This is the first election in almost 70 years in which neither of the major-party candidates for president have any military experience. But that hasn't stopped President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney from courting members of the military this week at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev.
Lacking the common link of military service, each looked elsewhere to win over the VFW.
Obama spoke Monday about ending the war in Iraq, winding down the war in Afghanistan, the killing of Osama bin Laden and boosting economic benefits for soldiers coming back from those two conflicts.
"You don't just have my words, you have my deeds," Obama said. "You have the promises I've made and the promises that I've kept."
The next day, Romney attacked the defense cuts that will occur in 2013 if there is no budget agreement in Congress.
"A healthy American economy is what underwrites American power," Romney said. "When growth is missing, government revenues fall, social spending rises and many in Washington look to cut defense spending as the easy way out. That includes our current president."
Barry Jesinoski, executive director of the Disabled American Veterans, told The Daily Circuit on Wednesday he hears from many veterans who are happy with the president for signing the 2009 Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act into law.
"That was a huge deal because, among other things, the advanced appropriation provision of that bill gives the VA some consistency, some clarity and some advance notice as far as what their health care budget will be," Jesinoski said. "In the past it has been continuing resolution after continuing resolution which then effects greatly how the VA health care system can run."
On The Daily Circuit Wednesday, guests and callers focused on the need for more funding and assistance once active duty members return to civilian life. The process veterans go through to receive assistance can be daunting: There are currently 558,000 disability claims backlogged, many pending for 125 days.
Shad Meshad, founder and president of National Veterans Foundation, said the L.A. office, which serves the largest veteran population, has a backlog of 357 days. He also joined The Daily Circuit discussion.
"To me as a veteran, I really feel like it should be two to three weeks," he said. "I think they deserve that... As soon as they get out, they need to be moving in a direction that is positive."
Bridget in Northfield called into the show and said the government needs to do more to help military veterans reintegrate into their families. Her husband served two tours in Iraq.
"One of the things that I really feel is so important for people coming back and for families that are reintegrating is a system that helps to provide support to those families," she said. "Especially if you are in a rural community and you're not on a base, you don't have any support. I feel like that's one of the essential things that needs to be done."
Meshad agreed that the government needs to spend more resources on transition.
"We spend so much money training our men and women to be war fighters and soldiers, but there's little readjustment counseling prior to them getting out of the service," he said. "It's something that is critical because the individual has changed. There's been a lot of changes emotionally and physically in many of them that come back and have to step back into their families."
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