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Improve care of veterans Next president needs to act to make sure promise is kept

If there was one encouraging area of agreement between John McCain and Barack Obama at their first debate, it was in the urgent need for the country to care better for its wounded veterans, especially those coming home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Both candidates made a point of the poor treatment veterans are receiving when they come home. Both sounded sincere, though McCain's history in Vietnam gave his declaration special weight. The shame of it is, seven years after 9/1 1, 5 1/2 years after the invasion of Iraq and almost two years after disclosure of the shocking conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the country still is abusing those whom it sent to war.

And while the country's newest veterans may be especially vulnerable to underfunding of medical care, they are not alone. Recently, a Buffalo News story reported the case of Delonne J. Scharf, a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War, who had to fight the Department of Veterans Affairs for follow-up cancer surgery and tests.

He won that battle last month. Because Buffalo's Veterans Hospital is overwhelmed, the new procedures will be performed at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. In the meantime his cancer, first spotted below his right ankle, may have spread.

This is intolerable. Even in the midst of a financial crisis, the country needs to do better than this. Not only is it morally correct to care for those who have borne the battle, it is strategically urgent if the military hopes to continue filling its services with volunteers.

It is, of course, pro forma for presidential hopefuls to say they will care for veterans. What candidate could say anything else? Yet there is reason to believe that Obama and McCain are serious about improving care that is too often lacking. Whoever wins next month needs to follow through.

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