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Laura Vecsey's Blog

Laura Vecsey's Blog

Middle Ground

End-of-life care pamphlet controversy prompts Sestak to criticize Specter

Joe Sestak is taking issue with Arlen Specter’s call for a Senate hearing on a booklet used by the Veterans Administration for end-of-life advice for critically ill veterans.

The booklet is called “Your Life, Your Choice,” and was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article by Jim Towey, who directed the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives under George W. Bush. Towey, along with Specter, appeared on Fox News last week, where he discussed the VA pamphlet.

Specter, who said he has not read the pamphlet, issued a press release Monday also calling on the department to consider suspending use of the pamphlet.

“There is an issue as to whether the VA document inappropriately pressures disabled veterans who forgo critical care by subtly urging them on end-of-life decisions,” Senator Specter wrote.

VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts told The Washington Post that the booklet “is designed to help veterans deal with excruciating questions about what kind of health care they would like to receive if they are unable to make decisions for themselves.”

That would seem to bolster Sestak’s assertion today that Specter has over-reacted to Towey’s assertions.

“As a Veteran, I read with deep concern an editorial entitled ‘The Death Book for Veterans,’ which accuses the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of deliberately sending Veterans a ‘hurry-up-and-die message’ with a pamphlet on living wills and end-of-life care,” Sestak said.

“Anyone may criticize — and, indeed, suggest improvements to the pamphlet — but to seriously allege that an honest effort by the VA that sincerely helps families plan for the most difficult emotional experience of their lives is a ‘death book’ is counter to the public’s and Veterans’ interest,” Sestak said.

“This is the same kind of sensationalized rhetoric and misleading accusations behind the misinformation on ‘death panels’ in the health care reform debate, and I am disappointed that Arlen Specter would lend credence to this insincere rhetoric by calling for a Senate hearing without, by his own admission, even reading the pamphlet.”

The pamphlet is currently being revised, according to the VA, but for the past week, “Your Life, Your Choice,” has been at the center of debate, with conservatives calling it the military’s equivalent to “death panels.”

August 25, 2009 at 10:23 pm

--Laura Vecsey

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comments [18] | post a comment

  1. David Diano

    Aug 26th, 2009

    Sestak is once again showing that he puts politics over policy.

    Specter’s statement did not endorse nor lend credence to the “death book” misinformation. Instead, he recognized that there is a real (though misguided) public controversy due to the misinformation put out by Towey, and called for the Senate to address it head on. A senate panel would bring light to the issue in a official capacity to dispel the controversy.

    Specter is right in that “there is an issue”: people are misinterpreting what the VA does.

    Sestak acknowledges that “Anyone may criticize — and, indeed, suggest improvements to the pamphlet”

    So, why is he criticizing Specter for calling for a Senate panel to look at the pamphlet?

    Once again Sestak manages to contract himself and demonstrate his lack of understanding of the oversight role of government.

    Sestak’s consistently avoided oversight when he voted for Iraq war funding (without timetables), voted to fund Cheney’s office, voted for warrantless wiretaps and voted for Telecom immunity.

    18% of the people in this country think the Sun revolves around the Earth.
    Sestak apparently thinks it revolves around him.

  2. Frank McFarland

    Aug 26th, 2009

    David you seem to really dislike Sestak. Can you give us valid reasons why you don’t like him. Get over the fact that he didn’t use your data program. why else? Don’t say because he is a phony, he has been a good leader in the 7th District. You better hope Vitali stays put, or those two seats will be republican. I am diehard democrat, and we are in for tough elections in 2010.

  3. Dave B

    Aug 26th, 2009

    Not suprised to see Sestak stand against the clear sentiment of the people. The obvious message from the TownHalls: leave us alone” – and here Joe endorses government intrusion into the most personal of life’s decisions, which is about to become central to national policy under a federalized health care system.

    Can always count on a Liberal to be condescending.

  4. Jack

    Aug 26th, 2009

    “So, why is he criticizing Specter for calling for a Senate panel to look at the pamphlet?”

    Maybe because Specter admitted he didn’t even read it before going on FoxNews multiple times to feed the controversy?

    Specter was blatantly wrong and ignorant on the issue.

    See beyond the veil once in awhile, David.


    Aug 26th, 2009

    From Davids argument above:

    Sestak acknowledges that “Anyone may criticize — and, indeed, suggest improvements to the pamphlet”

    In my mind, I think Senator Specter is rightfully justified in examining the booklet and particularly the QUESTIONNAIRE to make sure that the contents are indeed appropriate. Questions such as, Would life be worth living if you are a financial burden? And, would life be worth living if you are in a wheelchair are suggestive questions in some sense. There is no problem w Sen. Specter and the Vets Committee examining this booklet in detail and possibly making changes.

  6. Lee Levan

    Aug 26th, 2009

    “Sestak is once again showing that he puts politics over policy.”

    I have never seen a better example of the pot (David) calling the kettle (Sestak) black. Thanks for the morning humor, David.

    On the issue raised by Laura, it does seem that Specter is pandering to the “Deathers” on the right. Specter knows damn well that the VA is not, as he said, “inappropriately pressur[ing] disabled veterans [t]o forgo critical care by subtly urging them on end-of-life decisions”.

  7. Jack

    Aug 26th, 2009

    I mean, seriously, if Sestak went on FoxNews, blasted a pamphlet, then he admitted he didn’t read it, then issued a press release and did another FoxNews interview to say the same thing about a document that does not actually say any of the stuff FoxNews, Michael Steele, and the rest of Specter’s former GOP colleagues says it does, Diano and the rest of you would SLAM him for it.

    Ridiculous, but not suprising coming from Diano and whatever Specter staffers are posting here.

  8. Jon Geeting

    Aug 26th, 2009

    David you’re just shilling at this point, ignoring the merits of Sestak’s argument. No Democrat should validate the “death book” lie. The death book claim is baseless, and by allowing that there may be any legitimacy to the Republican lie, Specter is playing right into their hands. Sestak is absolutely right to dismiss the claim, and Specter, out of hand. By all means, attack the distortions. But to commission a Senate inquiry only heightens the visibility. Imagine the headlines – “Senate to Hold Hearing on Controversial “Death Book” There is no controversy here – only a blatant lie and a former Republican showcasing his embarassing political instincts.

  9. Joe in Wynnewood

    Aug 26th, 2009

    The only thing I would fault Sestak on is having been too gentle in calling out Specter on this latest bit of stupidity. First off, Fixed News isn’t a legitimate news outlet, so first instinct should be not to go on it at all. If you do, 2nd instinct should be to oppose whatever bullpucky they are touting. Finally, if you’re going to go on it at all, do your damn homework (or at least have your staff do it for you)! This is not how you support healthcare reform and the President. Is this so hard for Specter to figure out?

    As for you Dave B., clear sentiment of the people? Get real. Here’s the latest polling –; “In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance–extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?”
    Extremely Important – 58%
    Quite Important – 19%
    That’s 77% who want not just healthcare reform, but reform with a public option. I’d say Sestak is very much in tune with the sentiment of the people.

  10. David Diano

    Aug 26th, 2009

    To All-
    Specter wrote a letter to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, asking him to hold a hearing to make a determination and settle the issue.
    Since, Specter himself used to be the Chairman of that very committee, I think it’s a pretty good bet that he knows A LOT more than Sestak about what the appropriate business of the committee is for settling such matters (especially because Specter’s actually still on that committee).
    Sestak’s the same fool who doesn’t understand Congress’s proper oversight role and keeps calling for a separate panel of independent retired judges to oversee investigations of wrongdoing.

    I’ve gone after Sestak since he voted for the Iraq War without timetables and voted to fund Cheney’s office. I defy you to find me going after him publicly before that. Behind the scenes, he’s been disloyal and dishonorable when it’s come to supporting local Dems and following up on his promises to help. He’s totally in it for himself and his campaign’s philosophy has been to abandon local candidates, especially in areas where Joe needs Republican votes. Exactly the opposite of “leave no man behind”.

    You are misinformed regarding my data program. His campaign DID use the program for the first six months before switching to the same system as Casey/Rendell for the integrated campaign. They then STOLE my data, and finally refused to honor a data exchange agreement in compensation.

    I strongly feel that Sestak is BAD for the party. If YOU believed him to be a wolf/conservative in sheep/liberal clothing, you’d be against him too. Maybe, someday, you’ll take off your blinders and see the real Sestak.

    I’m fine with Sestak going after the Death Book nonsense. My problem is that he took a real issue requiring enlightenment and selfishly turned it into a political issue by deliberately misrepresenting Specter’s position.
    Sestak’s playing into the GOP by giving Toomey a forum to spread lies and putting Toomey on a equal footing with an elected representative.

    Rather than spout off like Sestak (just to hear himself talk), Specter took the issue head-on by referring it to the appropriate official channel (which happens to be his own committee).

    You still don’t know Jack.

    Sestak goes on Fox all the time. He’ll rattle off a few talking points, and will occasionally try to correct the record, but he’s not particularly forceful or effective in calling them on their hypocrisy or bias. Fox doesn’t go after him too hard because:
    1) they realize he’s a conservative Dem
    2) they bend over backwards for military guys (except Kerry and Max Cleland who are anti-war)

  11. flynnbw

    Aug 26th, 2009

    I am by no means taking sides in the PA Senate primary (I think both are good men and have been great for veterans) but I do recall that Fox News used Rep. Sestak’s vote in favor of the no-strings-attached war funding bill in 2007 as validation that the Democratic Congressmen who voted against it were out of the mainstream and not listening to the military experts in their own party.

    Obviously this isn’t Rep. Sestak’s fault, and other folks with military experience (like Rep. Patrick Murphy) stuck to their guns and voted against the so-called blank check, but this is an important thing to remember.

  12. David Diano

    Aug 26th, 2009

    That Sestak betrayed his very specific and ardent campaign promises to the line on accountability is precisely his fault.
    The big “plus” (and the selling point) was that he’d be the “military expert” in our party to bring accountability, not serve as validation to Fox and the GOP.

    Maybe after Specter wins, Sestak will become a regular commentator on Fox.

  13. Josh Eisenberg

    Aug 26th, 2009

    I think it shows that Specter thinks for himself and isn’t just sucking up to the Dems.

  14. Lee Levan

    Aug 26th, 2009

    Hey Josh

    Specter just recently CHOSE to become a Dem. It’s not sucking up if you believe in those Dem principles. Are you telling us that Specter doesn’t believe in them?

  15. David Diano

    Aug 27th, 2009

    Hey Lee-
    Sestak chose to become a Dem (at least in registration) not that long ago either. He’s certainly demonstrated a lack of Dem principles and a great ability to suck up to the Left while campaigning. (and if the stories are to believed, Sestak owes much of his rise in the military to being 4-star suck-up).

  16. Lee Levan

    Aug 27th, 2009

    So, David, are you saying that Specter does not believe in Democratic principles, or are you just on another rabid anti-Sestak rant?

  17. David Diano

    Aug 27th, 2009

    My point is that Sestak doesn’t have or believe in Democratic principles. Whether or Specter does is a separate question. The point here is reveal that Sestak is a phony, so the progressives can make their decisions based upon the real non-liberal Sestak.

    Specter often struck me (and others) as a moderate/liberal Dem trapped in the Republican party. Sestak, on the other hand, appears to be a moderate/conservative Republican trying to pass for Dem.

    While Specter is fighting hard for Obama, he doesn’t feel like a suck-up. He defends his past votes with a quite a bit of candor, rather than apologizing or dodging the question.

    Try getting a straight answer out of Sestak.

    Here’s the very simple equation for this election:
    6 (or fewer) years of Specter as a Dem and a 60+ vote majority OR 20+ years of Sestak and a 57- vote majority that gets filibustered.
    The money that going to be wasted on this primary should be the extra jet fuel for critical races where we could lose or pick up a seat. If Sestak beats Specter, we lose 60 Dem super-majority. If Sestak pulls out now he can return his money to the 7th district and save that race, and not further drain the senate pool.

  18. Amy G

    Sep 1st, 2009

    Having Specter in office DOES NOT secure he votes with the Democratic platform. Why would he start now? He never has before. If you are worried about your Senator offering an opinion most like(and a vote toward) your Liberal views, Specter should not be your choice in 2010.

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