Squabble Over Veterans Hospital Is Latest Showdown In Congressional Primary

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 21, 2010 at 5:31 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Republican Congressional challenger Bob Thomas says his position on Fort Wayne's V-A Hospital is being distorted in incumbent Mark Souder's radio ads.

Souder, meanwhile, says Thomas is backtracking on the issue.

Contrary to a commercial produced by the Souder camp, Thomas says he does not favor closing the local veterans medical center.

In the ad referenced, Congressman Souder takes car dealer Bob Thomas to task, claiming Thomas thinks there shouldn't be any veterans’ hospitals, and such a change would save the country money.

Souder Political Ad: " The callousness of Bob saying we should put veterans in a Medicaid-like system, treating those who defend us like those on welfare, is stunning. Bob's proposing to close Veterans Hospitals is an insult to our vets. Every veteran, every veteran's family, every friend of a veteran needs to vote in this primary."

Thomas says the characterization that he wants to sell out veterans is ridiculous, and in a new ad of his own, narrated by a Desert Storm veteran, he charges that Souder a decade ago was slow to fight to keep the local V-A facility open.

Thomas Political Ad/Narrated by Veteran Vic Jones: " The truth is Mark Souder doesn't care about veterans. He told veterans like me, the V-A Hospital was going to close. It wasn't until a veterans group rose up to make it a campaign issue that Mark Souder was forced to get involved.”

Bob Thomas/(R) Congressional Candidate: " The veterans should be able to go to the hospital of their choice, to the doctor of their choice, to the pharmacy of their choice."

Thomas says along with those expanded care options, veterans should still be able to count on the Veterans Administration providing the same level of coverage at the same cost to the patients.

But Souder's campaign says Thomas is not being fully truthful, claiming Thomas altered a statement from his web site, by removing a line about closing veterans’ hospitals and how that approach might actually save taxpayers money.

Souder released a statement, saying, "Veterans who live here know my record, and don't want an outsider who wants to close their hospital."

Thomas argues campaign issues like this one need to be hashed out face-to-face in a public debate between Souder, Thomas and Phil Troyer, the other Republican challenger.

Souder has consistently maintained he won’t agree to debate Thomas, saying the well-to-do car dealer who lived most of the last 30 years near Indianapolis is not a credible candidate.

Thomas, who has supported a sizeable payroll at two Fort Wayne dealerships since the early 1980’s, says Souder is trying to hide from his record in Congress, and that by not submitting to a debate, the district’s voters are being cheated.

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