Veterans reform and military personnel issues are set to take center stage in the presidential election as candidates prepare for the final months of their marathon campaigns.
On Thursday, officials from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America announced plans for a Sept. 7 town hall forum with both Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Party candidate Donald Trump on "national security, military affairs and veterans issues."
The event will be in New York less than a week after both candidates address American Legion members during their annual convention in Cincinnati, covering similar topics.
The extended focus on veterans issues just as the campaign enters its final three months should put a boosted national spotlight on military community issues that many veterans worry the general public often overlooks.
"The quality of the discussion around veterans issues has now reached a long-overdue tipping point," said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of IAVA. "Finally, we'll be able to focus the candidates and the national media on issues like veterans suicide, VA reform, support for women veterans and defending the GI Bill.
"After 15 years of war, it's about time."
Both candidates have offered robust veterans and military reform plans in recent months, but the details of those plans have gotten far less scrutiny from the general public than topics like trade and the economy.
Clinton has promised an overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs without moving patients and resources outside the system. She has also vowed to protect GI Bill benefits and promised a host of personnel policy changes to provide military families more flexibility and control in duty assignments.
Trump outlined a 10-point plan for veterans reforms in July, including more access to civilian sector doctors for veterans waiting too long for VA appointments and stricter accountability within the department to root out waste and incompetence.
But beyond appearances such as the candidates' speeches at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in July, details of those plans haven't received much discussion or attention.
That's in part due to military-related gaffes by Trump. In the last few weeks alone, he has worked to deflect criticism of a Gold Star father and explain awkward comments about receiving a Purple Heart as a gift from a veteran.
But it is also due to broader interest in the candidates' foreign policy plans, an issue that routinely ranks among the top concerns of voters. While important, veterans groups have said that what happens to troops after the wars overseas needs to be elevated in national discussions as well.
The IAVA forum, to be broadcast on NBC networks, will be held in New York City just before the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Details on the format and moderators will be announced in coming weeks.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.