Biden's son warns of Romney plan to 'voucher-ize' veterans benefits
Vice President Joe Biden’s son Beau, a major in the Delaware Army National Guard who served in Iraq, is challenging Mitt Romney’s commitment to veterans, suggesting American military men and women may be swept up in a rush to privatization of government services under a White House led by the former Massachusetts governor.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden
In a phone interview with The Daily Times Herald, Beau Biden, 43, the Democratic attorney general of Delaware, said presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has embraced elements of privatization for Medicare and other federal programs in the form of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s controversial proposals.
What’s more, Biden said, Romney has more than hinted at dramatic changes to veterans benefits.
“He chose Veterans Day of last year to assemble a group of veterans to propose the voucher-izing of veterans benefits, which is a not-so-very euphemism for the privatizing of veterans benefits,” Biden said.
Last November, Romney did raise the specter of Veterans Affairs privatization.
“If you’re the government, they know there’s nowhere else you guys can go, you’re stuck,” Romney told a group of veterans at Mutt’s BBQ restaurant in Mauldin, S.C., according to ABC News. “Sometimes you wonder if there would be some way to introduce private sector competition, somebody else who could come in and say each solder has ‘X’ thousand dollars attributed to them and then they can choose where they want to go in the government system or the private system with the money that follows them.”
For his part, Beau Biden, who served with the 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, was deployed to Iraq in October 2008 and returned home in September 2009.
“There should be no debate about the role of government in taking care of veterans,” Biden said. “The president understands that’s a sacred obligation of the United States government and Governor Romney seems to want to privatize it.”
Beau Biden said President Barack Obama has been an effective leader on foreign policy.
“Speaking as one veteran, the president of the United States understands what it means to be commander in chief,” Biden said during the 20-minute phone interview.
Biden said the president “knows when, where and how to deploy our forces.”
“That’s what he’s done as commander-in-chief, refocusing our efforts around the world to eliminate and go after al-Qaida and improve the mission to ultimately kill Osama bin Laden,” Biden said.
Additionally, Obama successfully ended the war in Iraq and set the United States on path to hand over authority in Afghanistan, Biden said.
A big issue for the military is the treatment of returning veterans, Biden said.
Obama has proposed a 10 percent increase in spending for the Veterans Affairs budget next year, and backed a tax credit for small businesses who employ veterans.
“The president gets it,” Biden said. “Michelle Obama gets it. Quite Frankly, I’m not sure if Mitt Romney does.”
On a specific veterans issue, Biden is concerned about rampant abuse with for-profit colleges and other educational institutions creating misleading websites and programs to aggressively recruit military personnel.
“The reality is for-profit colleges, which are making tons and tons of money, and expanding as we speak, are marketing to, and in a deceptive way in many cases, to our returning military veterans, because they know they have access to a lot of money through the post-911 G.I. Bill,” Biden said.
Biden said he is working with Jack Conway, the attorney general of Kentucky, and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to protect veterans from deceptive pitches from for-profit schools that are promising educations and degrees they don’t deliver.
Depending on the measurement statistics, the United States is 16 to 20 percent rural, according to the Center For Rural Strategies. But nearly 40 percent of the people serving in the military are from rural areas of the nation. As a result, Biden said, the Veterans Administration under the president, has focused on rural America, and services such as telecare and transportation.
Biden declined to make any observations about reports of Romney’s overseas investments, whether having money in accounts in island nations or Switzerland is unpatriotic.
“I don’t have any comment on that,” Biden said. “I don’t question Mitt Romney’s patriotism one bit.”
President Obama won Iowa in 2008, and the Hawkeye State figures to be a battleground again this November. Biden said voters should take into account the starting point in early 2009.
“This president inherited the worst economy in my lifetime,” Biden said. “From the moment he took the oath of office he’s worked every single day to put us on a path to turning this economy around.”
The United States has posted 28 consecutive months of job growth and the creation of 4.4 million private-sector jobs since Obama took office.
Biden urges voters to look at Romney’s specific plans. They’ll find something familiar, Biden said.
“His only answer right now is to return to the failed policies of George W. Bush, which we know for a fact, and this state knows for a fact, put us in the hole that we were in in 2008 and 2009,” Biden said. “I’ve not seen one plan that differentiates in one way, shape or form from what George W. Bush did over eight years.”
Finally, have Beau Biden and his father discussed the prospects of the vice president seeking the nation’s top office in 2016?
“The only thing we talk about at my house is my kids, his grandchildren, and making sure the president of the United States is re-elected,” Beau Biden joked.
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