By Wes Bunch
Former Virginia governor and U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine met with veterans at a stop in Bristol Friday afternoon to discuss issues like jobs and the economy as part of a campaign tour through Southwest Virginia.
Among the topics addressed by Kaine were strategies to reduce the disproportionately high veteran unemployment rate. The Democratic Senate candidate also discussed the need to fulfill obligations to those who have served in the military.
"Every veteran has leadership skills and technical skills they develop while in service," Kaine said. "When I look at the unemployment rate for our veterans, which is higher than the national average, that shows a failure by our nation to take advantage of those skills."
If elected, Kaine said he would work with the Department of Defense to "create a culture" that issues service members a civilian credential that corresponds to the skills they pick up in the military.
Kaine told the crowd gathered at CityMug in Bristol that a "balanced approach" was needed to successfully reduce the nation's deficit so adequate funding could still be given to veterans health care and job training programs, and to ensure that Virginia's military installations are spared from across-the-board budget cuts.
Kaine criticized his Republican opponent George Allen's approach as being "all cuts," saying it would "disproportionately hurt" veterans, members of the military and their families, as well as civilian employees and Virginia military contractors.
"Commitments to our service members, our veterans, and their families are not just line items in a budget to me. These are promises we've made that must be kept," Kaine said. "I will reject proposals to go back on these agreements we've made with those who've given so much in defense of our country."
His campaign said Kaine helped secure funding for in-state college tuition for the children of military personnel who are stationed in Virginia during his term as governor and that he expanded treatment for veterans' mental health through the Virginia Wounded Warrior initiative.
As senator, Kaine said he would work with both Republicans and Democrats to carry on Democratic Sen. Jim Webb's legacy of representing the interests of Virginia veterans in the U.S. Senate.
Kaine's campaign said Friday's stop was one of more than 60 economic roundtable discussions the former governor has held across the commonwealth.