In his first trip back to Oregon since being sworn in early this year, U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, came to speak at the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch north of Bend in honor of Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Dozens of veterans, their friends and families gathered Monday at the ranch, which supports veterans by offering peer support and agriculture-related therapy.

“We’re here to honor you for your sacrifice and your suffering,” Alison Perry, Founder of Central Oregon Veterans Ranch, said at the event.

When addressing the crowd, Bentz recounted his own experience huddling by a radio, waiting to hear whether his draft number was going to be called.

He committed to learning more about and advocating for veterans’ issues.

“We’ll do our best to fight for you just like you fought for us,” Bentz said.

In his statement, Bentz briefly mentioned to the crowd he co-sponsored H.R. 1448, which directs the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to carry out a pilot program on dog training therapies to provide service dogs to veterans who do not have mobility impairments. He is one of 308 to co-sponsor the bill.

Bentz said in general, however, the world of veterans issues is new to him, and said he is thankful he still has people who worked for his predecessor, Greg Walden, to help him.

His goal this week back home in Oregon is to listen and learn from constituents about what issues need to be addressed, he said. At this event, a handful of veterans made one issue clear: Too many veterans are not getting the benefits — or have trouble getting the benefits — they deserve from Veterans Affairs.

“When people are expressing dissatisfaction then that means something’s not working quite right, and we need to get in there and get to work,” Bentz said in response to a question about what he learned from the day.

Other issues Bentz said he has heard about from constituents include the impacts from wildfire, COVID-19 and consistent droughts. The struggle business owners have to find enough workers to run their operations has also consistently come up, he said.

When asked why he didn’t vote in favor of the federal government’s most recent stimulus package, which allocated $1,400 checks to individuals making $75,000 a year or less, Bentz said the bill wasn’t targeted enough to those who really needed it and he was concerned about the debt future generations would have to pay back. He said some businesses actually did better financially in the pandemic, and don’t need the assistance.

“Many of the businesses that are now getting money don’t need it,” Bentz said in a separate interview Monday. “People are saying our schools are awash and yet they are going to be getting more.”

When asked for specific examples of businesses that were getting money but didn’t need it, Bentz referred The Bulletin to a press release. No specific businesses or industries were listed, but “bailouts for mismanaged public union pensions” and “policies that give federal bureaucrats better paid leave than those which are available to essential workers” were mentioned.

Bentz acknowledged that he has not reopened the Bend office formerly maintained by Walden, but said he will open a Central Oregon office in the future.

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Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

(1) comment

kindergentlerbend

Central Oregon Veterans Ranch is certainly a notable and praiseworthy facility.

But, I do feel dismayed it had to be the backdrop for an airing of Cliff Bentz’ partisan opinions.

In his campaign for Congress I don’t recall Bentz ever objecting to Trump’s “targeted” Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which transferred huge amounts of wealth to the richest Americans, adding 1.5 trillion dollars to the nation’s deficit. Nor did I hear any criticism from him about Trump’s “targeted” 2020 CARES Act, in which billions of dollars in tax breaks given to the nation’s wealthiest nearly equaled the amount granted to those in need of stimulus checks.

Thank you, Ms. Visser, for the pointed questions. It is likely that Rep. Bentz will follow Walden’s policy of avoiding town hall meetings, so it will be up to the press to hold his feet to the fire, as his constituents may never see him in person in a free-ranging public meeting.

The fact that he will not open an office in his District’s most populous city speaks volumes about his unwillingness to engage with constituents from all walks of life.

To his credit Mr. Bentz did finally respond to constituents’ inquiries about his attempt to delay election certification on the day of the Capitol riot. However, in the form letter he sent out, he continues to fancy himself a Constitutional scholar duty bound to invalidate Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania because that state decided to hold an Oregon-style mail-in ballot election.

And did he really mean to say that he spent time during the Vietnam War huddled beside his radio listening for lottery numbers? You reporters are going to have a field day with this guy. I know we are destined to have Republicans representing our district in Congress for some time to come, but, please, Oregon GOP, can’t you find someone a bit less hapless?

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