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ARLINGTON, Va. — Sen. Joe Lieberman said Wednesday that he is hearing from veterans and military families who are angry about poor health care, lengthy deployments, and Pentagon attempts to cut benefits such as family separation allowances.

The Connecticut lawmaker and Democratic presidential candidate told Stars and Stripes in a Wednesday interview that he knows that military members have traditionally voted Republican, but he is working to get their vote.

“There’s enough dissatisfaction in the ranks … with specific policies of the Bush administration that we have a chance of getting their support,” Lieberman said.

President Bush’s promise to the military that “help is on the way,’” which was one of Bush’s rallying cries during the 2000 presidential race, has never materialized, Lieberman said.

Instead, Lieberman said, the Bush administration has treated servicemembers with “arrogance,” with Pentagon officials refusing to “give adequate respect to the opinions [of general officers] at the three- and four-star level.”

“We’re all for the idea of civilian control of the military, but the military are the pros here,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman has his own “help” plan, a document he has dubbed the “Servicemembers and Veterans Bill of Rights.”

Lieberman said he will champion strong leadership, predictable deployments, competitive pay, family care, quality health care, no barriers to service, quality education, affordable housing and job opportunities.

Among the senator’s promises are to “right-size” the military, rationalize rotations and make deployments more predictable.”

Lieberman said he has not yet formulated the details of his right-sizing plan, but that “I don’t exclude the possibility of increasing the number of active-duty” Army.

Lieberman acknowledges that while he’s still in a battle with eight other Democrats, he must keep an eye on a one-on-one battle with a sitting president who has made national security the centerpiece of his administration.

“No candidate in 2004 will get elected who is not strong on defense,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman refuses to back down from his early and outspoken championship of the war in Iraq.

“I supported the war,” by co-sponsoring the Senate resolution authorizing President Bush to use military action to disarm Iraq. “I believed it was very much the right thing to do.”

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