Obama resumes West Coast swing to court military service members, veterans


President Barack Obama speaks at the 113th National Convention of the VFW in Reno, Nev., Monday, July 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Susan Walsh/AP)
July 23, 2012

President Obama headed to Nevada on Monday to announce new efforts to help service members transition out of the military, resuming a three-day swing up the West Coast after pausing to visit victims and families of the deadly movie theater shooting in suburban Denver.

Obama will also visit San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Seattle for a mixture of public and private campaign events, his first since canceling a speech in Florida on Friday after a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo. The president canceled one grass-roots rally in Portland and will end his trip Wednesday with a stopover in New Orleans, where he will address the Urban League.

“Clearly, the tragic events . . . have changed both the tone and the schedule of events,” Jennifer Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman, told reporters. She said the Portland event was canceled because of “the feeling, while there’s not a playbook for this, that given the tone of grass-roots events, it was the right step to take.”

In Reno, Obama will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a group that his opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, will speak to the following day before heading to Europe and attending the London Olympics.

Both candidates are heavily targeting service members, veterans and their families, significant populations in several critical swing states, including Virginia and Colorado.

Obama talks regularly, in both official and campaign appearances, of his administration’s efforts to help veterans and their families. He describes job-training programs for returning service members, reminds audiences that al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch and touts his wind-down, as promised, of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — hugely popular among service members and voters generally.

Romney has focused on Obama’s ongoing drawdown in Afghanistan, which he said has been going too quickly. He also has launched on-the-ground attacks in Virginia and elsewhere blaming the president for looming defense cuts that will take effect in January if a budget deal isn’t struck with Congress.

On Monday in front of the VFW, Obama will announce Transition GPS, an effort to improve an existing federal program, the Transition Assistance Program, intended to help service members make the transition from military to private-sector life. According to a White House official who requested anonymity to talk ahead of the president’s speech, the program has offered pre-separation counseling and a voluntary, three-day workshop from the Departments of Labor, Defense and Veterans Affairs, available only at select military installations and attended by less than half of separating service members.

Now, the program will include more education and training and will be mandatory for all departing service members, with some exceptions, the official said. The workshop will last five to seven days. The new program is expected to be in place by 2013.

After his speech in Reno, Obama will travel to Oakland, Calif., for a fundraising roundtable featuring 25 supporters who paid $35,800 each to attend. The president will also attend a fundraising dinner at a private home, with 60 people who also paid $35,800 each. Obama will end the day with a larger event at the Fox Theater. All proceeds will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee for the president’s reelection campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state party committees.

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