On Veterans Day, Hillary Rodham Clinton penned an op-ed in the Military Times in which she detailed her plans to help veterans and fix the issues with the Department of Veteran Affairs. She unveiled the full plan on Tuesday in New Hampshire. The full text of her op-ed can be read on the Military Times or below.
This Veterans Day is an opportunity to reaffirm that America’s promise to our veterans is a sacred responsibility. Yet today we are failing to keep faith with our veterans. Long wait times for health care, crippling claims backlogs, little or no coordination between different government agencies responsible for serving veterans — these problems are serious, systemic and absolutely unacceptable. They need to be fixed, and fixed now.
First, we have to reform the VA to guarantee that our veterans have reliable and consistent access to the high-quality health care they’ve earned. We should transform the Veterans Health Administration from just a provider of services into a truly integrated health care system.
If we can maintain the most advanced military in the history of the world and fight wars across vast oceans and continents, we can figure out how to ensure that no veterans ever have to wait in line for weeks or months to get care, no matter where they live or what their needs are.
It starts with accountability, from the top leadership at the VA to midlevel managers to entry-level employees. As president, I will personally convene the secretary of veterans affairs and the secretary of defense in regular joint meetings and direct them to sync up their systems, coordinate efforts at every level, and enforce zero tolerance for the kind of abuses and delays we’ve seen.
The VA currently uses more than 100 electronic health record systems, so different sites can’t talk to one another, much less with the Defense Department or other hospital systems. That doesn’t make any sense, and it does a disservice to our veterans.
As we work to improve the VA, I will fight as long and as hard as it takes to prevent Republicans from privatizing it as part of a misguided ideological crusade.
I believe in giving veterans more choice in where and how they receive care and I think there should be more partnerships between the VA and private hospitals and community health care providers. But we can’t put our vets at the mercy of private insurance companies without any care coordination, or leave them to fend for themselves with health care providers who have no expertise in the unique challenges facing veterans. Privatization is a betrayal, plain and simple.
Second, we need a VA for the 21st century, not the 20th, and that means serving an increasingly diverse community with new and different needs.
Women are making up a bigger and bigger percentage of the veterans community and the numbers will only grow in the years ahead. Yet too often, the VA system isn’t equipped to serve women. Nearly a third of VA clinics don’t have OBGYNs and, in some cases, women who lost limbs fighting for our country have found that the only prosthetics available are designed for men. That has to change.
As a senator on the Armed Services Committee during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I saw how the changing nature of warfare is affecting the men and women who serve, especially the scourge of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. We have to build on and learn from the ground-breaking research pioneered by the VA and Defense departments into post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and prosthetics so this new generation of veterans gets the care it needs.
We also have to make sure that veterans have access to mental health and substance abuse treatment. The number of veterans who commit suicide every day or who live homeless on the streets is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s a national disgrace that demands action.
Third, we have to invest in our vets and make sure that the men and women who risk their lives for our country have access to a good education and good jobs when they come home. As president, I will work to guarantee the Post-9/11 GI Bill for future generations. I was proud to co-sponsor it in the Senate and I will resist any effort to reduce it or roll it back. I will also close what’s known as the 90/10 loophole, which encourages for-profit schools to target service members, veterans and their families with false promises and deceptive marketing.
Fourth, we need to do more to support the families of service members and veterans. Service and sacrifice on the home front rarely gets the respect and recognition they deserve. The last decade has added only more strain on our military families, with long wars abroad and a tough economy here at home. I’m committed to expanding access to child care for military families on- and off-base, stepping up to help military spouses manage the challenges of frequent moves and find good jobs that work for them, and making sure that family members get access to mental health and substance abuse services, just like those who serve.
All of this is just the beginning. Our veterans have done so much for us; now we need to do more for them.
News Source: Military Times