Veterans for Obama

This post was co-written by Mayors Vic Collova (Garfield Heights OH), C. Kim Bracey (York PA), James Baker (Wilmington DE) and Bill Bell (Durham NC).

Throughout this campaign season, Mitt Romney has taken a lot of positions that many veterans like us find troubling. That's, of course, when we can actually get Mitt Romney to lay out some specifics, which so far he has publicly failed to do on many fronts.

Earlier this year, however, we got to hear a few specifics when at a private fundraiser Mitt Romney said that eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development would be one of his proposals for shrinking government.

If Mitt Romney had his way and eliminated HUD altogether, it would undermine tremendous progress that has been made under President Obama's leadership to end Veteran homelessness.

Just last year the Administration announced that homelessness among veterans was reduced by nearly 12 percent between January 2010 and January 2011, keeping the Obama Administration on track to meet its goal of ending Veteran homelessness by 2015.

A principal policy tool for spurring this reduction in veteran's homelessness was a program known as HUD-VASH, which combines Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

HUD has awarded funding for approximately 10,000 HUD-VASH vouchers each year in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and just last year appropriated $50 million to serve homeless veterans.

Additionally, the VA under this President has announced it will make $100 million in grants available to community agencies across the country to help prevent more than 40,000 veterans and their families from falling into homelessness or to quickly return them to stable housing.

If Mitt Romney had his way and abolished these services, where would our nation's heroes turn? What's Mitt Romney's plan to continue the progress we've seen under President Obama in taking care of those who have served our country?

As mayors we know the importance of having to balance a budget and keep spending under control, but we also know you have to set the right priorities when trying to accomplish these goals.

Proposing that we get rid of HUD and the work it is doing to combat veterans homelessness as a way to cut spending while maintaining tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires is not only wrong, it's something I think most Americans, especially military families would find offensive.

Even before his pronouncement that he would eliminate HUD as president, Mitt Romney raised some concern among veterans when he quickly embraced Rep. Ryan's Republican budget, which ends Medicare as we know it to preserve tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

Just as startling, nowhere in those 98 pages does Congressman Ryan or the House GOP mention the word 'veteran.' Never. Not once.

A study from the Truman National Security Project found Mitt Romney has struggled to connect with veterans and military families during the Republican primary.

Why is Romney struggling with veterans? It's pretty simple. Just take a look at his record.

As Governor he proposed eliminating hiring preferences for veterans applying for civil service and tried to cut veterans' programs by 11 percent in his first budget proposal.

Just last year, Romney proposed turning the VA healthcare system into a voucher program, which was met with loud opposition by military families across the country.

And let's not forget that Romney was one of the loudest critics of President Obama's leadership in ending the Iraq War.

This record looks even worse when you compare it to President Obama's, who has proven to American veterans that he will fight for them. Veterans know they can trust the President to do the right thing and take care of our heroes when they come home, not abandon them to protect corporate tax breaks.

The President has implemented and improved the most comprehensive educational benefit for veterans and their family members since the original GI Bill of 1944, allowing veterans, service members, reservists and Guard members the ability to receive an in-state, undergraduate education at a public institution for no cost.

President Obama has also invested resources into the VA to hire and train up to 1,500 temporary claims processors so that veterans can get their benefits more quickly and efficiently -- and last November, the President signed into law The Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which offers businesses that hire an unemployed veteran a tax credit of up to $5,600 per veteran and $9,600 for disabled veterans.

Under this President's leadership we have also seen sharp reductions in unemployment rates among veterans returning home from service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

These are all accomplishments that improve the lives of our nation's heroes. The President has kept his promise to veterans and has been steadfast in his support in helping military families cope with the heavy burdens they all must bear in keeping our country safe.

Whether it's embracing the Ryan budget that doesn't even mention the word 'veteran' a single time or proposing we eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is helping to house our homeless heroes, Mitt Romney's out of touch positions will continue to be a drag on his campaign when it comes to garnering support from veterans and military families.

Vic Collova (Garfield Heights OH), C. Kim Bracey (York PA), James Baker (Wilmington DE), Bill Bell (Durham NC) and Setti Warren (Newton MA).