• October 2007: He didn't vote on another version of the Defense Authorization Act, which included billions of dollars in funding for veterans' health-care services.

• February 2006: He voted against the amendment proposed by Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, which would have appropriated the aforementioned $1 billion for hospital improvements at places like Walter Reed and also included $14 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration for Compensation and Pensions for 2006-2010 and $6.9 billion for the VA for medical care for 2006-2010.

• November 2005: He voted against an amendment that would have provided $500 million each year from 2006 to 2010 for "readjustment counseling, related mental health services, and treatment and rehabilitative services for veterans with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance use disorder."

• October 2005: McCain voted against an amendment that would have required that funding for the VA health administration be increased each year to adjust for inflation and the number of veterans served.

• March 2004: He voted against closing tax loopholes to create a reserve fund to allow for an increase in medical care for veterans by $1.8 billion.

On a Friday afternoon at the Justa Center, almost every seat in the house is taken. One woman sleeps sitting up, a half-full plastic cup of water in her hand.

Ralph Holland is here. He's waiting to hear about his VA benefits. Gray-haired, in a baseball cap, with tattoos for his Navy service and his daughter's duty in the Marine Corps, Holland served two tours of duty in Vietnam but waited until he broke his hand many years later to go to the VA.

For a long time, he didn't want to admit that he'd been to Vietnam — he figured everyone would think him a baby-killer or a drug addict. But now Holland's down on his luck, so he's put in for some help. The only program the VA has available, he says, is for vets with substance-abuse issues, one of the few problems that Holland doesn't have.

He figures it will be a while — if ever — before he gets help from the VA.

"Their way is to put you off until you either die or go away," he says. "That's the consensus of just about every vet I've talked to."

Contact the author at editorial@westword.com.

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