The United States is the greatest nation on the face of the planet because of the brave men and women who have stood up to defend it. Their actions and dedication are what allows us to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We honor and remember our service members on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, but that is not enough. We, as a nation, owe so much more; and it’s time we fulfill our promise. We do that by making sure that our armed services are the best trained, equipped and supported fighting force in history. But that’s only part of the story.
We have to care for our veterans once their service has come to an end and I think there are three core issues we must address.
- Establishing outplacement/transition programs. The armed services does a great job of recruiting personnel and creating a pathway for success in the service. I want to see strong effort put into helping our service men and women begin their lives and careers after their service. I believe that the armed services can develop solid working relationships with area communities and employers to provide a pathway for success for service members nearing their end of term. I would like to see a program in which individuals are teamed with companies where they can begin working in the private sector, while still functioning in the military world. In this model, employers would be able to train and develop new employees, without having to carry the salary and benefit costs of the trainee. If the employer hires the individual after their term of service is complete, and keeps them fully employed for a certain period of time, then we should reward the employer with a tax credit that will offset a portion of the expense. In this program, our Veterans are able to walk off the base and into a career that they are already comfortable performing, giving them a greater chance to successfully transition to the private sector.
- Providing excellent health care. In recent years it has come to light that the V.A. Health System has greatly deteriorated to the point that our veterans are no longer able to get quality, timely, comprehensive health care. With the recent leadership turnover in the Veteran’s Administration, we are beginning to see changes that are designed to reduce wait times, and allow for visits to medical professionals that are close by when there is no V.A. within a certain distance. While this is a good start, I believe we need to do more. I propose that we expand the capacity of our V.A. facilities so that we can eliminate long waiting periods for healthcare. We should allow greater freedom for our service members to receive help and treatment from medical facilities in their local community, whether or not they are V.A. facilities. In addition, we need to work with local providers and facilities to establish visiting professional credentials so that our V.A. doctors and specialists can travel to our people in need of service, making use of the facilities in the local community. These operational changes, along with a driven focus on the satisfaction of the patients in our facilities, will put us back on the right track.
- Addressing Mental Health Issues. All too often, the sacrifices we ask our veterans to make in their service become scars that they must bear on the home front. Yet, we know that with proper mental health care and counseling, we can guide our veterans through these difficult issues, helping them return to the life they fought so hard to protect. For that reason, we must make sure that comprehensive mental health services are available to every veteran at all times. We must also work to eliminate the stigma that can be associated with mental health issues, so that they can be openly discussed and proactively addressed. Not every veteran has mental health issues, but the ones that do, deserve our support. I want us to meet that responsibility.