Hillary Clinton: Standing Up For South Dakota Service Members And Veterans
Joined by South Dakota veterans today at events in Kyle and Rapid City, SD, Hillary Clinton will highlight her plans to honor the service of members of the military by righting the wrongs of Walter Reed, providing health care and benefits to those who have served our country, and reducing the strains placed on South Dakota's troops and their families by building on her work on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Clinton will also emphasize the high percentage of Native Americans who enter the service and will reiterate her commitment to ensure they receive the same care and access to resources all veterans receive.
"I believe one of the most fundamental obligations of the next president is to keep faith with our veterans and provide the healthcare and benefits they've earned and the respect and gratitude they deserve," said Senator Clinton. "That's why I have a plan to step up for South Dakota's veterans who stepped up and served America. For veterans in Pine Ridge and across South Dakota and America, that's the real test: not the promises the president delivers, but whether the president delivers on the promises."
A CHAMPION FOR SOUTH DAKOTA VETERANS
As President, Hillary would make sure that every member of our armed forces receives a fair shot at the American Dream when their service is over. Hillary will ensure that every veteran in South Dakota and all across America will have health care. She will work so that every veteran receives the benefits they have earned and the assistance they need - right from the start. And she will make sure no soldier ever loses a bonus because he or she has been injured in service. As President, Hillary will:
Enact a GI Bill of Rights for the Twenty-first Century. Hillary Clinton believes our veterans deserve nothing but the best opportunities, and that we need a new generation of benefits for a new generation of veterans. That is why, as President Hillary will enact a GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century that will resurrect the spirit of the original 1944 GI Bill and offer service members, veterans and their families with expanded education, housing and entrepreneurial benefits. Her plan will guarantee equal access for all components of the Armed Forces -- Active, Guard and Reserve -- that have deployed overseas in support of a combat operation since September 11 or served two years of active duty since September 11. She will fund undergraduate education for service members, as well as education for specialized trade or technical training, and certification and licensing programs. She will make GI educational benefits transferable within families. She will expand the VA Home Loan Guaranty program to allow veterans to use low-interest, no-fee loans to purchase, build or improve a home valued up to $625,000. She will establish a Veterans Microloan Program to provide veterans with no-collateral, low-interest microloans of up to $100,000 for entrepreneurial ventures. Hillary's Presidential proposal builds on her record in the Senate where she has also championed Senator Webb's GI Bill, which would provide for expanded educational benefits for those brave men and women who have served their country since 9/11. She has strongly criticized Senator McCain for refusing to support this important legislation while claiming to honor our veterans.
Stand Up for Native American Veterans. Native Americans have a long and proud tradition of participating with distinction in the U.S. Armed Services. By the end of the 20th century there were nearly 190,000 Native American Veterans. They have one of the highest per capita service rates among ethnic groups in the United States. By the end of December 2005, the Department of Defense reported that 20,000 Native Americans and Alaskan Natives were serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. As President, Hillary will ensure that the more than 4700 Native American veterans in South Dakota, and Native American veterans across the country, are treated with the care and respect that they deserve.
Fully Fund the Veterans Administration. Senator Clinton believes there is no more important way of honoring veterans than ensuring they can receive quality care through the VA. As President, she will push to have guaranteed funding for the VA, ensuring that VA Medical Centers such as those in Fort Meade, Hot Springs, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota have the resources that they need. She does not believe the VA should be fighting every year to get money for the people who take care of us.
Provide Affordable and Quality Health Care for All Veterans. In South Dakota alone, over 2,500 servicemembers and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have sought health care from the VA since returning home. [http://www1.va.gov/opa/fact/statesum/sdss.asp]. Veterans face unique health care challenges. For instance, a recent report reveals that the number of U.S. soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increased almost 50% in 2007 over the previous year. As President, Hillary will ensure that all of the 1.8 million uninsured veterans in this country and the almost 72,000 veterans in South Dakota have access to quality, affordable health care. She will restore the Clinton-era policy that opened the VA's excellent and cost-effective health care system to all veterans who seek to enroll. She will make a long-term commitment to the VA system to ensure it is adequately funded and has the capacity to avoid backlogs and to handle greater enrollments. And she will provide coverage through the American Health Choices Plan to all veterans who choose not to use the VA system. Hillary has a long record of specific proposals to help servicemembers and veterans receive the care they need to deal with health challenges they face, including PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Ensure All Veterans Receive the Benefits They Have Earned and the Assistance They Need -- Right from the Start. As President, Hillary will commit to getting a fair, accurate, and timely decision for every veteran filing a disability claim. She will increase the number of qualified VA evaluators to reduce the backlog of claims. She will provide fast-track training for new claims specialists and expand the Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program to smooth the transition from service to discharge for all those who serve our country.
Extend Hiring Preferences to Veterans-friendly Contractors. Today, there are between 7.2 and 7.6 million federal contractors, 2 million more than there were five years ago. The privatization of government by the Bush administration has meant veterans are losing job opportunities, because contractors do not necessarily have the same hiring policies as the federal government. Hillary will cut the number of contractors working for the federal government by 500,000 over the next 10 years, saving $10 to $18 billion a year. And she will restore and expand job opportunities for veterans by working to establish a system through which federal contractors afford veterans hiring preference comparable to the federal government's.
Give Veterans Additional Opportunities to Serve. Hillary will make vouchers worth up to $10,000 available to returning veterans who want to serve in AmeriCorps and select not-for-profit organizations. These organizations would provide at least $5,000 to supplement the voucher. This system will help veterans create normal routines and reenter their communities while doing meaningful work serving their country. Hillary will make this subsidy available to as many as 20,000 veterans a year.
Reduce Homelessness among Veterans. In 2006, nearly 200,000 veterans were homeless on any given night. Hillary believes that it's wrong in America that any veteran is homeless after they have served their country. As President, she will work to ensure that every veteran in South Dakota and the country have homes and receive the care they deserve. Hillary will establish a pilot program on homelessness prevention for veterans that will provide subsidies, eviction prevention, and one-time assistance for veterans who fall behind on their rent. She will also expand rental assistance for veterans by calling on Congress to fund an additional 20,000 housing choice vouchers exclusively for homeless veterans.
Expand the Helmets to Hardhats Program. Hillary will increase funding for the Helmets to Hardhats program. This program links veterans with local job opportunities in the construction and trade industries by offering apprenticeship programs that teach veterans through on-the-job training supplemented by classroom instruction.
Expand Veterans Homeownership. Hillary will make homeownership more affordable for veterans. Veterans will receive a 50% discount on foreclosed properties in the government's inventory, which currently stands at 35,000 homes. And she will eliminate the upfront fees on VA mortgages for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who take out VA loans within two years of leaving active duty.
Fully Implement Walter Reed Recommendations. When she is President, Hillary will implement the recommendations of the Commission on the Care for Wounded Warriors, led by former Senator Bob Dole and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. She will implement comprehensive recovery plans for each wounded warrior that provides the right care and support at the right time in the right place. She will streamline the transition from DoD to VA care. She will personally instruct her Secretary of Defense to recruit and retain first-rate professionals to staff our military hospitals.
A RECORD OF DELIVERING FOR VETERANS AND SERVICE MEMBERS
Hillary Clinton has a long history of fighting for our veterans and will work to ensure our country fulfills its obligations to those who have served and sacrificed for the nation. Hillary has the record and experience to deliver that change.
That's why she has always fought for veterans in the Senate. From tokens of respect, like free postage when you write to a service member in Iraq or Afghanistan. To practical help, like providing expanded access to temporary housing when you move so you don't have to pay out of your own pocket. To the critical work of helping you care for our wounded warriors by expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act and by passing elements of the Heroes at Home Act to help family members care for those with Traumatic Brain Injury. And she will always fight for you as President.
Expanding TRICARE Access. Hillary Clinton crossed the aisle to work with Senator Lindsey Graham to get access to TRICARE, the military health insurance program, for all National Guard members and Reservists, even when they are not deployed. As a result of Hillary's work with Senator Graham, the 4,400 members of South Dakota's National Guard have access to TRICARE, whether they are actively deployed or not.
Supporting Service Members with TBI. Senator Clinton authored the Heroes at Home Act, which would establish a program to help families learn how to care for returning veterans with TBI, as well as require DoD to do pre- and post-deployment screenings.
Increasing Survivor Benefit. She worked with others in the Senate to pass legislation to increase the military survivor benefit from $12,000 to $100,000.
Extending FMLA Benefits. She helped pass the Support for Injured Servicemembers Act, which extends the benefits provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by allowing the families of wounded military personnel to take up to six months of unpaid leave to care for their loved ones during the often lengthy rehabilitation process.
Improving TBI Screening and Care. She successfully included a provision in the recently enacted Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act to mandate that the Department of Defense implement a screening protocol for Traumatic Brain Injury within 180 days. The nearly 500 young South Dakotans who join the armed forces each year, along with current members of the armed forces from the state, now receive regular health screenings to detect Traumatic Brain Injury, thanks to legislation Hillary introduced. In addition, in 2006, Senator Clinton authored provisions in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 that increased research into ways to improve TBI care for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.