Our fact-checking focus shifted a bit last week from political promises to what politicians might actually deliver.
Fox News host Sean Hannity made clear that he’s not about to forget that every new Republican member of the U.S. Senate had said he or she would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The week that we observed Veterans Day seemed a fitting time for a look back at Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign promise to reduce the Veterans Benefits Administration’s claims backlog.
Closer to home, we fact-checked a claim that, in 2009, Georgia had more children killed while school buses were being loaded and unloaded than any other state in the nation.
We also looked at a statement by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson that “Georgia ranks second-highest in the country in the number of fraudulent tax refund claims.”
Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com/georgia/.
Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in a broadcast of “Hannity” on Fox News
Every new Republican member of the U.S. Senate said they “will vote to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity was talking to Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who is in a runoff with incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. “Every single candidate like yourself running for office said you will vote to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Hannity said.
He said that the Republican senators-elect — including Georgia’s David Perdue — campaigned on a platform to repeal and replace Obamacare.
All 10 Republican senators-elect said during their campaigns either that Obamacare should be repealed or that they had voted to repeal it.
The record on replacement is a little more nuanced. Republicans generally either explicitly say they want to replace Obamacare or more generally talk about health policy changes they support or parts of the Affordable Care Act that they’d like to keep.
Bottom line: Hannity is clearly right on the trend line.
We rated his claim Mostly True.
Obama’s 2008 campaign promise: Reduce the Veterans Benefits Administration’s claims backlog
November 2014 Update: Some progress, but claims backlog still large
Barack Obama in 2008 vowed to reduce the backlog of claims to the Veterans Benefits Administration.
The backlog refers to the number of claims that have gone unanswered for more than 125 days.
At the end of 2008, there were about 389,000 pending pension and compensation claims. About 87,000 had been pending for longer than 180 days.
In the years that followed, a decade of war ended and veterans returned home. Additionally, some veterans who experienced complications from Agent Orange were now eligible for benefits. Claims skyrocketed; 1.4 million claims were submitted in 2011 alone.
Today, the backlog number is still higher than what it was during Obama’s first year in office, though it’s down since its peak in 2013.
We originally rated this Promise Broken and are repeating that ruling.
Georgia has the country’s second-highest number of fraudulent tax refund claims.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson in an Oct. 21, 2014, press release
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators — including Georgia’s Johnny Isakson — last month called on Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinsen to update Congress on the agency’s efforts to stop identity theft-related tax refund fraud.
“Georgia ranks second-highest in the country in the number of fraudulent tax refund claims,” Isakson said in a press release.
Amanda Maddox, Isakson’s spokeswoman, said his statement was based on data from the Federal Trade Commission and backed up with information from the IRS.
The FTC report Isakson references shows Florida had the highest number of identity theft complaints per capita in 2013 at 192.9 per 1,000 residents, or 37,720. Georgia was second with 134.1 per 1,000 residents, or 13,402, followed by California, Michigan and Nevada.
The problem: The report references all identity theft. It does not give specifics for individual states on identity fraud related to income tax fraud and it is based on unverified consumer complaints.
We reached out to Mark Green, an IRS spokesman in Atlanta, who said:
“There is no ranking per se.”
The IRS does not have any state-level data that would show exactly how Georgia, or any state, fares in the overall problem, he said.
We rated Isakson’s claim Half True.
Sloan Roach on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, during a television interview
Georgia has led the nation in student fatalities caused by motorists illegally passing stopped school buses.
About two dozen school systems — including Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties — have added video cameras to their school buses since 2011.
The cameras have one purpose: catching motorists who break the law by failing to stop for school buses that are picking up and dropping off students.
Before lawmakers changed state law in 2011 to allow the cameras, “Georgia led the nation in student fatalities resulting from motorists illegally passing stopped school buses,” Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said Nov. 6.
Statistics, compiled by the Kansas State Department of Education, support Roach’s statement.
Georgia had the highest number of school bus-related fatalities in 2009, with five of the 13 reported that year in 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the 2009-2010 National School Bus Loading & Unloading Survey.
The new law has helped, so did a blitz by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety two years ago, said Carlton Allen, the director of public transportation services at the Georgia Department of Transportation. Still, Georgia had 13 students die in the past five years while buses were being loaded and unloaded, Allen said.
We rated Roach’s statement True.
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