In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln created a facility: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan”. In the 21st century, a new mission is required for the Department of Veterans Affairs: To provide world-class services and benefits to our veterans and their families. Some VA medical facilities and VA healthcare professionals are excellent. Overall, the VA system is an abysmal failure.
About 100 VA facilities are now under investigation for negligence, unlicensed physicians, unsanitary conditions, misuse of opioid medications and lies about excessive wait times for appointments. At the same time, twenty veterans commit suicide every day, 38% of our veterans suffer from chronic pain, 41% have service-related hearing loss, 80% were exposed to environmental hazards (burn pits), and 19% have Traumatic Brain Injury.
New research shows some Post-Traumatic Stress may instead be brain injuries from Improvised Explosive Devices. The 2017 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) survey found only 16% of veterans believe the American public understands their sacrifices.
As the Green Party candidate for New York’s 21st district, I am proposing a roadmap to transform the VA. To implement this new vision, I propose six clear goals:
Goal 1: Provide World-Class Health Care for Veterans and Their Families
Goal 2: Deliver World-Class Services and Fully Fund Veterans Choice Programs
Goal 3: Use 21st Century Technology
– Call Congressional hearings on VA-DoD failure to build health records system
Goal 4: Organizational Excellence
– Send 100 consulting teams into facilities under investigation to lead changes
Goal 5: Build Partnerships and Programs where Veterans Help Veterans
Goal 6: Change Performance Measure to Focus on Veteran Health Outcomes
How will we pay for world-class services? The Pentagon has some responsibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs mess. In 2014, the Pentagon spent $1 billion to destroy $16 billion of outdated, banned or unstable ammunition. I propose we move that $17 billion from the Department of Defense to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Why do we go to war?
We use the .01% of Americans who serve in the military to bear the entire burden of why America goes to war and recent history is filled with bad reasons for going to war. As an #NY21 Congressional candidate, I believe transforming the VA goes along with honest, national conversations about war and peacebuilding.
See some of my previous articles on veterans issues: