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Democrats court vets

Roundtable discussion takes on veterans' needs

Roundtable discussion takes on veterans' needs

October 04, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - A long-term medical facility for disabled veterans and child-care reimbursements for the families of soldiers at war were among the recommendations made by veterans during a roundtable discussion Tuesday.

Democrats Andrew Duck, who is running for Maryland's 6th District, and Del. Anthony Brown, who shares the ticket with gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley, sat on either side of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., as she chaired a meeting of about a dozen veterans at the Central Maryland AFL-CIO Council building.

Duck said the government needs to do more to help the families of deployed military members. When one veteran suggested providing money for child care, Duck agreed.

"It's one thing to have retention in the active Army, but we need to make sure we're retaining people in the National Guard and the Reserves," Duck said.

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Families of Reservists and National Guard members typically do not have the same supports as the families of active military members, who are stationed at bases and involved in readiness groups, Duck said.

Both Duck and Brown, who represents Prince George's County, are veterans of the war in Iraq.

Brown said he believes the state should push for a veterans' home in Western Maryland, even though he acknowledged one in the southern part of the state has been underused.

"It's a necessary facility that we ought to commit ourselves to make happen in Western Maryland," Brown said.

Afterward, Brown said he did not know how many people would use the facility or where it should be built. To build the facility, the state must work cooperatively with the federal and local governments, he said.

Mikulski, Duck and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who also attended the roundtable, said they supported establishing a Western Maryland veterans' home.

After the roundtable discussion, Mikulski said she supports Duck's bid to unseat Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett.

"We need to change the agenda, so we need to change the agenda setters," said Mikulski, who several times patted the arms of Brown and Duck as she spoke.

Duck would bring "verve, vitality and a veteran," to Congress, Mikulski said.

When Duck spoke of the need to help veterans with travel expenses, so they may submit to screenings for post-traumatic stress disorder, Mikulski said she believes treatment needs to brought closer to individuals in need.

"If we can have recruitment centers in every community, we can have treatment centers in every community," Mikulski said.

She said she wants to make funding for veterans' concerns mandatory, meaning that the budget for veterans' affairs would be determined by need, rather than a discretionary figure set by Congress.

"We need someone in Congress who is going to fight for our troops as hard as our troops fight for us," Duck said after the roundtable discussion.

Joseph J. Snyder, the president of the Frederick-Hagerstown Council of the Navy League of the United States, said he is concerned that budget cuts will prevent veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and future conflicts from receiving the benefits given to veterans of previous generations.

A Vietnam War veteran, Snyder told roundtable participants he is considered 100 percent disabled.

After the meeting, Snyder called veterans' issues a "major issue" this election season.

"I think that we should make sure that the people who are in the process of becoming veterans and future veterans have access to the full range of education and health care and benefits that past veterans have had," Snyder said.

The Shepherdstown, W.Va., man said the issues are relevant not only in Washington County but throughout the country.

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