Providing Veterans With Their Much Deserved Support
Our veterans are some of the best and brightest citizens we have. To be willing to put their lives on the line so that the rest of us may exercise our freedom is something I am in awe of. I have a deep sense of gratitude for the women and men that serve in our armed forces. It saddens me that some Veterans don’t always have access to the best care and attention that they have earned. That’s why, if I am elected president, I will work closely with veteran advocacy groups to put forth policies that matter most to our nation’s active duty service members and veterans.
Every day, an average of 16 U.S. veterans commit suicide. We must not stop working until every veteran and service member has access to the best mental healthcare and community support. I will direct my VA Secretary to make suicide prevention a top priority.
Furthermore, it’s time that we drastically improve services for women veterans, especially in light of the fact that women are taking on bigger roles and responsibilities in our military, both in support and combat roles. In fact, the number of men serving in the military is expected to decrease over the next five years, while the number of women is expected to continue to increase. Other than the Department of Defense itself, the Veteran’s Administration is the largest agency in our government. The women and men of the VA are doing extraordinary work every day to care for our veterans and their families. But we can and should do more.
When our service members come home from service, it is critical that they get the support they deserve. As our brave women and men of the military are transitioning out of service and reintegrating back into society, the right support can make all the difference during their transition and in the ensuing months and years. Many veterans don’t even know about the variety of services that are available to support them, nor do they know how to take advantage of them. Solving this lack of outreach to veterans will involve coordinating efforts between the military, the veteran’s administration, and outside non-profit groups and community centers.
Indeed, organization and management will help. Former presidents and past secretaries of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA have made commitments to help bridge the gap between the DoD and the VA for transitioning veterans, and yet there is still no sustainable system to share something as simple and critical as electronic health records. When these two departments don’t share the data, what happens is veterans get lost in the transition from active duty back to civilian life. They end up not getting the care they need. For example – only 60 percent of all new veterans are registered for VA healthcare. National Guard members and reservists struggle in their transition between DoD and the VA. With so many different government agencies not sharing records, these veterans and service members often struggle to obtain their medical and service records, resulting in more delays in applying for VA benefits and services. We have the technology to integrate these silos of information, but past administrations and Congress have not delivered sustainable solutions. The time is now to prioritize these fixes.
Veteran homelessness is another regrettable, painful issue. Addressing this starts with preventing veterans from becoming homeless in the first place. The VA needs a more in-depth understanding of the number of veterans and service members at risk for homelessness. That means understanding who is coming home with PTSD, addiction, and other forms of mental health issues. That means we need more studies and more research into these topics. Many veterans have a hard time keeping housing. Many veterans come home to a broken family. Veterans end up going from place to place, and many can’t find long-term employment. A more manageable system that studies the influences that cause homelessness, and that tracks the needs of veterans, is morally required.
The future of our country and the world depends on our nation’s brave young women and men to continue defending democracy at home and abroad. For those who are willing to raise their hand and swear an oath to protect and defend our way of life, we can and we must do a better job of supporting their success during and after their great service and sacrifices for our freedom.
Lastly, one of the great ways to address this issue is to reduce the number of wars that we fight in the first place. Please see my section on national security for more details on my approach to creating peace in this world, instead of violence.
- Increase the staff of the VA. Across all its offices and departments, the VA has over 65,000 vacancies.
- Provide all veterans in need with affordable housing. A more manageable system that studies the influences that cause homelessness, and that tracks the needs of veterans, is morally required.
- Ensure free community college and student loan amnesty for veterans.Many veterans went into the armed forces as a way to pay for their education. Making education more affordable will provide greater options to all Americans.
- Increase mental health services for veterans. This is not only good for the nation, but particularly useful for veterans.
- Create a U.S. Department of Peace. (See US Dept of Peace section). As a nation, our goal should be to eliminate war with other nations and create a path to peaceful, diplomatic global relations.
- Ensure all veterans know that there are resources available to them, and how to access the resources through comprehensive information services.
- Urge Congress to pass the Healthcare Fairness for Military Families Act (H.R. 475; S. 1972)
- Reform the Disability Compensation Rate process for VA Healthcare.
- Ensure full funding and resources for Reverse Boot Camp. Many people entering the military go through months/years of training and conditioning, but they prepare very little before reintegrating into the world. This program eases veteran suicide, homelessness, unemployment, transition issues, etc
- Prioritize the legalization of marijuana, psilocybin and access to plant-based medicines for veterans.
- Invest in more resources at the VA to combat Military sexual trauma (MST). 1 in 3 women and 1 in 50 men experience MST in the military.
- Fully resource VA to make veteran suicide prevention a priority. Our administration would demand full transparency of VA suicides, and also push for the understanding that veteran suicidal ideation is a natural consequence of war.
- Veto attempts to privatize the VA.
- Ensure abortion access at the VA and on U.S. military bases.
- Honor our commitments to Afghans and Iraqis who worked with our armed forces in the Middle East. We will do this by ensuring Congress passes the Afghan Adjustment Act (S. 4787).
- Ensure the VA is equipped for the high costs of care for veterans of the Iraq and Afghan Wars. By 2050, care costs will total approximately $2.5 trillion, and continue to rise as our veterans age. We must be prepared to take care of our service members.