Edward Humes of the LA Times takes a look at John McCain's record on veterans' affairs. The gist of this opinion piece is that McCain has, throughout his career, opposed legislation that would improve the lot of veterans. McCain opposed improvements to the GI Bill (proposed by Vietnam vet Senator James Webb of Virgina) because he said recruits would be DISCOURAGED FROM RE-ENLISTING by the prospect of college. (The original GI Bill, introduced after WWII, provided money for a college education after 90 days of service, whether in combat or not. Webb's proposal would provide money for college after three years of service. )
Why would a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war, a man who is personally acquainted with the difficulties vets can face in returning to civilian life, join President Bush in opposing a popular bipartisan bill to support the troops? Isn't fixing the education benefit in the bill -- one that has shortchanged far too many veterans for years -- a political no-brainer in an election year? The 75 senators who recently voted for it certainly thought so. Over the Memorial Day weekend, Sen. Barack Obama expressed some well-timed astonishment at McCain’s opposition, and the two have been feuding about it ever since.
Humes go on to list a slew of bills that McCain opposed:
* On Webb's GI Bill, he expressed opposition, and he was AWOL when it was time to vote on May 22.
* Last September, he voted against another Webb bill that would have mandated adequate rest for troops between combat deployments.
* On a badly needed $1.5-billion increase for veterans medical services for fiscal year 2007 -- to be funded through closing corporate tax loopholes -- he voted no. He also voted against establishing a trust fund to bolster under-budgeted veterans hospitals.
* In May 2006, he voted against a $20-billion allotment for expanding swamped veterans medical facilities
* In April 2006, he was one of 13 Senate Republicans who voted against an amendment to provide $430 million for veterans outpatient care.
* In March 2004, he voted against and helped defeat on a party-line vote a $1.8-billion reserve for veterans medical care, also funded by closing tax loopholes.
Humes also discusses McCain's and Obama ratings by various veterans groups:
From 2004 to 2006, the Disabled Veterans of America gave him annual scores ranging from 50% to the most recent 20% when it comes to supporting the group's legislative priorities. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave him a grade of "D" in its most recent analysis of voting records. The American Legion says he is dead wrong on the GI Bill, as does the Veterans of Foreign Wars. [Obama has an 86% rating from the Disabled Veterans of America.]