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VFW Accuses White House of Snubbing Annual Convention

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Monday: President Obama speaks in the Rose Garden in Washington. (AP)

The Veterans of Foreign Wars convention this week will not feature a top-tier official from the Obama administration, a breach in tradition that the group's commander described as an "insult of the highest magnitude." 

However, an administration official claimed Monday that the White House made "every effort" to provide a speaker for the event, offering up a range of top officials. 

"In all instances, the VFW declined those offers," the official said. 

The veterans group is accustomed to playing host to the nation's most powerful people at its national conference. Obama addressed the VFW in 2009, followed by Vice President Biden in 2010. 

But the 2-million strong VFW accused the administration of snubbing its members by not providing a "first-tier speaker" for the first time in VFW history. 

"The VFW has had a long-standing tradition of inviting the sitting president to address our convention," Richard Eubank, national commander of the organization, said in a statement, adding that the White House typically chooses a "high-level administration official" to speak if the president cannot attend. 

"It is an insult of the highest magnitude that for the first time in the history of the VFW, the White House has apparently decided that this great and iconic organization of combat veterans and all of its members are not worthy of its notice by not at least offering a first-tier speaker from the administration." 

The senior administration official said the White House did offer several potential speakers, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. The Air Force pitched its secretary and chief of staff; the National Guard offered the Army National Guard director. 

It's not clear why they were turned down. The VFW did not return requests for comment. 

Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, will be addressing the convention. He noted that Obama will address the American Legion -- on Tuesday -- but explained that the president simply can't honor every speaking request. 

"The president and his administration continue to have deep respect and appreciation for our servicemembers and veterans, and this can be clearly seen in this administration's policies and actions," Earnest said. "The president receives many speaking requests throughout the year but he is unable to meet them all. ... And while the president will not be attending the VFW conference in person, he has transmitted to VFW a written message to be relayed to all conference attendees." 

Perhaps incidentally, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry was speaking at that conference Monday. 

The Texas governor's office initially did not respond to the VFW's invitation -- after Eubank last week chided Perry, along with Obama, the governor told the VFW he was able to adjust his schedule and attend. 

At the convention in San Antonio Monday, Perry stressed that American soldiers should be "led by American commanders," griping about international coalitions he described as "multilateral debating societies." 

Asked about the VFW convention Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not comment other than to say he doesn't think Perry's invitation factored into the administration's difficulty in fitting VFW into its schedule. 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another top GOP presidential candidate, is also scheduled to address the group this week. 

Fox News' Kelly Chernenkoff contributed to this report.