offered by the doctors, he chose to work hard to try to overcome the damage that he received in protecting the rights of all, even those who so insultingly oppose Veterans receiving some compensation for bodily damage(s) received in battle. Shame on you, Ms. Doe!

  9. As the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs for California, I applaud Assemblyman Mathis for pursuing his education after his military service, despite his disabling injuries, and for sponsoring this legislation to help other California veterans receive the benefits for which they are eligible. There are many veterans who have fallen through the cracks and need assistance in understanding the benefits available to them and the process to access those benefits. Veteran Service Organizations, like AMVETS, VFW, American Legion and others plus the California Department of Veterans Affairs and County Veterans Service Officers work hard on behalf of veterans to assure that they can receive these benefits but more needs to be done. This bill will help in that regard. Ms. Doe has done a disservice to all veterans, and indeed to all persons with some disability, by suggesting that their willingness to go beyond their disability to achieve a greater purpose in life should require of them additional sacrifices.

  10. I think it is a shame to imply that a wounded veteran could be unqualified for his job based on an injury sustained during combat operations. Assemblyman Devon Mathis has never hidden his injuries and every person who voted him into office did so based on who he is now and what he can do for the citizens of this area, veteran and non-veteran alike.
    I applaud his efforts to help veterans find the help they need. It took years for him to get to where he is today, and if he can help others get help faster, than he is doing what he was elected to do.
    As a member of several veteran service organizations, I know it is difficult to know what is available. I meet veterans all the time who don’t know where to start.
    Also, for 20 years, I had no idea that I could get help from the VA regarding the constant ringing in my ears until I happened to talk to a veteran representative. If Assemblyman Mathis’ bill would help other veterans, then I think it’s money well spent.

  11. Whoa, whoa, whoa!
    While I do not know Ms. Doe’s sources–and therefore, whether or not I would consider them credible–I do know Ms. Doe, having co-worked with her for the past couple of years. I do not believe she was in any way attacking Mr. Mathis’ military record or the fact that he is a disabled veteran.
    In reading her column, I believe what is at issue here is whether or not someone–anyone, be it a former teacher, postal worker or truck driver–should receive full disability benefits while working at a different type of full-time (and then some) job while also receiving full-time pay. Plus, an additional amount for a care worker to take care of that person.
    While I have never served in the armed forces, my mother served as an army nurse during WWII–she remained stateside and was not disabled by the work she did while caring for injured forces for the US, its allies and opposing soldiers. However, growing up in the ‘60s, I had several friends who were drafted and served during the Vietnam War. Some came home with no physical (although certainly emotional) injuries, others came home to only later father children with birth defects (Agent Orange), and some never came home at all. I appreciate and honor their service. In no way would I ever want to discredit those who have served our country, and I don’t believe Ms. Doe does either.
    However, let’s take the military aspect out of the picture here and consider anyone who has had some form of disabling injury, physical and/or mental. At some point in time, when that person is able to find a job, or a service that they are able to function at, should they receive full-time disability benefits while working and receiving full-time pay? Isn’t the purpose of disability to help those who cannot work and earn wages to care for themselves and their families?
    So, why is this matter any different?
    I respect and applaud Mr. Mathis’ desire to serve his community through political office–even more so, perhaps, because of what he has gone through in his life. I can appreciate that he has pain, and some days may find it hard to function at any level.
    But, if he is working a full-time job while receiving full-time disability benefits, well, shame on him. If his wife is receiving pay as his at-home caretaker, while he is in the State Capitol working, well, shame on him and her.
    I am not doubting that sometime in the future Mr. Mathis may not be able to work and will need disability benefits, due to his injuries sustained while serving our country, and he should then receive it– but not while working in another full-time position.

  12. Editorial writer Doe goes to great lengths to suggest that Assemblymember Devon Mathis may be a 1 term legislator. Ms Doe chooses to rely on apparently disgruntled former staffers — who remain anonymous — to attack Mr Mathis’ receipt of his unquestionably earned disability benefits. What’s up with that?
    Recall that Mr Mathis was elected by the voters, defeating the chosen candidate of the Republican Party establishment. As an independent conservative he is the most representative of his constituents.
    As a taxpayer, I am very happy he receives his benefits, and continues to work in Sacramento for our veterans.
    Devon placed his life in harm’s way so Ms Doe could utter her extreme views. I wish she were more grateful.

    • Again with the anonymous sources! These people remain anonymous to you–and other readers–but they are not anonymous to the author, who has also spoken to veterans in this regard. Even those veterans wished not to be named. It’s not the author’s job to out people, but to report on things so that people can form an opinion. I can assure you that the author holds no animus toward–and indeed is grateful for–Mr. Mathis’ service. This was brought to her attention–she did not seek it out. To be clear, the author and this newspaper have given Mr. Mathis more press than the Visalia Times-Delta, and more favorable press (After he was elected the Valley Voice was the only paper to cover Mr. Mathis’ first press conference at the St. John’s River) while to this day Mr. Mathis does not appear in the VTD’s directory of local reps. In fact, for six months after his election, Connie Conway was still listed as holding Mr. Mathis’ seat.

  13. Maybe I don’t have the right idea of what the basic function of disability payments are, but Mathis needs to be asked if you can really be a “100% disabled” Assemblyman. It does seem like a gaming of the system.

    That said, I have not been satisfied by his adoption of Devin Nunes’ lame “man-made drought” rhetoric. Polemics are not what I want in representation. Cooperation is what I want.

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