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Congresswoman skipped VA hearing for surf outing

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, missed a Senate field hearing on the problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in August when she was surfing for a video as part of an interview with Yahoo News.

The reason for her absence was revealed by Honolulu Civil Beat, a watchdog journalism outlet in Gabbard's home state.

The VA panel in August was officially a Senate hearing and was being chaired by Gabbard's fellow Hawaiian, Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono. She was expecting Gabbard to attend.

After repeated questions, Gabbard's office said that she was at "an earlier commitment [that] ran very late," but eventually told Civil Beat about the Yahoo News interview after the publication pointed out that the video was shot the same day as the hearing.

"Unfortunately, due to the Yahoo News crew getting stuck in rush hour traffic, Congresswoman Gabbard's interview with Yahoo News started and ended late. This led to her being so behind schedule that she wouldn't have been able to get to Senator Hirono's hearing until near the end. Once Congresswoman Gabbard realized how late she would be, she decided not to go because she felt it would have been disruptive and disrespectful to just show up at the end," Gabbard spokeswoman Heather Fluit told Civil Beat.

Fluit said the purpose of the interview was to advocate for Hawaii's veterans and promote the state as a tourist destination. She also noted that the hearing was called by the Senate, not the House of Representatives, where Gabbard has participated in her own hearings on the VA.

The absence is notable in part because Gabbard is an officer in the Hawaii National Guard who has served two tours of duty in the Middle East. She has been been an active voice on veterans issues in light of problems at the VA.

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