I spent all week in Nevada talking with veterans, working to get on Presidential ballots, and starting to prepare for the January 28 Independent Presidential Debate in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
I heard more stories this week about the frustrations facing our veterans – the Insanity of online medical records and online benefit applications; the total frustration of not getting through on the phone; years-long efforts to update records so they include new marriages and new children; and answers that only come if the veteran downloads old forms and uploads new information (nope – this is not your father’s VA). The anger – so often close to the surface – is aimed at the VA in general, local bureaucracies that do not recognize the laws regarding veteran benefits and of course the daily barrage of news about veterans in trouble, veterans in prison and 22 veteran suicides a day.
Yes, there are great success stories I get to hear about – from Veteran Treatment Courts and local veteran-staffed programs such as the Wounded Warriors Project to beautiful new families, graduations and new jobs of all kinds. Still, I believe our government and our nation’s promises to our veterans remain unmet.
I’ve written a lot about veteran issues and the shameful failures of our government to address these issues. I published a strategic plan to transform the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) along with an article on Veteran Suicide and Moral Injury and another co-authored with Steve Sanson, President of Veterans in Politics International, on Veterans in Prison. And still, I learn something new every time I talk with one of our veterans.
I’ve made the commitment to choose a veteran to be my Vice Presidential running mate. I have a strategic plan to transform the VA that will make a true difference in the daily lives of veterans. My White House will move forward with this plan beginning on Day 1. I’m ready and I do not need on-the-job training to transform our government – including the VA – so that America works for all of us with no one left out.
The week also included planning meetings with my state campaign manager. We literally mapped out a route to meet with supporters and collect signatures – which depending on the document we read would be either 5,431 or 10,137 signatures. Ah, the joys of running as an independent candidate for President!
In my spare time (!!!), I got serious about debate preparations. You try it – you have 90 seconds to introduce yourself and describe (aim for plain language) the most important reasons you are doing what you do. Or this one – choose any problem confronting our nation and describe how to fix it in 60 seconds. I’m truly enjoying this part of the challenge – stay tuned and tune in on January 28 to the Independent Presidential Debate.