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Baldwin and Vukmir battle over veterans

Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 19:40:49-04

There is a growing battle in the U.S. Senate race over the treatment and support of veterans. Both U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and her challenger, State Senator Leah Vukmir, were in Milwaukee Friday. They had harsh words for each other.

Vukmir accuses Baldwin of covering-up a scandal at the Tomah VA Medical Center. While Baldwin called-out Vukmir for a vote she cast last year.

Baldwin was in Milwaukee to unveil her "Veterans for Tammy" coalition, which includes local Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel.

"He is a true American hero," Baldwin said. "I'm honored to have him here."

"Tammy and I have gotten to be friends," Wetzel said. "I like the work that she does."

At the event, Dr. Kathy Hartke -  an Air Force veteran and doctor from Brookfield - took to the podium to criticize Vukmir's record.

"Just last year, Leah Vukmir voted against the Needy Veterans Program to cover mental health services and substance abuse programs to help our veterans struggling with addiction," Hartke said.

"When Vukmir had the opportunity to expand coverage for veterans to treat mental illness and substance abuse she voted no, and I just find that very disappointing," Baldwin said.

Vukmir, who has a son in the Army, responded to the claim at her campaign office in Wauwatosa.

"Tammy Baldwin is trying to distract from her terrible record with veterans," Vukmir said. "If you really looked at the reason for that vote, you would understand that there was already sufficient funding for that program. If there hadn't been adequate funding for it, we would have taken a different vote."

Vukmir then questioned Baldwin's record.

"She ignored a whistleblower report that gave evidence that a veteran died and many others became addicted to opioids because of a doctor who was overprescribing," she said. “She looked the other way.”

Baldwin denies that. 

“I've worked across party lines to successfully make reforms to the VA,” she said. “I'm so sick of this attempt to politicize veteran issues.”

Last month's Marquette University Law School Poll showed this race in a dead heat among likely voters. With less than two months until election day, the pressure is on.