Veterans, Servicemembers, and Military Families
My father was a U.S. Marine and served our country in Vietnam, my grandfather served in the European theater during WWII and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. They fought and protected our democracy alongside many of their fellow Americans from all walks of life. They also served in an era when it was taken for granted that every generation would serve their country. I grew up around their commitment to service and while I myself did not serve, I have hired and worked with many veterans, and have a first-hand appreciation for the skills and character that are common to our veterans.
At our best, our country should see veterans as a resource. They have already proven their mettle and commitment. Providing them with education, healthcare and employment when they return to civilian life is not just the morally right thing to do — it’s the smart thing to do. But we also need to realize that our veterans have real and unique stresses and challenges, from PTSD to reintegration into civilian society.
When military service was more widely spread throughout the electorate, we understood those challenges more directly. That’s no longer the case. As we’ve shifted to an all-volunteer force, that experience is increasingly localized to isolated military communities. And when less than one percent of the population is shouldering the burden to fight our country’s wars and armed conflicts, it is too easy for most of us to ignore their sacrifice. This has led to a situation where we are committed to maintaining the pre-eminent military in the world (a good thing) but have become far too willing to put our service members in harm’s way, and lost our commitment to provide those veterans with the support they need when they come home.
How I will support veterans, servicemembers, and military families:
- Make the VA a leader in national health care reform by filling the estimated 30,000 vacancies with qualified doctors and medical staff, employing improved technology, and continuing to reduce wait times at VA health facilities.
- Update the medical record-keeping system to include modernization of the VA’s and Department of Defense’s IT healthcare systems as well as integrate the DOD and VA networks in order to ease the transfer of care.
- Block efforts to privatize the VA health care system. Markets are inherently efficient, but come with the risk of price and supply volatility. And while competitive markets include for-profit businesses, the existence of a for-profit business does not imply the existence of a market. Since we should never tolerate price or supply volatility in the health care we provide our veterans, there is no economic argument to privatize the VA.
- Strengthen and expand the 2014 Choice Act that enables veterans to obtain care from private doctors under certain circumstances.
- Expand mental health services for veterans and servicemembers to meet the urgent mental health needs of our veterans. The risk of suicide among veterans is, alarmingly, 22 percent higher than the rate among civilians. This crisis calls for an immediate increase in coordination between the Department of Defense and the VA.
- Improve VA services for our 2 million female veterans, including through support for the Deborah Samson Act which will enhance access to earned services and reduce disparity in care. I support this Act for improving peer to peer counseling services, enhancing gender-specific VA health care, improving the quality of care for infants as well expanding the availability of legal services for female veterans.
- Support the inclusion of all qualified Americans who want to serve their country in the military. I will protect the rights of LGBT members who are bravely serving in our military and I oppose President Trump’s ban on transgender service in the military as unnecessary and discriminatory. The military has long been at the forefront of equal opportunity, recognizing that the best military employs the best people – not just the ones that fit a specific racial, gender or sexuality profile. We should take pride in that history, not regress to a less tolerant era.
- Support programs to address and prevent sexual assault and domestic violence in the military as well as gender specific programs to treat PTSD suffered by military victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
- Expand and increase coordination among job training and business programs so veterans have the comprehensive tools and networks they need to find a good job or start their own business. I will support and work to enhance the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services available through the VA to help vets with job training, resume development, job seeking skills coaching and starting their own business. I am committed to enhancing the effectiveness and ease of access to such programs as the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service available through the US Department of Labor.
- Fully fund the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and allow servicemembers to transfer their benefits to family members. I support the preservation of Gainful Employment and Borrower’s Defense legislation to protect veterans against fraud, waste and abuse in relation to educational and employment opportunities. I will support existing programs such as Yellow Ribbon, Tuition-Assistance, and Survivors and Dependents education assistance through the VA Department.