Politics are messy, and if you’re like me it can be incredibly difficult to engage in political conversations of current times. It seems to be a mixture of arguing and name calling with twist of reality television thrown in there. After you get through the attack ads and click-bait headlines, it is critical to remember that we are electing the next President of the United States who will have to navigate our country through lingering wars, an enemy with ruthless tactics, and continuously proposed cuts to the Department of Defense.
How will you vote?
We all have our histories that shape who we are. Memories and life experiences shape our beliefs and values. Our lives as military-connected individuals may affect how we look at politics and who we vote for. For me personally, it does. So hearing what candidates say and do regarding our military is something of great importance. We have watched over the years as promises have been made, broken or forgotten. There is so much at play when one actually gets into office that what they say now may, or may not, come to pass. Still, I think it’s important to pay attention and do one’s own research on each candidate, whether it concerns their stance on military issues or another issue close to your heart.
And Then There Were Three
As voters prepare for this summer’s national conventions, three candidates remain at the forefront – real estate mogul Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Stark differences exist between the choices and voters have expressed some concerns over policy stances. Let’s review where they stand on those issues directly impacting today’s military community.
Veterans Health Care
In the sprint of 2014, issues within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made national headlines when reports were coming to light of veterans dying while waiting to receive care. The initial response was a change of leadership for the department and a pledge by the new Secretary, Bob McDonald, to address the problems swiftly. However, the military community grappled with the knowledge of this inadequate care for far longer than a news cycle. Watching your friends with wounded spouses struggle with the VA has been a years-long, heart wrenching process. Reform is still very much needed, but where do our candidates stand?
Every candidate has mentioned improving the VA and taking care of our veterans. You can count on some movement in this category. For example, Senator Sanders has long advocated that if our country can send troops to war, it needs to be able to take care of them when they return. He authored the Veterans’ Access, Choice and Accountability Act and co-sponsored a bill to improve the access female veterans have to gynecological care. He states that, if elected, he will expand mental health care, focus on veteran caregivers, and “fully fund and expand the VA so that every veteran gets the care that he or she has earned and deserves,” according to his website.
Secretary Clinton, whose father served in World War II, worked to expand healthcare for National Guardsmen and Reservists. Additionally, she worked with Senator McCain to build a rehabilitation center for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Her goals include providing veterans with timely and high quality care, and blocking efforts to privatize the VA.
Reading Trump’s plan is bound to get some veterans excited. Forcing the VA to provide better care because they would be competing for dollars, instead of being the only game in town is something that sounds like it could work. He wants veterans to have the option to choose where they get their care. His website also outlines goals to take care of the “whole veteran” – physical and psychological care, by increasing services for PTSD, TBI, and suicide prevention.
Our Current Military
What about the future of our military? Those of us in the life, not yet transitioning out of the military or retired, want to know what the future holds. Clinton’s presidential promises include supporting the military, in and out of the uniform, and improving the quality of life for military families. The Sanders plan for our current military, however, is one that may seem different. His focus remains on shoring up diplomacy and utilizing our military as a true last resort. While he agrees that having a modernized and well-prepared military is important, being prudent with the Pentagon’s budget is something that is important to him. Republican candidate Donald Trump talks about increasing funding for job placement services for transitioning military members, hiring veterans to care for veterans, and building up the military to counter current threats.
Despite your party affiliation, there is a clear message of care for our military that is being conveyed by each of the campaigns. We made the national conversation, but what happens in an election cycle doesn’t always translate to action once elected. So whether you have decided #ImWithHer or you want to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain or maybe you #FeelTheBern, do your homework before making it to the voting booth or post your questions here and we will do the research for you. There is much more to each candidate than what goes viral on social media.