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Specter Calls for Hearings on End-of-Life Care Guide for Veterans

Sen. Arlen Specter is shown here in April in Washington discussing his switch to the Democratic Party. (Reuters Photo)

Sen. Arlen Specter on Sunday called for hearings to scrutinize a guide for veterans' end-of-life care which one former Bush official says sends a "hurry-up-and-die" message to injured troops. 

The guide, called "Your Life, Your Choices," was suspended under the Bush administration but has been revived under the current Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Jim Towey, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, told "FOX News Sunday" that the document makes injured veterans feel like a burden, encourages the severely injured to die and should be tossed out. 

Asked about the document, Specter, a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, said it raises "a lot of questions" and that he would call for hearings immediately. 

"I think consideration ought to be given right now to suspending it pending hearings," Specter, D-Pa., told "FOX News Sunday." 

Towey first wrote about the revival of the manual last week in The Wall Street Journal. 

"This is a slippery slope," he said Sunday. "When you look at the book it makes people feel like they're a burden and they should do the decent thing and die. ... When a veteran comes back from Iraq, they shouldn't be given a book like this."

Towey called the guide "fundamentally flawed" and said it should be pulled from the Web site. 

But Tammy Duckworth, an injured veteran who is the assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the manual is still under revision -- as stated in a disclaimer on the official Web site -- and has not officially been "reinstated." 

She said it was one of many options for injured veterans, calling it "simply a tool." 

"This ultimately is about the ... health care for veterans," Duckworth said. 

Though Duckworth said the document has not been fully vetted, an official directive from July tells VA health practitioners to refer veterans to the document. Duckworth questioned whether that directive had been authorized at the highest levels. 

Towey said the questions posed by the guide embed the suggestion that veterans who are suffering may want to choose death. 

One section titled, "What Makes Your Life Worth Living?," offers a checklist of scenarios -- the person filling out the form is asked to rate whether life would be worth living under each of them. 

"I am a severe financial burden on my family," says one of them. "My situation causes severe emotional burden for my family," says another. 

Click here to read the "Your Life, Your Choices" guide.