Serving Those Who Served
The American military represents the best of who we are and what we can be. The women and men of our Armed Forces come from every corner of America and from all backgrounds. But what unites our service members is a shared commitment to support and defend the United States. In this, they set an example for us, and the world, about the potential of the American experiment.
Each day we are reminded of the sacrifice and dedication of our service members overseas. Less recognized, but no less important, are the contributions they continue to make in civilian life. Even after they take off the uniform, veterans are often eager to continue serving and tackle some of America’s largest challenges.
The American military represents the best of who we are and what we can be.
Over the last decade, the generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have founded hundreds of businesses and non-profits. Veterans who have served since September 11, 2001 now make up nearly half of all veterans in Congress, ushering in a new generation of political leadership. Most inspiring is that they have taken care of not only fellow veterans, but also those in need in their local communities and around the world. In this they have demonstrated the power of service and set an example for the rest of America.
Serving in uniform can be the defining experience of a lifetime—but it can also lead to challenges that last a lifetime. During my time in Afghanistan, I served beside Americans from all walks of life who were willing to risk their lives to promote security and peace. When I returned home, like so many others, I felt disoriented. Too many veterans, including many I served with, suffer from post-traumatic stress and, tragically, have died by suicide. Families and loved ones bear this burden of suffering, as well.
When we ask our service members to put their lives on the line for America, we must be ready to provide them and their families with the care they need to recover from the wounds of war. This is not about doing veterans a favor. This is about the United States keeping a promise. When you put your right hand up and make a promise to give everything to your country, the promise America makes is to remember you, respect your service, and care for you and your family. That promise lasts long after you hang up your uniform. It lasts a lifetime.
When you put your right hand up and make a promise to give everything to your country, the promise America makes is to remember you, respect your service, and care for you and your family. That promise lasts long after you hang up your uniform. It lasts a lifetime.
I will honor the commitment of our service members, veterans, and their families and ensure that every veteran has the opportunity to lead on the home front. We will support service members throughout their military journey and integrate veterans back into society in ways that honor their service and experience, respect and meet their needs, and position them to continue to contribute to their communities. Together, we Americans can emulate their example of service. Together we can build an even better country.
Many of our veterans return home with wounds—visible and invisible—only to experience challenges in accessing the benefits that were promised to them for their service. To change this, Pete’s approach for how we provide veteran health services is laser-focused on the needs of veterans and their families. This means a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that is transparent, innovative, responsive, and easy to access. It also means focusing on the kinds of comprehensive care that veterans need. Specifically, Pete will:
A Buttigieg administration will ensure universal health care access through Medicare for All Who Want It. Pete will also ensure that the VA is fully-funded and undertake a variety of measures—like cutting time-to-hire periods and increasing clinical pay—to make sure the department has adequate professional staff to care for all. He will also expand benefits to veterans with “bad-paper” discharges who were denied the due-process rights of court martial.
For too long, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA have operated in silos, rather than cooperating to better serve American veterans. Pete will establish a White House coordinator to coordinate between the VA and the DoD, implement a veteran-centric portal, and ensure one medical record from the time of enlistment throughout one’s life as a veteran.
Service often leaves service members and veterans with invisible wounds: one in three veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of mental illness.American Psychological Association. “The Mental Health Needs of Veterans, Servicemembers, and their Families.” To ensure timely, effective, and respectful support, Pete will expand the number of mental health and addiction clinicians treating veterans, invest in training on veteran-specific mental health issues, create a VA mental health care concierge service, and invest in veteran treatment court so that veterans can get treatment rather than jail time for crimes they commit in part because of mental illness. Underpinning this work will be initiatives that address stigma among veterans experiencing mental illness, moral injury, and addiction by changing how we talk about them.
Between 2008 and 2017, over 60,000 veterans ended their own lives.US Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.” 2019. About 20 veterans and active service members take their own lives each day. Pete will confront the high rate of suicide among veterans by addressing unique needs and risk factors: social isolation, limited health care options, and high rates of opioid addiction. Specifically, he will increase investments in veteran suicide prevention and promote common sense gun safety to end the crisis of deaths of despair among veterans.
Nearly one in four veterans reside in rural areas, facing unique health care challenges. Pete will reduce care shortages by increasing the number of physicians and other health providers through both loan forgiveness and expansion of Conrad 30 waivers so that more immigrant doctors can help communities in need. He will also invest in telehealth services so that rural veterans can get the treatment they need even when they live in remote areas.
Over the next eight years, veterans over the age of 70 in the VA system will grow by 30 percent. Those who are cared for by VA-supported nursing home care will double by 2024.“As America’s Veterans Grow Older, The VA Faces A Long-term Care Crisis.” North Carolina Public Radio WUNC. August 21, 2018. Beyond health care, older veterans visit the VA for the social connections, which both improves their clinical outcomes and reduces long-term costs through improved social determinants of health. Pete will improve aging-in-place options for caregivers, expand respite services, and modernize data sharing between the VA and nursing homes so that older veterans can get the care they need and deserve.
Pete will update the VA so that it is focused on the needs of today’s veteran, blending the best of private sector innovation with the unique assets of the VA’s broad reach and resources. To achieve this end, he will make the VA apolitical by appointing leaders with relevant expertise and ensuring continuity in leadership across administrations. A Buttigieg administration will also ensure that the VA continues to play a vital role in developing innovative and forward-thinking technologies by both formally recognizing innovation in its budget, and expanding innovations in genomics and precision medicine.
Pete knows that the Commander-in-Chief must provide strong, principled leadership that protects our values, our allies, and above all, the lives and well-being of our service members. As President, he will prioritize the needs of those who are serving, while they are serving. And it is not only those in uniform who serve. Service members’ families bear the burdens of service alongside them. We owe these military families the support they need to maintain the world’s best fighting force. Pete will:
The priority of every parent is for their children to be healthy, happy, and well-educated. But military families are often unable to find adequate child care and specialty medical services for children and mothers. Pete will address the acute shortfall of available child care in military communities through additional resourcing. A Buttigieg administration will also train educators nationwide to support the needs of military children.
Military spouses suffer from high rates of unemployment. Even among those who are employed a majority, 56 percent, consider themselves to be underemployed—and this hardship increases with the number of moves a military family makes.“Military Family Lifetime Survey.” Blue Star Families. 2018. This puts military families at an economic disadvantage and directly affects the career choices of service members, leading many to leave the military. To address these challenges, Pete will expand family caregiving programs and make it easier for military spouses to pause loan repayments and transition back to “civilian” life. He will also bring defense personnel policies up to date so they are less disruptive.
Pete will both hold private housing contractors accountable for providing safe housing, and ensure that military families retain control of their housing allowances if they are forced to vacate their homes because of unsafe conditions. He will also ban the use of non-disclosure agreements in housing contracts.
Today, nearly one-seventh of all active duty service members are women.Krulewitch, Cara J. “Reproductive Health of Active Duty Women in Medically Austere Environments.” Military Medicine 181, no. 1S (2016): 63–69. Significant barriers to women’s full inclusion in the military persist—including high rates of sexual assault, lack of adequate reproductive healthcare, and military policies that limit fair promotion and leadership opportunities. Pete will ensure women have the tools needed to effectively serve their nation and institute new systems for accountability to reduce sexual assault and gender discrimination. He will support full integration and a better, independent process to report and obtain justice for sexual assault. Pete will also ensure women’s health needs, including reproductive care, are accessible while they serve.
The American military has often driven change in our nation’s struggle for racial equality. The diversity of the force is one of its greatest strengths. Unfortunately, racial inequity still permeates our armed forces. Pete will uproot racism and white nationalism from the military, treating it as a national security priority. Specifically, he will demand regular reports on what units are doing to combat racism and extremism, and promote diverse leadership to foster diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
Pete will reinstate the MAVNI program for immigrants with special skills, reinstate protections for immigrants and their family members from deportation, and fast-track naturalization for non-citizens who serve. Significantly, and in contrast to the current administration’s efforts, Pete will ensure the protection of military families so that all service members can focus on the mission without being worried that their family could be deported.
For too long, LGBTQ+ personnel have had to hide their identities. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” means service members no longer have to choose between serving their country and being true to themselves. But this victory is not the end of the story. Pete will rescind the transgender military ban, the ban on HIV+ service members, and the coverage exclusion of surgical treatment of gender dysphoria. He will also review cases of those separated from the military because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pete knows we can do more than just say, “Thanks for your service.” When our service members come home, we must provide the care and support they need to recover from the wounds of war, whether visible or not. Pete will enlist entire communities to help restore the normalcy and sense of community veterans need by individually and collectively making sure they know they belong, and giving them the tools to thrive. Pete will:
Women comprised 9.4 percent of the veteran population in 2015 and are projected to make up 16.3 percent of all living veterans in 2043.“Women Veterans Forum.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 2019. Yet, too many women avoid VA because it is not equipped for their needs, and because they sadly suffer sexism in the very place they are supposed to get help and feel welcomed. Pete will change the culture at the VA so that women can get the care they need. He will also create a commission to study women veteran homelessness, as well as work to engage women veterans in the business sector.
We must honor the commitment of our service members, veterans, and their families. If you’re with us text DUTY to 25859.
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