DNC - McCain Watch: McCain Rhetoric vs. McCain Record: Supporting Our Veterans

Washington, DC - As John McCain addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Orlando, FL, this morning, he was practicing more of the same old politics. McCain claims to be an advocate for America's veterans despite his record on veterans' issues. Like Bush, McCain will continue sending American soldiers - along with billions of dollars - to Iraq and Afghanistan, but he'll block programs for health care and education for veterans here at home.
McCain has suggested he supports a proposal for rationing veteran's health care by concentrating services on those wounded in combat, a plan retired Army General Robert Gard said would shortchange veterans who suffer from non-combat related conditions. McCain has voted against veterans' health care needs 27 times -- including one vote just two days after the US invaded Iraq.  
McCain also joined the Bush administration in resisting efforts to pass a 21st Century GI Bill that he thought was "too generous" to the brave men and women who signed up to serve in our armed forces after September 11. Along with Bush, McCain tried to claim credit for the new GI Bill after it passed.
Of course, McCain won't be dissuaded from his dishonest rhetoric by his record -- or even by the condemnation of the veterans groups he claims to support. McCain claims to have a "perfect record" from veterans' groups, but he got a paltry 20 percent rating from the Disabled Veterans of America and a "D" rating from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America.
McCain: "I Have a Perfect Voting Record" From "All" The Veterans Service Organizations. 
During a town hall meeting in Denver, Colorado, McCain claimed, "I received every award from every major veterans organization in America.…but the reason why I have a perfect voting record from organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and all the other veterans service organizations is because of my support of them. … I've been endorsed in every election by all of the veterans organizations that do that. I've been supported by them and I've received their highest awards from all of those organizations." [CNN Live Feed, Town Hall Meeting (Denver, CO), 7/7/2008]

McCain Rating From Disabled American Veterans Not The Highest To Begin With, Has Fallen Precipitously Since 1999. McCain's rating started at 66% in 1999, but has fallen to just 20% by 2006. In 2004 and 2005, it was 50% and 25%, respectively. [Interest group ratings, Votesmart.org, 7/7/2008, http://votesmart.org/issue_rating_category.php?can_id=53270 ]
McCain Rating From Disabled American Veterans Was 20% in 2006. John McCain voted in support of legislation identified as important by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) only 20% of the time in 2006. [Stand Up For Veterans - Disabled American Veterans, 7/3/2008, http://capwiz.com/dav/scorecard.xc?chamber=S&state=US&session=1092&x=18&y=9 ]
McCain Given "D" Score from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America. McCain got a 20 percent rating from the Disabled Veterans of America and a "D" rating from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America. [Palm Beach Post, 8/3/08]

Army Times:  McCain Suggests Rationing Veterans Health Care.  "Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain appeared Tuesday to suggest rationing of veterans' health care may be needed so combat veterans can receive the care they deserve." [Army Times, 7/23/08]
McCain: "We Need To Concentrate Our Efforts To Handle Those Wounds And Disabilities That Are Directly The Result Of Combat." During a town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire, McCain spoke about healthcare for veterans and said, "So here's my idea, and it's not originated with me, but I've consulted with so many … others who are here. Look, we need to concentrate our efforts to handle those wounds and those disabilities that are directly the result of combat. We need to expand our ability to treat PTSD. PTSD is going to be tough in this war, you know that. And we need to treat the combat wounds. We need to increase that ability to do so." [CNN Live Feed, Town Hall (Rochester, NH), 7/22/08]
Lt. Gen. Robert Gard Jr. (USA, Retired): McCain's Idea Would Shortchange Other Combat Veterans. 
"These wars are the first to be waged in large numbers by a new generation of brave women - but 15 percent of our women soldiers that served on the front lines who walk into a VA facility screen positive for military sexual trauma. Is Senator McCain suggesting that we can't afford to give them benefits? Senator McCain's campaign did not return calls for comment about his statement, but these are questions he must answer. All veterans respect John McCain's service -- if he too respects ours, he should not be suggesting that we shortchange our soldiers with non-combat injuries who have served with such honor and dignity." [Huffington Post, 7/24/08]
Bush VA Secretary Calls McCain's Idea "Dangerous." "After touring the Manchester VA Medical Center, VA Secretary James Peake also said he is against giving veterans cards to let them receive treatment at non-VA facilities. 'That's called Yellow-Page medicine,' Peake said. "I think that potentially is dangerous."  [Boston Globe, 6/24/08, http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2008/06/24/nh_va_hospital_unlikely_to_be_made_full_service/]

Bush and McCain Opposed GI Bill, Then Tried to Take Credit.
"The Bush administration, and Sen. John McCain for that matter, initially opposed passage of the legislation, which was supported overwhelmingly by both Democrats and Republicans…McCain, campaigning last week, used language suggesting he supported the bill. In fact, McCain did not even cast a vote on the final measure. For Bush and McCain to try to claim credit now for a bipartisan effort they both opposed is a plain attempt to hoodwink the American voter." [Las Vegas Sun , 7/3/08]
Bipartisan GI Bill Covers The Full Cost Of Attending Public University; Under Alternative Offered By McCain, Vets Must Serve For 12 Years To Receive $2,000/Month.
"Under the Webb bill, veterans would receive maximum educational benefits after 36 months of service and those benefits would be tied to the full cost of public school tuition and expenses in the veteran's home state. The Graham bill would require 12 years of service to garner a maximum benefit of $2000 per month, with increases in that figure tied to the consumer price index. Critics point out that the CPI has been steadily outpaced by tuition increases." [CQ Today, 5/14/2008]
McCain Admitted His Plan Was Designed To Strengthen Retention.
"My proposal and others, Senator Graham, Senator Burn, is we'll place incentives for people to stay in the military." When O'Reilly said, "So the longer you stay, the more you get" McCain responded, "Yes, the more you get, because we want people to stay in…. We have to increase the benefits for the men and women who are serving and motivate those to serve." [Fox News Transcript, "The O'Reilly Factor," 5/8/08]  
McCain Voted At Least 27 Times Against Veteran's Benefits. 
Since arriving in the U.S. Senate in 1987, McCain has voted at least 30 times against ensuring important benefits for America's veterans, including providing adequate healthcare. [2006 Senate Vote #7, 41, 63, 67, 98, 222; 2005 Senate Votes #55, 89, 90, 251, 343; 2004 Senate Votes #40, 48, 145; 2003 Senate Votes #74, 81, 83; 1999 Senate Vote #328; 1998 Senate Vote #175; 1997 Senate Vote #168; 1996 Senate Votes #115, 275; 1995 Senate Votes #76, 226, 466; 1994 Senate Vote #306; 1992 Senate Vote #194]
McCain Has Voted At Least 15 Times To Prioritize Tax Cuts And Tax Loopholes For America's Wealthiest Over Funding For U.S. Veterans.
  Since his election to the Senate in 1987, McCain has voted at least 15 times in favor of keeping tax cuts and various tax loopholes for America's top earners, instead of providing valuable funding for United States veterans. [2006 Senate Votes #7, 15, 41, 63, 67; 2005 Senate Vote #343; 2004 Senate Votes #40, 48; 2003 Senate Votes #74, 81, 83; 1996 Senate Vote #115; 1995 Senate Votes #226, 465, 466]