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The Vet Vote: Senate candidates jockey to make sure veterans are in their corner

The Vet Vote: Senate candidates jockey to make sure veterans are in their corner. 8/03/17

“Everything folded in sizes, collared shirts, casual,” said veteran Thomas Flynn, showing off a room full of clothing, precisely hung or neatly folded. He was giving Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, a tour of the rooms where veterans at US Vets can come to pick up some clothes or even find a suit. She was taking a tour of the facility, located at Bonanza Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, which is home to 240 veterans. It provides them food, shelter, and a chance to find work.

Rosen sits on the House Armed Services Committee and federal funding pays for 80 percent of US Vet's seven million dollars local budget.

This non-profit, which has branches in several US cities is the largest in the country that helps homeless vets, like Larry Swift, who served in the Army. I asked him what living at US Vets means to him.

“It means the difference between sleeping on the street and, ah, dying,” he told me.

Thursday, Larry got a Congressional house-call. He found himself in his room, chatting with a Congresswoman.

“When I see the folks that are working here make a difference I find it really inspiring. I go back to the committee like all of us do and it helps us fight to get those grants so they can keep getting computers, keep doing what they need to do here at home to make that transition better,” Rosen told me afterward.

Rosen is running for the Senate against Republican Dean Heller, who, himself sits on the Senate's Veteran's Affair Committee.

“Last night the US Senate approved my legislation to sustain the Veterans Choice program. I was proud to play an important role in getting it across the finish line,” Heller said in a video his office posted Wednesday on YouTube.

That legislation lets vets visit doctors outside the VA system, important for vets far from a VA hospital.

“Without funding for the program, rural veterans like those in Ely, Elko, Winnemucca, and Tonopah would have to drive hundreds of miles to get care,” Heller said.

Few issues have as much bipartisan appeal as helping America’s veterans. In Nevada, according to the latest numbers from the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, there are 228,028 veterans living in Nevada, which ranks us 31st in the nation in veteran population. Clark County alone has 153,392 vets.

Both Heller and Rosen point to their respective accomplishments for vets. Heller’s campaign, which highlighted his co-sponsorship of the bill that continues funding for the VA Choice program, said Heller also worked to cut VA red tape and make it easier to get rid of bad VA employees.

Rosen said she also voted for the VA Choice bill in the House. “We’re funding that. We’re going to make sure that veterans in our rural areas or in smaller places get service,” she said. Her office says she voted for VA reform and took a lead on asking the President not to cut veterans’ Medicaid benefits.

“I’ve been out to the VA doing tours, trying to be sure that they have the resources that they need to serve the veterans,” Rosen told me.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, is also considering jumping into the Senate race. She’s sponsored or co-sponsored numerous bills on veterans issues.

At US Vets, vets themselves have a message.

“The vets here need the funding. They can't make it without it,” says Navy veteran Michael Deamons.

Chances are good that message will come through loud and clear...as the race for Senate picks up steam.

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