• October 2005 — McCain voted against an amendment that would have required that funding for VA health administration be increased each year to adjust for inflation and the number of veterans served.

• March 2004 — He voted against closing tax loopholes to create a reserve fund to allow for an increase in medical care for veterans of $1.8 billion.

Brandon Friedman is a former Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan; he's now vice chairman of a national veterans support group called Vote Vets, an organization devoted to electing veterans — with one notable exception — to public office.

Vietnam veteran Bobby Collins wonders why McCain forgot about him.
Jamie Peachey Photography
Vietnam veteran Bobby Collins wonders why McCain forgot about him.

Friedman calls McCain's statements in support of vets "a slap in the face." He says, "Coming from a guy who's kept us stuck in Iraq at the expense of the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan — and who opposed the new G.I. Bill — [such comments don't] carry much weight. Those are empty words. John McCain is all talk when it comes to supporting veterans, and his voting record shows it."

Until the 2008 presidential race, the only veterans really harping about McCain were from a group called Vietnam Veterans Against McCain, and you need only visit their website, vietnamveteransagainstmccain.com, to see how fringe the group's members and their complaints can be. They've called McCain "the Manchurian Candidate" and disparaged the senator for ignoring their efforts to find missing POWs in Vietnam. McCain has never been particularly patient with them either — he famously made the mother of one missing POW cry at a congressional hearing in the early 1990s and engaged in heated arguments with others. They will never forgive him for voting to normalize relations with Vietnam.

The new complaints, though, focus on bread-and-butter issues. It's not only about a difference of opinion over how the war in Iraq is being handled, though that's part of it. It's a story about how the soldiers are treated once they come home.

Another vets organization, Veterans for Common Sense, posted this comment on its website earlier this year: "John McCain is yet another Republican former military veteran who likes to talk a big game when it comes to having the support of the military. Yet, time and time again, he has gone out of his way to vote against the needs of those who are serving in our military. If he can't even see his way to actually do what the troops want, or what the veterans need, and he doesn't have the support of veterans, then how can he be a credible commander in chief?"

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