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The nation's most prestigious group for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans released a congressional scorecard on Tuesday that ranks Republican presidential candidate John McCain as having one of the worst voting records when it comes to supporting troops and veterans.
The grade is due to his absence on several key votes on military and veterans' issues over the last two years.
McCain, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a decorated Navy fighter pilot who spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, received a D on the report card from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He is one of nine lawmakers — four senators and five members of the House of Representatives — who received a D or F from the nonprofit, nonpartisan group.
McCain's presidential campaign staff did not respond to calls asking for comment on the report.
Two people — both Republicans — received an F: Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
For senators, scores were based on 10 votes involving increased funding for veterans' programs, expansions of benefits, a vote to purchase Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and four separate votes at various stages of consideration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill of Rights and co-sponsorship of the bill.
McCain's Democratic challenger, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, received a B on the report card, the same grade received by Obama's vice presidential running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. Obama and Biden also missed key votes; Obama missed four and Biden three.
Fifty-five senators received an A on the report card.
In the House, grades were based on 13 votes and co-sponsorship of the full-tuition GI Bill benefits that became law earlier this year. Votes included increasing veterans' funding and benefits, a veterans' suicide prevention bill, a bill giving refugee status to translators who worked with U.S. troops in Iraq, expanded wounded warrior treatment programs and a bill ending the government's policy of requiring repayment of bonuses for people who did not complete their military obligation because of death or disability. Five House members received a D, but 250 others received an A.
Vanessa Williamson of IAVA said the grades are based on items drawn from the association's legislative agenda, which was provided to every congressional office.
Getting a good score was not that difficult because many of the votes on veterans' issues were unanimous or nearly unanimous. In the Senate, only three votes on the Post-9/11 GI Bill made a significant difference in grades. In the House, two votes on the GI Bill and a 2007 vote about whether Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans should be given two years or five years of no-questions asked health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs made the difference.
One hundred fifty lawmakers received perfect scores.