COLUMBIA, Mo. — Over the last week, Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber headlined a statewide ‘Claire Fights for Vets’ tour to highlight Claire’s strong record of advocating and delivering for Missouri’s veterans and active duty servicemembers. From St. Joseph to Columbia to Springfi
When Winston Simpson’s son returned home from serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq, he came back with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.
“To look at him, he looked perfectly healthy,” Simpson said. “But someone with a traumatic brain injury, he was in terrible head pain all the time, wasn’t able to work but yet couldn’t get any disability.”
Simpson said that changed when Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill took up his son’s cause.
…Simpson spoke at an event in the “Claire Fights for Vets” tour headlined by Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber, an Iraq War veteran. At the press conference, held at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2508 in Kirksville, Webber and other veterans voiced their support for McCaskill’s re-election campaign.
“We were getting nowhere until Claire took up his case as far as getting disability,” Simpson said. “We’re very grateful to her. We feel like we owe her a lot. That’s why I’m standing here supporting Claire McCaskill, because she supported us when we really needed help.”
Webber, who met McCaskill for the first time at a town hall for veterans shortly after his second tour, said she is genuinely passionate about veterans’ issues.
…McCaskill’s record on veterans’ issues includes bills aimed at improving the Veterans’ Administration and expanding health and education benefits for veterans. She authored the Arla Harrell Act, which required the VA to provide benefits to World War II veterans exposed to experimental mustard gas who had previously had their claims denied and was named after a Missouri veteran; it became law in 2017.
Webber pointed to stances on the Military Lending Act, which would establish safeguards for veterans against predatory lending, as a difference between McCaskill and her opponent, Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley. McCaskill supports the legislation, while Hawley has not joined a group of 33 state attorney generals calling for its passage.
“Josh Hawley’s been silent on these issues,” Webber said. “He hasn’t shown that he’s got the willingness or the interest to protect our veterans.”
…Larry Roberts, a county commissioner of Shelby County and a Vietnam veteran, said he appreciates the work McCaskill has done on the VA.
…“I think we’ve got one of the better hospitals that we can have, and I think she’s responsible for part of that,” Roberts said. “The care I got was phenomenal. We need to support her 100 percent.”
Tom Shively, a former Democratic member of the Missouri House of Representatives and Air Force veteran, said he would always pass along veterans’ requests for help with their benefits to McCaskill.
“Probably 100 percent of people who I tried to help at some point in time, they’d get back to me and say, ‘I don’t know who you woke up, but you woke up somebody and they are taking good care of us,’” Shively said.
…“Claire Fights for Vets” continued Tuesday in St. Joseph, featuring Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber and fellow veterans. The group visited several cities to share why they support McCaskill.
…“As United States Senator, Claire is a champion for veterans so we’re all getting together to fight for her,” Webber said.
He also said Sen. McCaskill has a strong record of advocating for Missouri’s veterans and service members; whereas, McCaskill’s opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley, recently failed to step up for Missouri veterans.
The group mentioned Hawley did not join a bipartisan group of 33 state attorneys general calling on the government to protect military service members and their families from predatory lending.
Veteran Geno King said a recent ad called him and his fellow veterans “liars.”
“You do not know the issues veterans go through on a day-to-day basis. Claire McCaskill does and she fights for us,” King said about Hawley.
The tour kicked off Friday in Cape Girardeau and has made several other stops across the state, including in Hannibal, Kirksville, Columbia and Springfield.
The Missouri Democratic Party was in Springfield Tuesday afternoon hosting an event for Veterans who support Senator Claire McCaskill.
Chairman of the party, Stephen Webber, is a Marine Corps. Veterans who says McCaskill has always fought for service members’ rights as a politician which includes expanding education benefits and strengthening the VA.
Webber says, “Claire McCaskill has a proven track record of standing up for veterans of getting things done, of working in a bipartisan fashion for what’s best for Missouri. And Josh Hawley just doesn’t have the experience. He doesn’t have the policy, chops. He hasn’t stood up against his own party when it comes to protecting veterans. So that’s a very clear distinction and that’s why we are here today.”
…Columbia veteran Rich Grant… joined Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber and retired farmer Winston Simpson of Clarence at a news conference about veterans issues…
…In the discussion of veterans’ issues, Webber said McCaskill has worked to make mental health care more accessible for veterans returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder. Hawley, he said, isn’t even giving lip service to veterans issues.
“Josh Hawley doesn’t have the word veteran on his website,” Webber said.
Simpson said his father is a veteran of World War II and his son is a veteran of the Iraq war. His son has brain injuries from blasts and post-traumatic stress disorder and he credits constituent service from McCaskill for getting his son specialty care for migraines and a 2011 stroke.
“Without Claire’s help, I don’t know what would have happened to us,” Simpson said.
On Oct. 25, Missouri Democrat Party Chair Steph-en Webber launched a statewide Claire Fights for Vets Tour in Cape Girardeau. Webber, who is a Marine Corps veteran himself, spoke at Laborers’ Local 110 along with area veterans about how Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill has helped veterans in Missouri.
Webber first met McCaskill in 2007 during her veterans listening tour, which took place a few weeks after one of his two tours in Iraq. “I thought that was pretty amazing that a United States senator would take the time to listen to a 23 year old who didn’t have any sort of political clout or anything to offer, except for a story about what it was like in Fallujah.”
…McCaskill, the daughter of a World War II veteran, worked for two years on behalf of a Missouri veteran to pass the Arla Harrell Act into law. The act delivered relief to veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas during World War II.
Over her years as a senator, McCaskill helped pass into law reforms to ensure the VA is more responsive to the needs of veterans, championed the Forever G.I. Bill to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, helped pass a significant increase in mileage reimbursement to pay travel expenses for rural veterans receiving treatment at VA facilities and supported an expansion of critical caregiver benefits from just post-9/11 veterans to all veterans.
…Navy Veteran Thomas M. Meyer said McCaskill’s help has been very valuable for Vietnam veterans like himself who have questions concerning their healthcare.
…Meyer said there have been friends of his that he has directed to McCaskill. “They came back to say that without her they wouldn’t have had the direction that they needed or the contact that they needed to wade through a lot of the paperwork that was being demanded of them.”
J.C Kuessner, an Army veteran and former Assistant Minority Floor Leader in the Missouri House of Representatives, agreed with Meyer and said he had a friend who had spent six years trying to get benefits for his various medical issues from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Kuessner said a few months after contacting McCaskill’s office, his friend got a new hearing and received VA benefits. “He’s turned his life around and there’s only one reason that it happened — U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.”
McCaskill created and launched an annual “secret shopper” Veterans Customer Satisfaction Program to allow Missouri veterans to provide confidential feedback about their experiences at Missouri VA facilities. She has also helped expand hours of operation at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Salem, Mo.
Air Force Veteran Walter B. Wildman said he has split his ticket between Republicans and Democrats in the past, but fully supports McCaskill because of her work for veterans. “It’s the ongoing history of her support and work for veterans that made my choice to support her quite easy.”
ANCHOR: The Missouri Democratic Party was in Springfield this afternoon hosting an event for veterans who support Claire McCaskill. Chairman of the party Stephen Webber is a Marine Corps veteran who says Claire McCaskill has always fought for servicemembers’ rights as a politician, which includes expanding education benefits and strengthening the VA.
STEPHEN WEBBER: Claire McCaskill has a proven track record of standing up for veterans, of getting things done, of working in a bipartisan fashion for what’s best for Missouri. Josh Hawley just doesn’t have the experience, he doesn’t have the policy chops, he hasn’t stood up against his own party when it comes to protecting veterans so that’s a very clear distinction, that’s why we’re here today.
ANCHOR: Three other veterans attended the event, too, advocating for Senator McCaskill.
REPORTER: ‘Claire Fights for Vets’ continued in St. Joseph Tuesday afternoon. The tour is headlined by Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber and fellow veterans. Veterans shared why they are voting for McCaskill and why they think others should as well.
STEPHEN WEBBER: Claire fought to expand the GI Bill, she fought to strengthen the VA and health care, she’s worked to hold the VA accountable and to expand access and opportunity for veterans.
CARVER: U.S. veteran Geno King is from Missouri and says McCaskill cares about the issues veterans go through on a day to day basis, but he doesn’t believe her opponent Attorney General Josh Hawley does.
GENO KING: I even tried to find Josh Hawley’s plan to fight for veterans on his own website, I couldn’t even find the word ‘veteran’ on his website — let alone any plan to help us. I did the research, there wasn’t one word on there. None at all. There wasn’t any plans to help us, it just seemed like he honestly, he doesn’t care.
REPORTER: U.S. veteran Sam Gladney was on the tour, sharing his story about how he was personally attacked in a recent ad.
SAM GLADNEY: I and a few of these other veterans here decided to be part of an ad for Claire McCaskill. Well, unfortunately, a dark money third party group called me a bald-faced liar for what I said defending Claire. This is sadly what happens in politics these days, you know, even when a veteran or someone who served comes out and gives their opinion on things, you’re going to be attacked and called a liar and that’s incredibly unfortunate. I think it goes specifically to the kind of campaign Claire McCaskill and Josh Hawley are running. If you’re a leader, you should stand up and say, that’s not true. He should disavow those ads. And I think we’re getting to a place in politics where that doesn’t happen and I am frankly upset with the kind of campaign that Mr. Hawley is running for those reasons.
REPORTER: The group of veterans met at the VFW post on Cherokee Avenue — hoping to convince undecided voters to vote McCaskill in November. Each one of the five got up and talked about pressing issues effecting the veteran community. They spoke about mental health, disability, homelessness, job training, education, and predatory loans — issues plaguing service people who return home from war. One after the other they got up and said they were fighting for McCaskill because she was the one fighting for them.
SAM GLADNEY: There are 18 to 19 year old kids who get these predatory loans who join the army, who are young soldiers don’t know any better. And any first sergeant NCO in the army would tell you that their soldiers have been taken advantaged of by this. And only — there’s a bi-partisan consensus standing up telling this current administration, the President, don’t change these protections these soldiers need your protections. I know Mr. Hawley and the President are from the same party but if there is ever an issue, ever an instance to stand up to the president of your own party, it’s for something like this.
PAT CONWAY: A number of the Vietnam veterans are going to be looking for places where they can go in their military related illnesses. And we’ve got over 700 who are on the list looking for beds at the present time. And Claire can continue to work with the Veteran’s Administration to increase that funding. Don’t underestimate the value of seniority when you are working in the veteran’s community in Washington D.C.
REPORTER: At the event speakers say if you want to know more about where these two candidates stand on veterans issues– go to their websites and see for yourself…
ANCHOR: Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber spoke to veterans about Senator Claire McCaskill’s efforts on their behalf. Notably, McCaskill helped push through the Arla Wayne Harrell Act. The legislation is named after the World War II veteran from Macon county who was purposefully exposed exposed to mustard gas by the U.S. government during the war. Others had stories of their own.
WINSTON SIMPSON: He couldn’t function, and Claire went to bat for him and helped him get disability and plus she helped him get to a specialist and did a lot for us.
The Chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party was in Hannibal Thursday to talk about Senator Claire McCaskill’s record as an advocate for the state’s veterans.
… [Stephen] Webber says Missouri’s senior senator has a strong record of advocating for the state’s service members.
Also speaking to the gathering was Shelby County farmer Winston Simpson, who talked about how Claire McCaskill went to bat for his son, who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq.