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In the United States we are all called to serve our country in many ways, but no one has answered that call with more honor, courage, and self-sacrifice than our active military personnel and veterans. My grandfather was a lifetime servicemember in the United States Air Force, who served in the Vietnam War before continuing his military career and advancing in rank to Senior Master Sergeant before his retirement. I saw his dedication to this country and the sacrifices he made to provide for his family. Not only do I hold his service in the highest regard, I also benefited from the social and economic stability his service brought our family. I want every family of a US service member to feel the same way and that begins with the care and support of our active duty military and veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides excellent support to our veteran community in many respects, but it is facing tremendous challenges in continuing this work due to rising healthcare costs. Congress must act now to ensure the VA serves our veterans as faithfully as our veterans have served us. I believe we can bring real change to the department that will benefit everyone through the following targeted initiatives:

Address ballooning healthcare costs.

The VA budget has continued to increase every year with healthcare driving the costs. While we must ensure the VA healthcare budget is fully funded every year, we must also look to the future and decide how we can better serve this need. I believe we can improve the quality of health care for our veterans and reduce the strain on the VA with the adoption of Medicare for All. Like private health plans, veterans are restricted by the VA bureaucracy on where they can receive adequate and covered care. With a Medicare for All system, those care options are expanded to all clinics and hospitals. We should grant the freedom of choice to those who chose to protect our freedom.

Invest in community resources to prevent veteran suicide.

Many of our veterans have returned from service after experiencing incredible trauma and they deserve the right to receive the support they need in their communities. This support should be readily available and unrestricted by the uncertainty of VA medical coverage. For many Veterans, the fight isn’t over after they return home, but rather just beginning, and we must do everything we can to support them.

Expand civilian job training and placements.

Veterans often face challenges when transitioning into the civilian job market. This is sometimes due to skill gaps and certification requirements but often due to a lack of proper support when entering the job market. We should invest in more job matching services that include certification and skills matching, resume drafting, and job search assistance. We can also train our veteran workforce for jobs in emerging industries in Tech and renewable energy to ensure their economic security.

Solve Veteran Homelessness.

Housing security has long been an issue for our veteran community. We should look at successful community programs, like Austin’s initiative to end veteran homelessness, and promote these solutions on the national level. We can encourage more veterans to get involved in local housing efforts as well. Simply put, programs that are run by veterans have higher success rates.

We should continue to support our veterans by fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs, however, we must also be the party that looks for long term solutions that truly guarantee the rights, benefits, and support that our veterans deserve.

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