In a sign of how competitive Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest has become, the two major candidates – Republican incumbent Roy Blunt and Democrat Jason Kander – held dueling roundtables with area military veterans.
Wednesday’s events were intended to underscore how both men are highlighting their armed services credentials, and emphasizing their concern about the problems facing the nation’s military.
Kander, who is a veteran, held his roundtable at the back of Chris’ Pancake House in southwest St. Louis. After hearing from fellow vets who’d served in a variety of conflicts – from the Vietnam War to Afghanistan and Iraq – Kander expressed his concern about what he called a “bureaucratic wall” between the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.
In particular, Kander said young returning soldiers often “go from their branch of service knowing everything about their medical condition” to “all of a sudden being a veteran who has to start from scratch and being treated as if the Veterans Administration doesn’t know anything about their situation.”
“And that just doesn’t make any sense,” Kander said to reporters after his event. “We can provide veterans with literally better customer services — because that is the customer of those who work on veterans issues for the entire United States government.”
Blunt, who ages to the Vietnam era, did not serve in the military. But he noted Wednesday that he recently had been honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Blunt’s roundtable featured a similar mix of veterans and was held in Overland at the VFW hall. He was joined by fellow GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Cory Gardner of Colorado. Cotton is an Army veteran.
The senators heard concerns about uneven health care coverage for veterans and lack of coordination to make sure that returning veterans receive the services they need.
Blunt reaffirmed his belief that the Veterans Administration needs to be improved, and that it might be preferable to provide vouchers to veterans so they could obtain the medical and psychiatric help they need from private providers.