Florida’s Big Numbers for Veteran Voters
By now, everyone knows that Florida is home to some pretty big numbers. 29 electoral votes are up for grabs with state polls simply too close to call. 19 million people call Florida home, and more than 11 million of them are registered voters (Democrats hold a statewide lead of 500,000 voters). 3.5 million Floridians are Hispanic; 3.2 million are African-American. Just those two groups combined are larger than 37 other states’ entire populations. Suffice to say, Texas isn’t the only state in which things are bigger.
But there’s one other big number that often goes unnoticed: Florida is home to over 1.6 million veterans, the second-largest percentage in the country. And there are some big numbers and big reasons why Florida’s veterans should vote to keep Barack Obama as their Commander-in-Chief.
“To care for him who shall have borne the battle” was President Lincoln’s promise to our nation’s veterans. And by the numbers, few presidents since Lincoln have done more to care for our veterans and improve their lives than President Obama.
Last year, President Obama challenged America’s businesses to hire 100,000 unemployed veterans and military spouses by 2013. This August, the First Lady announced – at a Florida naval station, of course – that more than 2,000 businesses across the nation had answered the President’s call by hiring 125,000 veterans and spouses, a year ahead of schedule. Under President Obama, businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities can receive up to a $9,600 tax credit.
With President Obama, our veterans have better access to education and job training than ever before. With over 80% of manufacturers reporting shortages of skilled talent, the President’s military licensing task force is providing over 125,000 veterans the chance to earn industry-recognized training and certification (as well as for 500,000 community college students). And President Obama notably expanded the Post-9/11 GI Bill, providing up-front tuition payments, living allowance and even a book stipend of $1,000 per year to be used at any college – public or private. This is the largest investment in veterans’ education since World War II, period.
The President’s big numbers for veterans extend to healthcare, too. President Obama directed the Veterans Administration to expand its mental health services for returning servicemembers, hiring over 3,500 mental health professionals since 2009. And because Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious, growing concern, the President secured commitments from 135 medical schools to work together on PTSD research, and 650 nursing schools to train nurses to treat PTSD. Of course, veterans also benefit from the $149 million in Obamacare health-insurance rebates received by nearly 2 million Floridians this year.
These are big numbers, but our state is used to pretty outsized statistics. The reality is that Florida’s veterans are doing far better than they would under Mitt Romney. Just as Romney’s dangerous foreign policy naivety would leave America in a more isolated and precarious position, his reckless domestic initiatives – the few he and Paul Ryan have chosen to share – would set middle-class families, working people, students and veterans all back. It’s no wonder that Governor Rick Scott is cheerleading for his kindred spirit Romney; after all, Scott proposed cutting 500 jobs and half the budget from the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.
Everyone knows what 537 Florida votes have meant to the last decade in America. With more than 1.5 million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed in war zones or combat missions worldwide and 20 million veterans across the nation, much is at stake. And a majority of Americans trust this president with national security, foreign policy and our safety. Among that majority: General Colin Powell, who recently praised the President’s leadership on terrorism as “very, very solid.”
Florida’s veteran voters should stay the course and stick with President Obama who believes, as he said in 2009, that “we have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America.”
Franco Ripple is a Truman Project Partner based in the Tampa Bay area.