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Bush Seeks Better Care for Veterans
November 3, 1999
The Associated Press
By RON FOURNIER
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush said today that America must repay its ``debt of honor to our nation's veterans'' by improving their health care system.
Framed by the two white columns of the Pickens County Courthouse, Bush accused the Clinton administration of providing inadequate health care for veterans and being slow to process compensation claims to those who served in the military.
``Soldiers once ordered to stand in the line of fire should not be asked to stand in line (at health care bureaucracies) with hat in hand,'' Bush said as he began a bus trip through this critical early presidential primary state.
The Texas governor said a 1994 law was supposed to make it easier for Gulf War veterans to claim health care disabilities resulting from their work to liberate Kuwait but instead they are ``met with skeptical looks'' and stalled by bureaucracy when they try to make their claims.
Thousands of troops who served in the 1991 Gulf War developed unexplained illnesses after returning home. Numerous studies have failed to establish any cause for the Gulf War illness.
A Clinton administration report released last month said 11,407 Gulf War disability claims had been processed for ``undiagnosed illness.'' Of those, 3,077 were granted and 8,330 denied.
All told, 16 percent of the 700,000 Gulf War veterans are receiving disability compensation.
Bush said there are too many lapses in coverage and delays at veterans hospitals. He promised to improve the situation, if elected.
``These are the ways to repay our debt of honor to our nation's veterans,'' Bush said.
He made the speech two days before Veterans Day and less than a week after stumbling over a pop quiz about foreign leaders.
Bush's primary opponent in South Carolina is former prisoner-of-war John McCain, a South Carolina senator trying to marshal veterans in the state and take advantage of Bush's foreign policy gaffes.
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