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Ranking Member Bost Slams Democrats’ Witch Hunt to Stigmatize Veterans as Domestic Violent Extremists

Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the Committee’s hearing entitled, “Helping Veterans Thrive: The Importance of Peer Support in Preventing Domestic Violent Extremism:”

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, welcome to our witnesses and Committee Members.

Today’s hearing is the second in the last five months on violent extremism among veterans.

I said it in that first hearing and I will say it again now –

Free speech must be protected;

But, violence cannot be tolerated.

Violence has no place in our society or our politics, on either side of the aisle.

Given the pace of Committee hearings on this subject, you might think that veterans often become violent extremists.

That is not the case.

And, it does real harm to veterans to pretend like it is.

It makes it harder for them to succeed as civilians.

It makes it harder for them to get jobs.

It makes it harder from them to ask for help when they’re struggling.

That the Chairman is furthering such a false and dangerous stigma – one that says veterans are violent and a threat to their communities - is wrong.

And, it is especially wrong when it’s for nothing but political theater.

From the beginning of this so called investigation, the Chairman and his staff have been playing political games and refusing to work in a bipartisan manner.

Our first hearing on this was supposed to be last summer.

Just a few days before, we found out on Twitter, from a reporter, that the hearing had been postponed.

We later found out that the Speaker herself had asked for the postponement.

At the time, she was worried that it would interfere with another one of the Democrat Majority’s partisan interests – the January 6th Select Committee.

Last week, the Chairman released a staff report on how violent extremists recruit veterans.

That release was the very first time me or my staff had even heard of such a report.

We were we not given an opportunity to review the report before its release.

We were not given an opportunity to contribute to it.

Since then, the Majority has refused to even discuss the report or answer our questions about it.

The message that sends is clear -

The Chairman is more interested in advancing his own political interests - by painting veterans as radical and violent -than he is in moving beyond partisanship to figure out how to actually help the veterans who need it.

The Chairman allegedly called this hearing to, quote, “hear the veterans’ side of the story…,” end quote.

There are 9 witnesses at this hearing and four of them are veterans.

One of those veterans is Joe Chenelly from AMVETS, who is the witness that I asked for.

The Chairman also claimed that this hearing is meant to examine the role of peer support in helping veterans.

But just one of the 9 witnesses at this hearing is from a V.S.O. – the obvious source of peer support for veterans.

Yet again, that one witness is Joe Chenelly from AMVETS, who is the witness that I asked for.

If you want to hear the veterans’ side of the story, Mr. Chairman, why didn’t you invite more veterans here today to tell their stories?

If you wanted to learn about peer support for veterans, why didn’t you include any of the organizations that Congress specifically chartered to provide it?

Something isn’t adding up.

A few years ago, the New York Times called the V.A. Committee the most bipartisan Committee in Congress.

That is certainly not true today.

And the ones who are truly harmed by that are veterans.

They deserve better than this.

I yield back.

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