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American Legion convention -- and Obama -- revisit Minnesota

The American Legion National Convention returns to its roots in Minneapolis this year for the annual gathering of thousands of veterans and friends.

And barely more than two weeks after his most recent visit, President Barack Obama again will appear in Minnesota -- this time to speak at the conference.

The 2011 convention, which kicked off Friday, is back in Minneapolis after 15 years, revisiting the city where the first meeting took place in 1919.

The Legion invites the president, as commander in chief, to its gathering each year, said Dan Ludwig, a Red Wing resident and former American Legion national commander.

"Sometimes they give political speeches and sometimes it's a speech with more substance in it," Ludwig said of those presidents who have accepted.

During his Tuesday morning talk, Obama likely will touch on major issues he has highlighted recently, such as getting veterans returning from Iraq and Afghan-istan back to work.

"The unemployment problem is the No. 1 concern for veterans," said Bob Davis, Goodhue County Veterans Service Officer.

Davis said he expects Obama also to talk about revamping Veterans Affairs procedures so claims are processed more quickly.

Minnesota typically doesn't have as many problems as other areas with this issue, he said, and in fact is involved in pilot programs testing ways to improve VA service.

"We want to speed up claims processing so it's done faster and correctly the first time," Davis said.

Those issues were also the main points of discussion when Obama met with veterans in Cannon Falls after his town hall-style meeting Aug. 15, Davis said.

Danielle Nordine writes for the Republican-Eagle, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.