CONCORD — Two U.S. Senate candidates were vying for the votes of New Hampshire veterans at events Monday.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, unveiled the backing on more than 100 veterans, including the former state adjutant general and commandant of the state Veterans Home.
Republican and former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown kicked off his Honoring-Our-Veterans tour with an event in Nashua and the release of a new ad highlighting his military background and discussing problems with access to health care and good jobs.
At a press conference with about 20 veterans, Shaheen said she has worked for veterans since she was first elected to the state Senate in 1992.
“The first bill I introduced when I was elected to represent New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate was the Veterans Health Equity Act. It had bipartisan support and would require the VA to open a full-service medical center in New Hampshire or provide New Hampshire’s veterans with an equivalent level of health services,” said Jeanne Shaheen. “We have continued that fight and I am proud that the bipartisan Sanders-McCain bill the Senate passed last month included language to provide New Hampshire veterans greater access to health care.”
She called on the U.S. House to approve the Sanders-McCain bill and said she is optimistic it would be approved by the end of the year.
Under the bill, veterans who live 20 or more miles from a full-service VA hospital would be able to receive health care through private providers.
Shaheen said passing the bill would mean better health care for many of the state’s veterans.
During the press conference, Republican Jim Steiner of Concord, who was a US Army Special Forces Captain, said he worked with Shaheen when she was governor and he was on the State Board of Education.
“It is time for voters to stop worrying about the party label and focus on actual leadership we see demonstrated,” Steiner said.
Several other speakers praised Shaheen’s work on veteran issues and said how she takes the time and has a hands-on approach.
“This is my very first time standing up at a political event and saying I’m going to be behind somebody,” said Ken Clark of Stratham, Retired Air Force Major General and former NH Adjutant General. “I spent a career making sure no one could paint me with a brush, but it is time to come out and take a stance because what is going on here is too important.”
Later in the day, Shaheen also met with members of the NH American Ex-Prisoners of War group in Manchester.
Brown, who recently retired as a colonel the Army National Guard after 35 years, began his tour at Harbor Homes in Nashua Monday.
“No one should fight for America overseas, only to return home and fight for respect here,” he said.
Brown, who served on the Veterans Affairs Committee when he represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, notes the unemployment rate for young veterans returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq remains higher than for civilians.
He also criticized the Obama administration and Shaheen for the health care crisis faced by veterans including long waits for basic care and the lack of specialized services for many.
There has been gross mismanagement at VA hospitals that has led to scores of patient deaths, he said, and adds he’ll work to get veterans’ health care back on track.
His Honoring-Our-Veterans tour will travel around the state as Brown talks to groups about jobs and health care.
Brown faces former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith of Tuftonboro and former state Sen. Jim Rubens of Hanover in the Sept. 9 Republican primary.
The winner will take on Shaheen in the Nov. 2 general election.