Giving Veterans Health Care Choice and Holding the VA Accountable
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is failing to accomplish its core mission of delivering timely and quality health care and benefits to our nation’s veterans. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are still stuck waiting months, and sometimes years, in the VA disability claims backlog- despite promises from the VA to end the backlog. Dozens, and possibly hundreds, of veterans were revealed to have died on secret VA wait lists at VA medical facilities across the country due to the misconduct of hundreds of senior VA officials. Even worse, all this and more occurred while the VA’s budget was massively increased and the department added over one hundred thousand employees.
Due to these failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the harm they cause veterans around the country, Concerned Veterans for America has made reforming and fixing the VA a top priority. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) supports giving veterans more health care choices by putting them in charge of their own health care, instead of VA bureaucrats. To accomplish this, CVA convened a bipartisan policy taskforce called the Fixing Veterans Health Care Task Force which proposed a series of policy proposals, which was collectively titled the Veterans Independence Act. If implemented—which CVA will fight for—these reforms would give veterans true health care choice in addition to finally putting the veteran at the center of the VA health care system.
CVA has also advocated for streamlining the process to fire, demote, and punish VA employees who are poorly performing or who are guilty of misconduct. It can often take years to fire bad VA employees – including those who are found to have committed egregious acts of wrongdoing. This makes it harder to change the VA’s toxic culture and to ultimately reform the troubled department. Although Congress and President Obama gave the VA Secretary greater power to fire senior executives in 2014, that power has not been aggressively used and it is clear that more must be done to hold bad VA employees accountable.
For more information on our efforts to reform VA, visit VAaccountability.org.
Reforming the Department of Defense
In recent years, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) budget has come under greater internal pressure from growing personnel expenditures and a weapons acquisition process that fails to control costs and does not deliver timely, cutting-edge equipment to our warfighters in the field. Between 2001 and 2011, the Department of Defense spent $44 billion on failed weapons development programs and hundreds of billions more on weapons program cost over-runs. In addition, personnel costs have exploded to the point that the Pentagon now spends more on pay and benefits for active duty personnel and retirees than it does on purchasing new equipment or training our troops. If these trends continue, the Department of Defense will become a health care and benefits provider that also manages an under-equipped and poorly-trained military.
To reverse this trend, CVA supports reforms that streamline and fix the Pentagon’s acquisition process to ensure that our warfighters get the equipment and weapons they need to be successful in combat. CVA also believes reforming the DoD’s acquisition process will save billions of dollars in the long-term and ensure that essential weapons programs do not continually face massive cost overruns. Additionally, CVA supports the recommendations of the Military Compensation Retirement Modernization Committee (MCRMC) to reform the DoD’s retirement and health care systems. We believe the MCRMC’s proposed reforms will expand retirement benefits to more personnel while preserving the 20-year retirement benefit in addition to providing service members and their families more health care choice and flexibility. These reforms will also reduce exploding personnel costs that are consuming more and more of the DoD’s budget.
Articulating A Clear National Security Strategy
Since taking office, President Obama has failed to articulate—or execute—a coherent national security strategy to deal with a multitude of security challenges around the world. This, in turn, has created a perception of American weakness and indecision that has increased instability around the world, uncertainty among our allies, and emboldened our enemies. From Eastern Europe to the Middle East and Asia, the world is increasingly becoming a more chaotic and dangerous place. President Obama’s doctrines (or non-doctrines) of “leading from behind” and “strategic patience” are failing.
Concerned Veterans for America believes that the United States should have a national security strategy that projects strength, is forward-looking, and recognizes that while the use of force is always the last resort, it should never be off the table as an option. As a result, CVA launched the Strength and Security Project with the mission of advancing policies that ensure a strong American military and enhance the security of America, her interests, and her allies.
The Strength and Security Project adheres to four core principles. First, today’s world poses a multitude of threats; not only to Americans and American interests abroad, but to the American homeland itself. These threats cannot be ignored and America must lead. Second, the lack of a coherent national security policy during the Obama administration—and a resulting perception of American weakness—has only increased the number, and intensity, of threats to America. Third, a strong, adaptable, and highly-trained American military and intelligence community is essential to deterring conflict in the first place. And fourth, military force is always a last resort in American foreign policy, but should also always be an option to protect the American homeland, our allies, and American interests abroad.
Reducing Our Out of Control Debt and Spending
Many respected military leaders like Admiral Mike Mullen and General James Mattis believe that our growing national debt is the greatest long-term national security threat facing our country. Our nation’s out-of-control deficit spending and growing debt threatens not only our economy, but also our nation’s ability to fund and maintain a strong and effective military. CVA believes that we must reform our unsustainable entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) and pass budgets with a path to balance in order to begin to get our national debt under control.
Runaway government spending continues at an alarming rate, with taxpayer funds squandered on waste, sweetheart loan deals, corporate welfare and special interest subsidies—and yet programs that support veterans and their families are often among the first targeted for budget cuts. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle should face up to the challenge of restraining government spending to ensure sound budgeting for future generations. Washington needs responsible leadership- service in our nation’s capital demands the same dedication and selflessness that those who defended this country in uniform have shown.
Increasing Civic and Political Participation Among Veterans
Widely respected by the population at large and numbering over 20 million strong in the United States (over 60 million including military families), veterans have the potential to constitute a powerful force if they make their voices heard in the policy process—and ultimately vote on Election Day. For too long, veterans have simply been viewed as political props by politicians on both sides of the aisle, and they have been given short shrift when compared to powerful Washington special interests. Veterans don’t want a handout or a special exemption in a law—they want to ensure that the freedom and prosperity they served to defend is preserved and perpetuated. That is why CVA volunteers, activists, and staff across the country seek to “Get out the Veterans” (GOTVets), ensuring their voices are heard in Washington.
This is also why CVA advocates for stronger laws to ensure that our active duty military personnel are able to exercise their right to vote. Despite action by Congress and dozens of state governments across the country, tens of thousands of our service men and women still do not receive their ballots in time – or at all – in order to vote in an election. This must change.