What the 2016 Presidential front-runners say (and don’t say) about vets on their websites
Here at Veterans Action Network, we want to know how this year’s presidential election affects Veterans. A flurry of issues face the next president. VA healthcare, Veteran suicide rates, the mulling of combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an influx of new Veterans into the VA system are just a few of the many issues that should be a priority for the next president’s administration.
There’s no shortage of problems within Veteran-related care that presidential candidates should know and understand. While it might be easy to pay lip service to some of these problems in a debate or campaign speech, how many of the presidential candidates have a plan? One crucial place to look is a candidate’s campaign website.
To save you the trouble, we did a quick check of the Republican and Democrat presidential front-runners to see who specifically talks about Veterans on their website and who doesn’t.
The former Florida Governor has a “robust” section on his campaign website about Veterans. Some of the many highlights include reducing privatization, his “record” with Veterans as governor of Florida, and a seven step plan for Veterans.
Bush also supports giving the VA secretary more control over staff, including firing staff. This is a popular stance among most of the presidential candidates because in 2014 the Washington Post reported current VA Secretary Bob McDonald as having said he couldn’t just walk into a room and fire someone.
Bush also wants to update the scheduling system for Veteran healthcare appointments, allow Veterans to use the GI Bill for small business loans, and reduce military cuts to maintain troop levels. He also offers detailed information on improving female Veteran healthcare and expanding employment opportunities for all Veterans.
All in all, Bush’s plan for fixing the VA and improving Veteran-related services may not be much different from other candidates, but he does offer plenty of information and a detailed plan.
The New Jersey Governor has a quick and easy three part solution to help all Veterans: “anytime and anywhere care, qualified leadership at the VA, and a 24/7 hotline for Veterans suffering from mental health issues.” That’s about it.
As we’ve noted before, Cruz has said little about Veterans in the media. True to point, the Texas Senator has no information nor a statement about Veterans on his presidential campaign website. Does this mean that Cruz has it out for Veterans? Probably not. But so far, his comments about Veteran-related issues have been quieter than most.
The John Hopkins Children’s Center pediatric neurosurgeon is another blank slate on Veteran issues for his campaign website. While he does have plenty to say about the strategy to defeat ISIS and other applicable issue areas, Carson fails to mention a specific plan for former men and women in uniform.
As mentioned in a previous post, Bernie Sanders is an unlikely advocate for Veterans. According to his campaign website Sanders authored the Veterans’ Access, Choice and Accountability Acts; was a co-sponsor for the 9/11 GI Bill; introduced legislation to restore previous cuts to military pensions; and co-sponsored the Women Veterans Access to Quality Care Act.
Sanders’ brief lists of promises to Veterans if elected president include expanding dental care to all Veterans, expanding mental health services and the VA Caregivers Program, improving the VA claim for compensation process, and fully funding and expanding the VA.
Despite his extreme left leanings, Sanders has never been shy of supporting those that served in the military. It might run parallel to his voting record and lack of support of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, but the Vermont senator seems to legitimately see Veterans as a top priority.
Clinton has an extremely detailed section about Veterans on her website. When Clinton was a United States senator, she served on the Armed Forces Committee and played a role in expanding benefits for active-duty military personal, as well as Veterans and their families. This included working with Republicans like Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and Lindsey Graham.
Clinton’s solutions for improving the VA and expanding Veteran care are similar and mainstream to other candidates (reform Veteran healthcare, modernize the VA, create a Veteran-centric model of service, etc.).
Much like Jeb Bush, Trump’s website offers a long and torrid summary of how he would tackle Veteran issues. Trump is a supporter of privatizing VA healthcare by allowing any Veteran to receive care at any medical facility.
Like his other colleagues, Trump hits on constituent reforms echoed on both sides of the political aisle: modernizing the VA, firing bureaucratic officials, and improving nearly every service for our Veterans. And of course, Trump says that we wants to “make the VA great again.”
One of the Florida senator’s main accomplishments was authoring legislation that made it easier for VA officials to fire employees. Rubio is also a big supporter of letting Veterans go outside the VA for healthcare and to better protect whistleblowers from any retaliation.
His plans to help Veterans include accreditation reform. These reforms would carry over training completed by Veterans during their service to count in the civilian workforce of a similar career field. Reversing sequestration is another goal of a Rubio presidency.
A candidate that fails to mention Veterans on his or her campaign website can still be a powerful advocate for Veteran causes. Many of the presidential candidates may be fierce supporters of certain issues with little information provided on their website.
But candidates who put pen to paper and speak regularly about ways to improve issues facing the Veteran community may be more likely to keep those priorities if they are elected. Keep an eye open for candidates who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk when it comes to solving the many issues our Veterans face.