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McCaskill touts record on veterans issues, but says she's not criticizing Republican rivals

In Backroom

4:52 pm on Fri, 05.25.12

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she’s highlighting veterans issues in her campaign because she’s proud of her record – not because she wants to attack her chief Republican opponents on the issue.

“I want to show the body of work that I’ve done,’’ the senator said, as she met with several supportive veterans Friday at a coffee shop in south St. Louis.

McCaskill was joined by her mother, Betty McCaskill, who is featured in a new online campaign spot for her daughter. McCaskill's deceased father was a military veteran.

The senator plans to launch a TV ad campaign over the weekend that promotes her focus on veterans.

McCaskill cited her efforts to improve medical care for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,  to protect their benefits and to revamp procedures at Arlington National Cemetery, where it has been discovered that some graves and bodies had been mishandled.

Some of the graves were improperly labeled, and some bodies had been buried atop other bodies. McCaskill has headed a Senate panel probing the controversy, and called Arlington “sacred ground ‘’ for the public and veterans.

She praised the military’s actions to correct the problems at Arlington.

McCaskill emphasized that her cost-cutting efforts  pertaining to the federal budget, including defense spending, are not directed toward any appropriations dealing with veterans’ care or benefits.

On June 5, McCaskill is holding a Senate subcommittee hearing to review whether military contractors are complying with federal requirements that encourage the employment of veterans. 

“If you’re getting government contracts, especially through the Department of Defense, you need to be taking steps to make sure that military veterans are well represented in your employee workforce,” said McCaskill in a statement. “It’s the law and it’s just good business.”

Two of McCaskill's three chief Republican rivals have some military experience. St. Louis businessman John Brunner served in the Marines, moving up to captain and platoon commander. Akin appears to have served briefly in the Army and then eight years in the Army Reserves, according to a biography in Roll Call. (Some other published biographies of Akin say he served with the Army Corps of Engineers in Virginia.)

Bob Murphy, a Vietnam veteran from St. Charles, joined McCaskill on Friday. He said that when it came to veterans’ issues, he had nothing but praise for her. 

“What we’re saying,’’ he said, nodding toward several fellow veterans, “is that in this area, she’s done her job."

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