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Brown hosts small roundtable on veterans employment in Concord

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown solicited feedback on his veterans proposals and sought ideas for how to lower the veterans unemployment event today at the Barley House in Concord. Brown release a policy paper last week on veterans employment and health care.

During the private event with five guests and his wife Gail Huff, Brown highlighted the Hire a Hero Act that he cosponsored, which gave tax credits to employers who hired veterans, and said he would fight to make it permanent if re-elected to the U.S. Senate. While representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, Brown served on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat Brown hopes to unseat, also supported the Hire a Hero bill.

Bruce Ramos, veterans outreach coordinator for New Hampshire Employment Security, said the tax credit did encourage some employers to hire veterans. But he and several others told Brown there should be better job training opportunities for veterans so they can learn the skills that employers are looking for. Terry Negron, a member of the United States Air Force Reserves said there should be more community resources for veterans to connect with each other and have a safe space to explore employment or other opportunities.

Jim McConaha, an Air Force veteran from Concord, brought up access to health care for New Hampshire veterans who don’t live near VA hospitals. Brown said he supports allowing veterans who don’t live within 30 miles of a VA hospital to get care elsewhere. Bob Broneski, chairman of the New Hampshire State Veterans Advisory Committee, pointed out that a bill in Congress now would allow for that. U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen co-authored a piece of that law that allows any veteran who doesn’t live within 20 miles of a full-service VA hospital, which New Hampshire doesn’t have, to get care elsewhere.

“Hopefully we can get that passed,” Broneski said.

Brown said expanding access to care is a good “starting point” but the VA needs more reforms.

“All true, and that’s a good certain starting point,” Brown said. “But you need to get whoever that new secretary is ... the absolute tools to do their job, just get in and do a total top to bottom review, housecleaning if he or she needs to and then move forward focusing on our veterans first.”

After not giving a straight answer for several days on whether he would’ve backed the full VA reform bill, Brown told the Nashua Telegraph late last week that he likely would’ve voted for it. The bill passed the Senate but is still waiting for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Also this morning, Brown’s Republican primary rival Jim Rubens held a “Thank a Vet” event at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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