Our military is filled with young Americans who sign on a dotted line to give everything in service to our nation. When I was 17-years-old, I signed on that line and proudly wore the uniform of the United States Navy for 20 years. As any service member knows, country transcends party, but nonetheless I identified myself as member of the Republican Party. This year, for the first time in my life, I will vote for a Democrat for president: President Barack Obama. For veterans across generations and those still in uniform today, President Obama has consistently stood by us and our families.
Since day one President Obama has shown steady leadership and outlined a clear vision for an America that is strong at home and abroad. He understands what our service men and women have given and he's working tirelessly to honor our country's commitment to that sacrifice. He signed the largest increase of funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 30 years to ensure veterans receive the health care benefits they've earned, expanding mental health services and counseling particularly for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. In Virginia alone, more than 800,000 veterans benefited from those increases, securing much needed access to care in rural areas and for those with special health care needs. President Obama also signed two tax credits into law encouraging businesses to hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors because he knows the economy will benefit from our skills, our commitment and our motivation.
The president knows education is the gateway to opportunity, a bridge to the American dream for veterans. That's why President Obama improved the Post-9/11 GI bill, expanding veterans' educational opportunities, helping more than 40,000 Virginia veterans and family members pursue higher education. As part of his Wall Street reform law he put a consumer cop on the beat to crack down on colleges and predatory lenders that prey on veterans and military families by misleading them about financial aid, job placement programs and home mortgages. And he showed the moral leadership to ensure any American can serve the country they love without living a lie about who they are or who they love.
President Obama understands our nation's commitment to our veterans never ends. But when Governor Romney and today's Republican Party look at our military, they only see weapons systems like ships, tanks and missiles, and tangible capital, not the people -- the human capital -- who are truly the "weapons system" that makes the United States military the best in the world.
Rather than honor the sacrifices of our service members and families and make them a priority, Governor Romney has chosen not to propose any significant plan to directly put veterans back to work. He called ending the war in Iraq "tragic," and criticized the president's plan to end the war in Afghanistan. Governor Romney even suggested turning veterans' health care into a voucher system, which the VFW opposes. As if that's not enough, we can also look at his record. As Governor of Massachusetts he cut veteran outreach and other services by hundreds of thousands of dollars in his first month in office, and proposed a reduction in Massachusetts' government hiring preferences for veterans.
With one war behind us and another one winding down, it's also wise to look at Governor Romney's current plan for the military and veterans. Under the Romney-Ryan plan the government will add $2 trillion in military spending that the Pentagon hasn't asked for, with no clear way to pay for it, while also pushing a budget plan that could cut $11 billion from the VA. He wants to spend more on war and less on repaying the men and women who fight that war. These policies will have a negative impact on the national security of the United States by unnecessarily increasing the debt and breaking our nation's sacred promise to our veterans.
For President Obama, his plan is clear: it's about supporting our veterans and their families in every way possible -- an issue that's very near and dear to my heart. While our service members are away fighting for our country, the president is making sure their families are being taken care of. No administration has done more for military families and service members, from ending one war and winding down another, to ensuring returning veterans have the resources they need to get jobs and health care and encouraging the private sector to provide jobs to military spouses.
That's what matters most, and it speaks volumes. The heart -- and the might -- of the U.S. military are the men, women and families who put the security of this country first. And President Obama is a decisive Commander-in-Chief who puts veterans and military families first. Whether our troops are overseas, coming home, or have been home for decades, the president is working to give all of us everything we need to fulfill our pledge to our country, our families, and ourselves.
When we sign our name on the dotted line, we are serving our country. And when we check the box on our ballot for President Obama, we move our country forward and ensure a secure future for our service men and women, and our veterans. I encourage all American's who support our military and veterans to do the same.