Where Do the Presidential Front-Runners Stand on Military Spending and Providing for Veterans?
We previously wrote about where the presidential front-runners stand on combating ISIS. While it’s still early in the presidential election, we thought we would look at what candidates have (or haven’t) said about military funding and Veteran-related care.
Let’s start with someone who has said surprisingly little about Veterans. In November 2015, the Boston Globe reported Ted Cruz saying that “if elected president, he would hold the US Department of Veterans Affairs and its employees accountable for ‘falsely denying care’ and ‘anyone criminally liable will be prosecuted.’”
Aside from criticizing Marco Rubio, Cruz has publicly said very little about defense spending or Veterans. He also voted against the Defense Authorization Act—the bill carrying most of the military funding—three times while serving in the United States Senate. Cruz may claim to be a friend for Veterans, but he is a quiet advocate at this point on the campaign trail.
Marco Rubio has adamantly stuck by his proposal to eliminate bureaucratic barriers to remove VA employees. According to his campaign website, Rubio “introduced legislation allowing secretaries of the VA to remove any VA employee based on performance or misconduct.”
Rubio has been quoted consistently to give the VA secretary greater firing power (see this October 2015 report from CBS News and this May 2015 report from the Orlando Sentinel). Rubio wants to reverse sequestration, “saying benefits should ‘follow’ the veteran similar to how tuition benefits in the GI Bill follow students.” He is also one of the few candidates who has a detailed section on Veterans and military spending on his campaign website.
A controversial figure among the Republican front-runners for president is Dr. Ben Carson, who has blatantly said we should get rid of the VA. According to a January 2016 article from the Military Times, Carson said “We don’t need a Department of Veteran Affairs. Veterans Affairs should be folded in under the Department of Defense.”
Carson’s claim is that absorbing the VA into the Department of Defense will shrink the size of government. Dr. Carson’s comments might seem extreme and expensive, but he clarifies his statements that the VA “should be eliminated to forge a 21st century veterans’ health care solution.”
One of the more shocking findings is the support Bernie Sanders has shown for Veterans. The Boston Globe reported in June 2015 that Veterans give Sanders credit for working with Republicans to pass a $16 billion bill to reduce wait times at Veteran’s hospitals. A larger, $24 billion bill for Veterans was blocked in Congress.
In February 2014, USA Today pointed out that even though Sanders wants to cut defense spending and the military budget, he is the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Sanders also voted against the Iraq War (twice), and even though he is the most liberal of all the candidates, he is a champion for Veteran causes.
Hillary Clinton may be the most moderate of all of the candidates when it comes to comments on defense spending and Veteran-related issues. CNN reported her as saying that she wants to “‘modernize’ the struggling agency” and “institute a top to bottom review…” Clinton has even gone so far as to call the privatization of VA health care “…a betrayal, plain and simple…”
Clinton did pass some of the first Congressional legislation on traumatic brain injuries, worked with Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Hagal to increase benefits for Veterans, and has across the board messaging on reducing suicides for Veterans and promoting employment. Clinton also wants to create a high-level commission to examine defense spending.
Lastly, we have Donald Trump. Trump has a large portion of his website dedicated to Veteran issues in what he creatively calls the Trump Plan. The Trump Plan covers every facet of Veteran care, from more funding for PTSD to modernizing the VA and putting more Veterans back to work. Trump has also said he would “cut military spending, but still make the armed forces powerful.”
Hopefully this information helps break down the mystery of some the front-runners’ stances on Veteran and military spending. As the presidential race continues, we will bring you more information on where the leading candidates stand on these and other important issues.