As the field for Florida’s’ open US senate seat narrows down, the remaining candidates are making more frequent campaign stops. Today, Betty castor, one of the 3 democratic candidates for Senate, took a tour of the Veterans Administrations’ Nursing home facility. WMNF’s Andrew Stelzer was there and filed this report. ----------------

SOUND “My name is betty castor…how long have you been here…16 years… so you’ve been in the system a long time…�

ACT “Disabled veterans have been telling me that their retirement has been cut….�

Betty Castor is running for the US senate spot that will be vacant when Senator Bob Graham retires this fall. Castor is facing competition form both parties, including 2 Democrats; U.S. Representative Peter Deutsch, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas. 8 republicans are still vying for their parties’ nomination. Castors strength may be education; she served a president of the University of South Florida. She also served as a Hillsborough county commissioner. In her visit to the VA nursing home on Busch Boulevard, Castor spoke highly of the facility, which hasn’t had the same computer problems as the Bay Pines center. But there still is a long waiting list for care.

ACT “Overall, I think we can be doing a much better job with our veterans..great burden..Bright spots…prescription drug….should have adopted it….I’ve been concerned about homeless veterans.�

Castor says the opening of a new VA center in Orlando, which is already being planned, will help solve the overcrowding problem. She said one of the veterans related issues she’s working on it trying to change a policy which doesn’t let vets on disability continue to receive retirement payments.

ACT “I think it is outrageous that someone who ha retirement pay has their other pay deducted…if you have disability you cant get your retirement as well...Congress only took care of half of the problem.�

SOUND “Originally I was born in massachuettes..Were you in the army? I was in the airforce..Where were you in the airforce..In the states.�

Castor spoke with patients’ doctors and administrators on her tour of the VA center, including Claudia Digae, the chief of geriatrics at the VA

ACT ‘Being a physician I’m mostly concerned about healthcare..Vets are fortunate we get more than most in the community…VA is better than most but threes room for improvement, staffing is a big issues…Do you think most people who work here want nationalized healthcare…I suspect that most do probably see the merits of a national system…VA gets a bad rep…there is one thing people are starting to realize we have a great medical record….so what about the war that’s going on right now, are we going to have a surge…well if history continues the way it has..Many of us would hope that veterans wont�

ACT ‘One of the nurses upstairs says that we need a nationalized healthcare program. I think we ought to provide insurance to all Americans in some way….I helped found kidcare...healthy families.�

ACT “The other real challenge is reaching out to veterans that are homeless…�

ACT ‘On homeless..We need to reach out to homeless people. It’s not enough to simply transfer the problem to one or another…�

ACT “Today the US is going to the UN, asking for exemption…. I would be very cautious about that provision at this time. We need to be reaching out to the UN and NATO to help build a multi national force..�

Chalmers Nickles, who fought in Vietnam, and Ed Turrett, who fought in the Second World War didn’t get a chance to speak to Betty Castor, but Nickels knows of her because he has two kids who attended USF, where Castor was the schools President. They both told WMNF that funding services for veterans of war should be a focus for any Senator.

ACT “The men and women in Iraq are getting wounded severely…the waiting time is already too long..It takes too long to get a claim in…everyone thinks about how many are killed every day…but what about the wounded� “…I agree with him..They say the governments going broke well that’s a crock, the gov can find money when they need it, I hate Iraq..take care of the veterans..

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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