Hoping to allay the concerns of military veterans, President Barack Obama told members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday that their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits would not be slashed through looming military defense cuts.
According to a tweet from Fox News' Ed Henry, the president reassured the veterans that "they will NOT be affected by defense cuts: 'your veterans benefits are exempt from sequestration. they are EXEMPT!'"
Obama spoke at the VFW's annual convention in Reno, Nev. Hoping to shore up support among an important voting bloc, the Obama campaign released a video on Monday morning hyping the progress with American troops' withdrawal from Iraq. The president devoted much of his speech to defending his foreign policy and vowing to wind down the war in Afghanistan responsibly.
Defense cuts have emerged as a potentially huge campaign issue in the presidential election and congressional races. The campaign for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney has tried to attack Obama for allowing military cuts on his watch. As a result of the debt deal arrived at last year on Capitol Hill, the military faces cuts of $500 billion over 10 years, and perhaps another $500 billion in budget reductions through the sequestration "trigger" if Congress can't find savings elsewhere.
But as Obama stressed on Monday, funding for veterans' benefits and health care have been exempted from the automatic cuts, quelling the concerns of veterans and their advocates.
The two campaigns have begun sparring on foreign affairs over the past week. Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs took a shot at Romney on Monday, saying, "The bar really is whether or not Mitt Romney is finally ready to shed a little light on what appears to be the secrecy of his foreign policy plans."
With the hope of bolstering his own foreign policy credentials, Romney leaves Tuesday for a trip to England, Israel and Poland. The former Massachusetts governor will deliver his own address to the VFW before leaving the country.