Entries in Veterans (15)


Obama Hits Romney for Not Mentioning Vets at Debate

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(DAYTON, Ohio) -- President Obama twice chastised Mitt Romney on the trail Tuesday for failing to mention veterans in Monday night’s debate, in a further attempt to drive a wedge between Romney and supporters of the military.

The criticism comes on the heels of repeated observations by Democrats that Romney failed to mention U.S. troops in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech at the Republican convention.

“By the way, I just want to point out, in the same way that Governor Romney didn’t mention the Afghan war or our troops in his convention speech, Governor Romney didn’t even mention our veterans last night,” Obama told supporters at a rally in Delray Beach, Fla., Tuesday. “Now, he may write off half the country as victims behind closed doors, but the men and women and their families who have served this country so bravely — they deserve better from somebody who’s applying to be commander-in-chief.”

“When our veterans come home, let’s put them back to work in some of these jobs. Let’s make sure we’re serving them as well as they’ve served us. Governor Romney did not even mention our veterans last night,” the president reiterated at his campaign event in Dayton.

For his part, Obama uttered the word “veteran” six times at the third presidential debate.

“As commander-in-chief, I will maintain the strongest military in the world, keep faith with our troops and go after those who would do us harm. But after a decade of war, I think we all recognize we’ve got to do some nation building here at home, rebuilding our roads, our bridges and especially caring for our veterans, who sacrificed so much for our freedom,” he said Monday night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Troops: 'I Meant What I Said’ on War, Veterans’ Care

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages(FORT BLISS, Texas) -- President Obama told several hundred troops with the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss in Texas that he kept his promises as commander-in-chief during the past three-and-a-half years, ending the war in Iraq, drawing down forces in Afghanistan and redoubling care for returning veterans.

His record, he said, was proof that he can be trusted at the helm for four more years.

“I told the American people that all our troops would be out of Iraq by the end of [2011],” Obama said. “At the time I know some folks didn’t believe me. They were skeptical. Some thought the end of combat was just word games and semantics. But I meant what I said.”

“Two years ago I also told you that we’d keep up the fight in Afghanistan,” he said. “I’ve got to tell you the truth. This is still a very tough fight…. Just as in Iraq, we are going to end this war responsibly.”

The message, coming on the heels of the Republican National Convention and exactly two years after the U.S. ended combat operations in Iraq, was as much an appeal to war-weary voters as it was to the troops he leads.  Both constituencies are seen as key voting blocs by Obama’s re-election campaign.

As Obama spoke, his top aides pointed out that campaign rival Mitt Romney made no mention of war -- or the troops -- in his prime time convention address on Thursday night.  

“In an almost 45-minute speech, Romney didn’t find a moment to mention our troops in Afghanistan or how we’re providing for our veterans when they return home,” said senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod. “So American people last night didn’t get any straight answers from Mitt Romney. They got nothing but evasion, distraction and insults.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that he was “surprised” that Romney failed to “mention the 70,000 men and women who are serving in Afghanistan, executing a mission that is profoundly important to America’s national security in a conflict that was the direct result of an attack on the United States by al Qaeda.”

Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams noted that on Wednesday the governor addressed the American Legion national convention, a group whose invitation Obama declined.

“The Obama campaign’s attack on Governor Romney today is another attempt to politicize the war in Afghanistan, a war in which President Obama has dangerously based his decisions on political calculations, endangering our mission,” Williams said.

Obama has implemented a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, with all American troops set to be out of the country by 2014.

The president last visited Ft. Bliss two years ago -- Aug. 31, 2010 -- to announce the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.  Sixteen months later the final U.S. troops withdrew from that country after nearly a decade of war. Nearly 4,500 Americans died in the Iraq War, including 198 from the 1st Armored Division based at Fort Bliss.

“When I was here last I made you a pledge. I said that as president, I will insist that America serves you and your families as well as you’ve served us,” Obama told the troops. “And there again, I meant what I said.”

Earlier Friday, Obama signed an executive order to expand mental health services and suicide prevention efforts for veterans and military families.

“I know that you join me in saying to everyone who’s ever worn the uniform, if you’re hurting, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. It’s a sign of strength,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Has Coffee with Vets as Romney Addresses VFW Convention

YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- While Mitt Romney was courting votes at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev., President Obama on Tuesday ventured to the Gateway Breakfast House in Portland, Ore., sliding into a restaurant booth for a cup of coffee and an intimate “roundtable discussion” with three retired American service members and veterans of foreign wars.

"How's it going guys?  I just wanted to come by and say thank you," Obama said as he took a seat in the alcove in the back of the room.

The president explained that he had addressed the VFW gathering on Monday and wanted to hear firsthand about their experiences interacting with the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Much of the conversation was out of earshot of traveling press pool members who were allowed to glimpse the encounter inside the bustling breakfast joint.

One of the veterans seated with Obama was overheard asking about a rumor that the administration was backing a pay cut for some members of the National Guard.  The president insisted the rumor was “false.”

"So we can clear that one up right away.  You're hearing that from your commander in chief," Obama said.

The group also discussed access to care for veterans in rural areas, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and care for disabled veterans, according to reporters on the scene.

Obama was in Portland Tuesday on the fourth stop of his three-day western states swing.  He attended two fundraisers for his re-election campaign expected to raise a combined $1.2 million.  He then headed to Seattle for two evening high-dollar fundraisers at the private home of Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal.

The president will round out his trip Wednesday, flying to New Orleans, where he will attend more campaign events before returning to the White House later in the evening.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rep. Joe Walsh: Iraq War Vet Opponent Talks Too Much to Be ‘True’ Hero

US House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Joe Walsh’s Facebook page is flooded with negative comments after the Illinois Republican said Tuesday that his opponent, Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, was not a “true” hero because she often makes reference to her military service on the campaign trail.

Duckworth lost both her legs after an RPG attack in Iraq brought down the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting in 2004.

Walsh has not served in the military.

“My God, that’s all she talks about,” Walsh said of Duckworth’s military career in a video recorded at Walsh’s town hall speech Sunday and posted by Think Progress. “Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, my God, that’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That’s why we are so indebted and in awe of what they have done.”

Duckworth’s campaign bio is almost entirely dedicated to her military career. She is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.

“Congressman Walsh’s comments insult those who sacrificed to make this country free,” Duckworth’s campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey said in a statement. “Tammy is proud of her over twenty years of service with the Army and her family’s legacy of fighting for this country.”

In a statement Tuesday, Walsh insisted that he was not implying that Duckworth is not a hero, but instead criticizing her for speaking only about her military service and not about her policies.

“Of course Tammy Duckworth is a hero. I have called her a hero 100′s of times in the past four months,” Walsh said. “However, unlike most veterans I have had the honor to meet since my election to Congress, who rarely if ever talk about their service or the combat they’ve seen, that is darn near all of what Tammy Duckworth talks about.

“We are about four months from Election Day and the people of Illinois have no idea where Tammy Duckworth stands on these issues,” he said.

Emily’s List, a group devoted to electing women to Congress, launched a petition against Walsh over his comments Tuesday, saying “if Tammy Duckworth isn’t a hero, then there are no heroes in this world,”

“Tomorrow is a day for all Americans to honor the men and women who fought for our country’s independence. But instead, Joe Walsh is questioning Tammy’s service and sacrifice to this nation,” the group’s executive director, Amy Dacey, wrote in an email to supporters. “I am so completely outraged about this, and I am sure you are too.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Courts Veterans’ Votes with Outreach Campaign

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is making a targeted effort to court the votes of military veterans and their families, believing the constituency is in play for November and could make a difference in key battleground states.

The Obama campaign Thursday kicked off a grassroots organizing effort -- dubbed “Veterans and Military Families for Obama” -- led by retired Naval officer and Iraq war veteran Rob Diamond.

“It’s no secret to anyone where our military bases are in this country and where our veterans and military communities are located,” Diamond said of the strategy on a conference call with reporters. “And the goal of our program is to mobilize and energize and activate those folks where they live."

“Obviously, a state like Virginia is a critically important state with a large military presence, and that’s where our veterans and military families live, states like North Carolina and a state like Florida,” he said.

Obama lost the veterans’ vote in 2008 to John McCain (himself a veteran), 55 to 45 percent. But campaign officials now believe that changing demographics in the country and the military, coupled with Obama’s record on veterans issues, could give him an edge.

“We’re going to break down that mythology about the military voting history and veteran voting history,” Diamond said.

The campaign is highlighting Obama’s support for the post-9/11 GI Bill, tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, public-private partnerships to boost veteran employment, and increased funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as foreign policy achievements like ending the war in Iraq and killing Osama bin Laden.

Central to the pitch to veteran voters is first lady Michelle Obama, who appears with the president in a web video announcing the political outreach effort.  She has spent the past few months traveling the country to mark the one-year anniversary of her Joining Forces initiative, which promotes support for veterans and their families.

The White House and Obama campaign have insisted her efforts have had no ties to politics.  “Obviously the first lady’s Joining Forces effort is part of her initiatives at the White House and not linked to the campaign,” campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Thursday.

But the president himself suggested that his wife’s advocacy is a part of his pitch for a second term.

“There’s nothing I take more seriously than my responsibility to those who sacrifice their own safety to defend ours,” Obama says in the video. “That’s why Michelle and I have made supporting veterans and military families a top priority from the start.”

The president’s backers say “tens of thousands” of veterans have already enlisted with the Obama campaign group.

“They’re stepping up because they know voters will face a clear choice in November,” said Delaware Attorney General, Army veteran and son of the vice president, Beau Biden. “Veterans know the vision and leadership we need in a commander-in-chief and they know the stakes and the consequences of sitting on the sidelines and would wake up on the morning after election day would be too late.”

The campaign has been sharply critical of Romney on veterans issues, claiming that his support of the House Republican budget would mean veterans programs would be cut by $11 billion a year. They also say he would reduce veterans health care benefits by privatizing the system, pointing to the governor’s November 2011 suggestion that benefits could be delivered as vouchers.

Romney allies have pointed to his record as governor of Massachusetts as evidence that he would be a staunch advocate for veterans and their families. They also say his economic policies would do more to boost economic status of veterans overall.

Veterans “are not being well served today because of some of the policies in place under the Obama administration,” said former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, who served in the Bush administration and is a Romney supporter.

“Today, we see a significantly higher unemployment rate amongst those young men and women who are coming home and can’t find meaningful jobs. And it impacts their well being; it impacts their mental health which is another area that they are not being well served,” he said.

The unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan was 9.2 percent in April, according to the Labor Department.  Among all veterans, the jobless rate was 7.1 percent.

The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent during the same period, the government reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Aims to Protect Vets from 'Deceptive Targeting' by Schools

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- During his trip to Fort Stewart, Ga., on Friday, President Obama will sign an executive order aimed at protecting veterans and their families from “aggressive and deceptive targeting” by educational institutions.

The measure is intended to crack down on improper recruiting practices by colleges and for-profit institutions, and to strengthen student protections overall.  It will also require colleges to provide transparent information about their outcomes and financial aid.

“We feel that we have a sacred trust with those who serve and protect our nation, in fact all students, to protect them against what is inappropriate behavior by some educational institutions,” a senior administration official told reporters Thursday afternoon.

The order is part of the president’s ongoing “We Can’t Wait” executive action campaign.

“Members of Congress have introduced legislation to address these issues, but the Administration believes we must do all we can administratively to protect veterans from these deceptive practices by improving the quality of information and services that these schools must provide,” according to the White House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


First Lady Promotes Vets, Jokes About Campaign on "Colbert Report"

Leon Neal/WPA POOL/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With the general election fight now well underway, first lady Michelle Obama jokingly offered her official endorsement Wednesday night in a stop by Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.

“You are popular,” host Stephen Colbert noted to cheers from the audience.  “Do you lord over the president the fact that you’re more popular than he is?  Do you ever say, like, ‘Hey, watch it or I might not campaign for you.’”

“I might try that when I get home,” Mrs. Obama quipped.

Asked if she was prepared to endorse his candidacy, the first lady eagerly offered her husband her full support.

“I am endorsing my husband Barack Obama.  I think he will be a phenomenal president -- he has been a phenomenal president,” she said.

“He’s my man,” she added with a wry smile.

The first lady’s appearance on Colbert, her first since the 2008 campaign, was intended to promote the one-year anniversary of her “Joining Forces” initiative, which honors and supports U.S. troops and their families.

“People have really been stepping up in some amazing ways,” she said.  “We’ve seen people hiring our veterans and finding wonderful flexible opportunities for spouses, because employment is a key issue for these families.”

While unemployment for returning veterans is above the national average, Mrs. Obama said “we’re seeing it decrease at some pretty significant rates.”

“But until we get to zero, we still have a lot of work to do,” she said.  “These people are bringing in skills that actually improve the bottom line of companies because these are some of the most highly trained, highly skilled, disciplined people that we have in our society, the best this country has to offer.  So we all need to do our part.”

Colbert joked that hiring a veteran is also a good idea because “with the stories he tells of his previous jobs, it will really make the interoffice complaining sound trivial.”

The first lady agreed: “It’s hard to be a whiner around a veteran.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Veterans for Ron Paul Rally at White House

Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Current and former service members staged a rally outside the White House Monday in support of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Several hundred troops and their supporters attended the event.  The veterans were men and women, young and old, some in uniform and some in plain clothes.

The demonstration was a mostly silent affair, with the veterans standing calmly at attention in rows.  An organizer bellowed that each second of quiet was for every military suicide since President Obama took office. A second moment of silence was for each soldier who died abroad under the current commander-in-chief.

One protester held a sign reading, “Don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America to be a policeman of the whole world.”  The line was paraphrased from remarks by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding the Vietnam War.

The event concluded with an organizer parading the procession away, complete with color guard.

Ron Paul shares an unusually high percentage of supporters in the military compared to the other candidates, and it shows in his campaign funding.  The Center for Responsible Politics reports the candidate touted more than $95,000 between September 2011 and January in individual donations from current and former members of the military -- higher than any other candidate.  Obama comes in second at roughly $72,000.

It is an attribute the libertarian lawmaker is quick to highlight on the campaign trail.  As a former Air Force flight surgeon, Dr. Paul is the only former serviceman campaigning for president, now that Rick Perry is no longer in contention.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


“Don’t Muck it Up,” Obama Warns Congress

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- Encouraged by the latest employment statistics Friday, President Obama said to Congress on the economic recovery: “Don’t muck it up.”

The Labor Department announced that the economy created 243,000 jobs in January, better than most economists’ expectations. Unemployment dropped to 8.3%, marking the fifth straight month the highly watched index has decreased. Republicans say the uptick is not enough to signal the robust economic growth the country needs.

“The economy is growing stronger. The recovery is speeding up. And we’ve got to do everything in our power to keep it going,” the president said at Fire Station #5 in Arlington, Va., where firefighters were among the first to respond to the Pentagon on 9/11.

The president called on lawmakers to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of the year and to “do it without drama.”

“They just need to get it done. It shouldn’t be that complicated. Now is not the time for self-inflicted wounds to our economy. Now’s the time for action. So I want to send a clear message to Congress. Do not slow down the recovery that we’re on. Don’t muck it up.”

The economy has now created more than 200,000 jobs for two months in a row and the president pointed out that 3.7 million new jobs have been created over the last 23 months.

Still, other data suggests that more than one million Americans have dropped out of the labor force, meaning according to the Labor Department, they're no longer unemployed -- but as CNBC's Rick Santelli and other experts point out, they haven't found jobs, either.

The president’s remarks came as he outlined his latest plan to help veterans get back to work. “Our veterans are some of the most highly trained, highly educated, highly skilled workers that we’ve got. These are Americans that every business should be competing to attract. These are the Americans we want to keep serving here at home as we rebuild this country,” the president said.

Following up on a proposal in his State of the Union address, the president announced plans for a “Veterans Job Corps” to help veterans find work as first responders and law enforcement officers. He proposed a conservation program to put up to 20,000 veterans back to work restoring the nation’s public lands.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that when our troops come home, they come home to new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve their country.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ron Paul Salutes Veterans, Says He Plans to Bring Troops Home

ABC News(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Ron Paul told a room full of veterans Wednesday night that he plans to drastically cut overseas spending.

“It would mean that we would bring the troops home,” Paul said, smiling as he touted the economic benefit during a salute to veterans rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

Earlier in the day, Paul again questioned why the United States needed to maintain a military presence in Australia, Germany, Japan and South Korea -- even as the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il raised concerns about the region’s stability.

“How long do we have to stay in Korea?” he asked at a campaign event at the Iowa Speedway in Newton.  “We were there since I was in high school.”

Paul’s non-interventionist view for America is sure to incite even more criticism from his GOP rivals, who have been hammering the Texas congressman for his view that Iran should be able to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

Mitt Romney became the latest in line Wednesday to take a swipe at Paul, a day after Newt Gingrich unabashedly said that he would not vote for Paul if he were to win the GOP nomination.

Romney indirectly blasted comments made by Paul earlier this month that cautioned against “jumping the gun” on Iran.

“At the same time, the greatest threat Israel faces and, frankly, the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran,” the former Massachusetts governor said during a meet-and-greet at a coffee shop in Muscatine, Iowa.  “We have differing views on this.  Some of the people -- actually one of the people running for president -- thinks it’s okay for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.  I don’t.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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