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Mitt Romney vows to help veterans find jobs

INDIANAPOLIS — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told veterans on Wednesday that he would make finding jobs for them a priority as he accused Democratic President Obama of weakening the nation’s defenses.

Evoking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — referring to ‘‘a plume of smoke on a clear blue morning’’ — Romney said protecting the country is the president’s highest duty. He told veterans meeting in Indiana that he has already started planning how to change veterans’ services to help them during a Romney administration.

‘‘I’m going to make reforming that agency a personal priority,’’ Romney said, ticking through a series of policy promises.

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He said he would allow GI Bill beneficiaries to attend any public school at in-state tuition rates, encourage states to create a common system to recognize credentials veterans have earned through military training, and allow veterans to seek care from the active duty military’s Tricare health program if they can’t get timely services from the Veterans Administration.

Romney criticized the series of automatic defense cuts that will begin in January 2013 unless Congress acts to stop it. His vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, voted to approve the legislation that authorized those cuts alongside reductions in domestic spending.

The American Legion speech in Indiana gave Romney an opportunity to assail his Democratic opponent far from the stage in Tampa, where others are focused on introducing the GOP candidates to the American people. Speakers at the Republican National Convention have been highlighting Romney’s foreign policy credentials.

Obama, campaigning in Virginia, accused his opponent of offering words but no action.

‘‘He likes to talk tough but he doesn’t have a lot of details when it comes to these critical issues,’’ the president said.

Romney began his remarks by acknowledging the tropical storm churning over the Gulf Coast, flooding communities in Louisiana and threatening lives.

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‘‘Our thoughts are of course with the people of the Gulf Coast states,” he said.

Behind the scenes, GOP officials said Romney and his team were considering a visit to the hurricane strike zone, but they said there were no current plans to change Romney’s convention schedule.