Heller misses more than half of Veterans Affairs hearings

By: - October 23, 2018 3:38 pm

Screengrab from video featured on Heller’s Senate website.

U.S. Senator Dean Heller, who has made support of veterans a prominent part of his reelection campaign and its advertising, has missed more than half of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings at which his presence or absence can be determined during his Senate tenure. 

From 2013 through today, Heller missed 48 out of 86 hearings in which his attendance is apparent through transcripts and videos.

Heller’s attendance cannot be ruled out or substantiated at an additional 22 hearings. 

Heller’s spokeswoman, Megan Taylor, took issue with the reporting but has provided no evidence Heller attended any of the meetings in question.

“Your information is incorrect – it would be nearly impossible to determine a member’s attendance based on transcripts and videos given that senators walk in and out of hearings because they often have as many as three hearings scheduled at the same time or step out of hearings for meetings with constituents,” Taylor said in a statement to the Current.  

Heller’s attendance record is not unusual; transcripts and videos show that the committee hearings are routinely sparsely attended.

And Veterans Affairs Committee hearings aren’t the only hearings that routinely attract light attendance from senators. Committee hearings often only have a few members present, especially when senators have competing committee work scheduled the same day.

Heller missed Veterans Affairs hearings on pending healthcare legislation and more.

On September 10, 2013, Heller missed a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committee at which the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans service organization, laid out its legislative priorities, including health care, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicide prevention and job training.  

Heller failed to attend the annual presentation again in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.  It’s unknown whether he attended in 2017.

“For us on the House and Senate Veterans committee, to do our jobs well, we need to hear from you and the other veteran organizations,” U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the committee at the time, told those testifying at the hearing in 2013.  “You are on the ground. You deal every day with veterans who know what’s working in the VA and who know what’s not working. You work with veterans who have ideas on how to improve the system.”

In March of 2013, Heller missed a hearing on ensuring access to high-quality mental health care.

In April of 2014, Heller missed a hearing on the problems and solutions associated with over-medicating veterans.

In March of 2015, Heller missed a hearing on VA prescribing of opioids.

In May of the same year he missed a hearing on the care of paralyzed and blind veterans.

He missed the legislative priorities presentation from paralyzed veterans in May of 2015.  

This year, on February 27 and 28, Heller missed consecutive Veterans Affairs hearings but met in his D.C. office with officials from the Nevada Broadcasters Association, Nevada Public Television and the Reno Chamber of Commerce.

On March 21, Heller failed to attend a hearing on the Veterans Programs Budget, but met in his D.C. office with representatives of an air ambulance company from Henderson, an official from the ALS chapter of Nevada, who shared the organization’s legislative priorities, and with Rossi Ralenkotter of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Heller, a Republican, is running ads criticizing his opponent, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, for missing a vote on veterans to attend a “photo op” at the U.S. and Mexican border. Rosen did miss the vote, which was on the suspension calendar, meaning it was already expected to garner overwhelming support.  Heller also distributed a news release claiming Rosen “skipped out” of work. On the day of the vote, Rosen was visiting a facility for unaccompanied minors who immigrated to America.

Politifact rates Heller’s claim Mostly False.    

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.