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Fact Checking McCain on Vets Groups

PITTSBURGH — During a testy exchange with a Vietnam veteran who questioned Sen. John McCain’s voting record on veterans’ issues at a town hall meeting in Denver yesterday, McCain boldly asserted that he has "a perfect voting record from organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, and all the other veterans’ service organizations." When the vet challenged him on this claim, saying he did not have a perfect voting record with Disabled American Veterans or VFW, McCain responded:

"I’ve been endorsed in every election by all of the veterans’ organizations that do that. I’ve been supported by them and received the highest awards from all of those organizations, so I guess they don’t know something you know."

So does McCain really have a "perfect voting record" with all the veterans’ service organizations, as he claims? Has he really received the highest marks possible? Not really, it turns out.

True, VFW’s Political Action Committee did endorse McCain in 2004, but that doesn’t mean he has a perfect record with the group. McCain recently skipped the vote on the 21st Century GI Bill, sponsored by Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), which ultimately passed the Senate by a margin of 75-22. The bill, which President George W. Bush signed into last week, allows veterans who served after 2001 to attend four-year public universities in their home state, free of tuition. The bill was strongly supported by VFW and the American Legion. After coming out in opposition to the bill, McCain announced his support after it was tweaked to allow the transfer of benefits to veterans’ family members. Yesterday, McCain said he did not support the original bill because it did not extend to pre-2001 veterans and it would have removed the incentive for people to make a career of the military.

Disabled American Veterans gave McCain a dismal 20 percent rating, out of a possible 100 percent, during the second session of the 109th Congress, which ended in January 2007 — their most recent rating. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a grade of ‘D.’

Vietnam Veterans of America does not offer a rating or grade, but they do provide a chart that compares McCain’s vote to their preferred position. Since 2001, McCain voted with VVA nine times and against them 15 times. He also missed eight votes.

While McCain may enjoy broad support among many veterans of both parties, we have to give him an ‘F’ for truth-telling.

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