Portman, who was accompanied by his teenage son, Will, as well as his campaign manager, said he wasn’t seeking votes at the VA, but was simply there to talk to veterans about their needs and concerns.
“I will be a champion for this facility if I’m elected,” Portman told a reporter as he left the VA grounds.
Several veterans told Portman that they were concerned about cuts to the VA budget during the Bush administration when Portman was head of the White House Office of Management and Budget. The OMB has broad financial management power as well as the responsibility of preparing the executive budget.
Jim Crane, a former national officer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Portman that during the last four years, veterans have seen the processing time for veterans to qualify for VA health care benefits increase from 70 days to more than 300 days. He also said the VA mental health clinic is no longer staffed on weekends because of a lack of funding.
Obama appointed a new VA national administrator earlier this year, Eric K. Shinseki, and has proposed a VA budget of $113 billion for 2010, a $15 billion increase from the 2009 budget. The request calls for $52.5 billion in funding for VA medical care, an increase of $4.9 billion over 2009 funding levels, or 10.3 percent, according to military.com, a Web site devoted to military and veterans benefits.