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Debbie Wasserman Schultz, veterans groups defend President Barack Obama's record

Left-leaning veterans groups met in Tampa with Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Monday in advance of Tuesday's primary.

Her message: President Barack Obama's record on veterans issues – from reducing the number of homeless veterans to giving incentives to businesses that hire vets – stands in "dramatic contrast" to those of Republican nominees.

Leo Cruz, a U.S. Navy veteran from Orlando, attended the event held in a conference room of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County. About 60 veterans attended.

Cruz said Republican nominees have mischaracterized Obama's national security record. He singled out Mitt Romney for advocating the partial privatization of the Veterans Health Administration.

"We wanted to stand up and say not all of us are behind the Republican candidates," said Cruz, who is affiliated with the Truman National Security Project.

Eric Arens, a Vietnam-Era Navy veteran from Tampa, cited Obama's homeless initiative; the death of Osama bin Laden and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

"The president's record is speaking for itself," he said.

Jodie Tillman, Times staff writer