Romney vs. Obama — A look at veterans’ issues

Background

Waiting on hold for two hours only to be directed to another number and more waiting is not just a random inconvenience for Marine John Womack when he works with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to access his medical and educational benefits.

The experience is typical for veterans, and needs to be addressed, according to Womack.

“[Candidates] should certainly pay attention to veterans, especially those who have served overseas and in combat,” Womack said. “They’re not done yet– more veterans come back every year to college and the civilian world, and face a unique set of challenges not experienced by those not in the armed forces.”

In addition to health care concerns, education and job availability are essential for veterans returning from overseas, according to the American Legion.

The United States’ next president has the power to solve difficulties facing veterans, and needs to be aware of issues that affect veterans, according to Womack. Here is the breakdown of the candidates’ stances on veterans issues.

Politics beat reporter Kate Winkle can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Information provided by each candidate’s campaign office.

What They Promised
ROMNEY
“(Veterans) have served their country, and they want to get back to work. They need and deserve good jobs,” Romney said Aug. 29 at the 94th Annual Convention of the American Legion. “As president, I will get America back to work again!”

  • VA reform is a “personal priority:”
    • Modifying the Post 9/11 GI Bill to give veterans in-state tuition regardless of residency
    • Helping veterans find skilled trade employment jobs by creating state credentialing and licensing standards
    • Allowing veterans to see a TRICARE (military health insurance) provider at the VA’s expense if the VA cannot provide timely health care.
    • Increasing the availability of Internet-based consultations, tele-homecare and telemonitoring for the 41 percent of veterans residing in rural areas.


OBAMA
“When you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their head, or the care that they need when they come home,” Obama said in his nomination acceptance speech Sept. 6 at the Democratic National Convention.

  • Upholding a trust with veterans: (July 23, 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars)
    • Preventing the VA from undergoing automatic budget cuts
    • Streamlining veterans’ transitions to civilian life through job training
    • Creating a Veterans Job Corps conservation program to put 20,000 veterans to work in America
    • Encouraging the private sector to hire veterans


What They Did
ROMNEY

  • 2005: “Welcome Home Bill” signed into law.
    • Created the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund to help pay expenses for members of the U.S. Military and Massachusetts National Guard.
    • Guard members received free tuition and fees to Massachusetts universities and community colleges.
    • The death benefit paid to families of guard members killed on duty increased from $5,000 to $100,000.


  • 2006: Massachusetts Military Enhanced Relief Fund Individual Tax (MERIT) signed into law
    • Disabled veterans given increased property tax exemptions.
    • Spouses of veterans killed or missing in action since Sept. 11, 2001, given tax exemptions for five years.

OBAMA

  • Since 2009: Hired more than 3,500 mental health professionals so every VA could provide mental health services for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • 2011: Returning Heroes Tax Credit and Wounded Warrior Tax Credit signed into law
    • Provided hiring incentive for businesses for up to $5,600 per veteran and up to $9,600 per veteran with service-related disabilities
  • 2011: Post-9/11 GI Bill expanded
    • Veterans, reservists, guard members, and service members received in-state public university education for free
    • Also covered on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs