When Concerned Veterans for America’s 2020 policy agenda was released, we couldn’t have imagined a global pandemic would shortly follow.
Still, we were able to make great strides in the effort to end our nation’s endless wars and protect veterans’ health care options, even with all the challenges of the past year. We found many unique ways to serve veterans and continue our mission to protect the freedoms we fought and sacrificed for, including virtual town halls, telling the stories of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and calling on the VA to protect access to health care at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year will bring its own obstacles and opportunities, but our mission remains the same. We’re dedicated to continuing our service and finding solutions to our country’s greatest problems. We know as veterans we have unique experiences and voices that can help drive better policy decisions.
Here’s a look at our 2021 policy agenda and what we’re focused on this year.
Providing a strong national defense with a prudent foreign policy
One of our government’s primary responsibilities is to provide for a strong national defense. Our military should be prepared to confront threats to our nation. But lawmakers’ approach to war over the last two decades has not made us safer.
Endless wars around the globe and shirked Congressional war-making responsibilities put our troops at unnecessary risk while weakening our readiness at home.
To provide a strong defense we must rethink our foreign policy and strive to end our endless wars.
- Over the last several years, Washington has begun that process by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries our troops don’t need to be in.
- We will continue working for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
- We will also call on lawmakers to draw down other open-ended deployments and efforts that don’t serve America’s vital interests.
Congress should accept the responsibility the Constitution puts in its hands by rebalancing war powers. For too long, members of Congress have neglected their duties to authorize and oversee military actions. First, Congress should repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force, which essentially serve as blank checks for military action around the world that fits only vague criteria. Congress should also ensure future authorizations are written more narrowly and contain sunsets to ensure continued debate and votes on our military engagements.
Guaranteeing the care and services promised to veterans
Men and women who take the oath of military service do so with the promise they will be cared for after serving. For those who sustain service-connected injuries especially, the promise of care is essential.
CVA is committed to continuing efforts to improve access to quality health care for veterans, whether that be at the Department of Veterans Affairs or from a community provider. We’ll continue to push for:
- Proper implementation of the VA MISSION Act
- Oversight of compliance with health care access standards
- Appointing members to a commission focused on auditing and aligning the VA’s infrastructure
- Legislation that provides full health care choice for service-connected veterans
We’ll also advocate modernizing the VA’s services to better assist veterans who are transitioning out of military service.
Securing America’s financial future
Spending might not seem like a traditional military or veteran issue, but we know the way our country spends money is integral to our ability to defend ourselves and prosper at home. Military leaders have gone as far as calling our national debt the greatest security threat our nation faces. Debt and out of control spending put our military readiness and our country in a dangerous position.
This year, CVA will focus on smart and sustainable defense spending. That includes:
- Ridding the defense budget of misused gimmicks such as the Overseas Contingency Operations fund
- Continuing to audit the Pentagon and starting another, overdue Base Realignment and Closure round to right-size military bases for a clear understanding of spending and assets
- Ending military engagements that are not critical to our national interests and which divert resources from more pressing priorities.
We’ll also advocate more responsible spending at the VA. The VA’s budget has skyrocketed over the last decade, with little attention paid to the generational changes and needs of the veterans the VA serves. CVA will be looking for solutions that ensure the VA’s budget is spent wisely and efficiently, including an external audit of programs and services.
We have much work ahead, but we’re certain this year will bring many opportunities to use our unique voices and experiences to defend the freedoms we served and sacrificed for.