Issue Position: Veterans
Plan to keep our Sacred Trust with Veterans
"Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because America's commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end."
Barack Obama, Speech in Kansas City, MO, August 21, 2007
Wounded Troops Suffer: The Walter Reed scandal showed that we don't always provide returning service members with the care they deserve.
Veterans Budget Shortfalls: In 2005, a multi-billion dollar VA funding shortfall required Congress to step in and bail out the system.
Benefits Bureaucracy is Broken: There are currently more than 400,000 claims pending with the Veterans Benefits Administration. VA error rates have grown to more than 100,000 cases a year.
There is Shortage of Care for PTSD: Veterans are coming home with record levels of combat stress, but we are not adequately providing for them.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan
A Sacred Trust
Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that America has a sacred trust with our veterans. They are committed to creating a 21st Century Department of Veterans' Affairs that provides the care and benefits our nation's veterans deserve.
* Allow All Veterans Back into the VA: One of Obama's first acts will be reversing the 2003 ban on enrolling modest-income veterans, which has denied care to a million veterans.
* Strengthen VA Care: Obama and Biden will make the VA a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible. They will improve care for polytrauma vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, and women's health.
* Combat Homelessness among Our Nation's Veterans: Obama and Biden will establish a national "zero tolerance" policy for veterans falling into homelessness by expanding proven programs and launching innovative services to prevent veterans from falling into homelessness.
* Fight Veterans Employment Discrimination: Obama and Biden will crack down on employers who commit job discrimination against guardsmen and reservists.
Help for Returning Service Members
Obama and Biden will improve the quality of health care for veterans, rebuild the VA's broken benefits system, and combat homelessness among veterans.
* Ensure a Seamless Transition: Obama and Biden will demand that the military and the VA coordinate to provide a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life.
* Fully Fund VA Medical Care: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will fully fund the VA so it has all the resources it needs to serve the veterans who need it, when they need it. Obama and Biden will establish a world-class VA Planning Division to avoid future budget shortfalls.
* Fix the Benefits Bureaucracy: Obama and Biden will hire additional claims workers, and improve training and accountability so that VA benefit decisions are rated fairly and consistently. They also will transform the paper benefit claims process to an electronic one to reduce errors and improve timeliness.
Improved Mental Health Treatment
Obama and Biden will improve mental health treatment for troops and veterans suffering from combat-related psychological injuries.
* Improve Mental Health Treatment: Obama and Biden will improve mental health care at every stage of military service. They will recruit more health professionals, improve screening, offer more support to families and make PTSD benefits claims fairer.
* Improve Care for Traumatic Brain Injury: Obama and Biden will establish standards of care for Traumatic Brain Injury, the signature injury of the Iraq war.
* Expand Vet Centers: Obama and Biden will expand and strengthen Vet Centers to provide more counseling for vets and their families.
Barack Obama's Record
Record of Advocacy: As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Obama passed legislation to improve care and slash red tape for our wounded warriors recovering at places like Walter Reed. He passed laws to help homeless veterans and offered an innovative solution to prevent at-risk veterans from falling into homelessness. Obama led a bipartisan effort in the Senate to try to halt the military's unfair practice of discharging service members for having a service-connected psychological injury. He fought for fair treatment of Illinois veterans' claims and forced the VA to conduct an unprecedented outreach campaign to disabled veterans with lower than-average benefits. Obama passed legislation to stop a VA review of closed PTSD cases that could have led to a reduction in veterans' benefits. He passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for traumatic brain injuries. He introduced legislation to direct the VA and Pentagon to fix disjointed records systems and improve outreach to members of the National Guard and Reserves.