State Rep. Mike Bost, a Republican running against U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, held roundtable discussions Friday in O'Fallon and his hometown of Murphysboro on issues concerning veterans.
Bost and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., met with about half a dozen metro-east residents at the VFW Hall in O'Fallon to talk about a bipartisan effort to make structural changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Such improvements include streamlining the computer systems between the VA and the Department of Defense to make the transition easier for military men and women, Bost said.
The conversation started with statements on veterans issues and then attendees asked questions on topics including Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service and a coal plant in Missouri.
Attendees came from O'Fallon, Carlyle, East Alton, Wood River and elsewhere. There were four Republican Precinct Committeemen in attendance, including John West of the St. Clair County Board.
After the roundtable discussion, David George, a Wood River precinct committeeman who served in the Army from 1972-75, said he believes Bost is the right candidate to improve the VA.
George, who is not affected by the service delays at the VA because he has insurance, said he is tired of Enyart "toeing the party line and doing everything President Obama wants."
Bost was in the Marines and his son went from active duty as a Marine to the Reserves last year. Bost has been a member of the state legislature since 1995.
During the roundtable, Bost and Collins said Enyart, D-Belleville, chose to be divisive when Enyart voted in October against allowing furloughed military chaplains to perform their duties during the federal government shutdown. And, the vote illustrates how much Enyart has lost touch with metro-east residents.
Collins, an Air Force reservist and chaplain and principle author of the resolution, said he was appalled by Enyart's recent comments lauding his lone vote against Collins' bill.
"To think we were dealing in a situation when ... we could come together, he chose to be divisive," Collins said.
Enyart, a former Illinois National Guard commander, defended his lone vote against the GOP chaplain bill, saying the piecemeal approach didn't do anything to solve the shutdown.
Enyart's campaign adviser Jason Bresler said Friday in a statement: "Major General Bill Enyart served our country in uniform for over 35 years, which is why he has held the VA accountable and wrote legislation to reduce the backlog, while Mike Bost is a career politician and Springfield insider who lobs negative attacks to hide his record of voting against common sense measures like tax credits for hiring veterans and expanding the state veterans home."
Enyart introduced the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act in May 2013 to reduce disability claims and voted for the VA Management Accountability Act to speedily remove unsatisfactory employees.
Enyart was elected in 2012 to represent the Illinois 12th District in Congress, replacing longtime representative Jerry Costello, D-Belleville.