The Electrical Worker online
October 2012

Obama's Record Strong on Support for Veterans
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"For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation are more than warranted, but they aren't nearly enough. We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end."

– President Barack Obama, March 19, 2009

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew comment from many quarters when he failed to acknowledge the sacrifices of active duty troops fighting in Afghanistan in his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention.

Some were willing to forgive Romney's omission. But the incident drew attention to the Obama administration's record of achievement on supporting veterans, one that was featured in a speech to the Democratic National Convention by IBEW-supported U.S. House candidate Tammy Duckworth, running in Illinois' 8th congressional district.

In 2004, Duckworth, the former Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, lost both of her legs and one arm co-piloting a Blackhawk helicopter while serving in the National Guard in Iraq.

Said Duckworth, "When it comes to our men and women in harm's way, we have a clear choice on November 6 … Barack Obama will never ignore our troops. He will fight for them …This election is about whether we will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me, whether we will look out for the hardest hit and the disabled, whether we'll pull together in a time of need, whether we'll refuse to give up until the job is done."

During the last four years the Obama administration has:

Expanded Access to Education for Veterans. President Obama pushed for the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a senator and ensured its successful implementation as president. As of March 2012, the VA has issued approximately $17.5 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments for 710,000 veterans or family members.

Passed Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans. In November 2011, the president signed into law the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides businesses that hire veterans with a credit of up to $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, which offers businesses that hire veterans with disabilities a credit of up to $9,600 per veteran.

Supported Hiring Initiatives for Returning Vets. Two bills in the 2013 budget will provide preference to veterans for grants to enable them to become policemen and firefighters. The Department of Health and Human Services is giving priority in physician assistant grant awards to universities and colleges that help train vets for careers as physician assistants. The Veterans Job Corps conservation program would put 20,000 veterans back to work over the next five years protecting and rebuilding America.

The president established an Interagency Council on Veterans Employment, an initiative designed to transform the federal government into the model employer of America's veterans.

Dave Boetcher, a Madison, Wis., Local 159 member and a former member of his state's Board of Veterans Affairs, says the Obama administration has helped establish and fund regional medical clinics for veterans. Boetcher says, "Access to VA healthcare has incredibly increased since many veterans were forced to travel three to four hours to a VA hospital even for routine services."

Here's a list of other administration efforts on veterans health care:

  • The president signed into law landmark legislation to fund the VA's health care budget a year in advance.

  • New rules streamlining the process and paperwork needed by combat veterans to pursue a claim for disability pay for post-traumatic stress disorder. The VA has expanded its mental health programs, hiring more than 3,500 mental health professionals since 2009.

  • The "Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Service Act," providing veterans and their family caregivers who were seriously injured in the service a monthly stipend, access to health insurance, mental health services and counseling.

  • Joining Forces, a new comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.