5 Things New Veterans Expect From All Candidates in 2012
Posted by Tom Tarantino on August 24
More than 2.4 million Americans from every state and every Congressional district have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And after ten years of war, veterans and their families need and deserve support from any and all political candidates. No matter what party they come from or what community they represent, every candidate has a responsibility to ensure that veterans issues are a top platform priority. We expect more than lip service. We expect real solutions and a solid commitment.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans come from all backgrounds and will be a powerful voting constituency in November. 90% of IAVA’s members reported they are registered to vote. From Ohio to Florida to Colorado, new veteran voters have the potential to have a big impact on the November election.
Here are the top 5 things they expect to see from every single candidate in America:
1. Defend the New GI Bill:The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the best job training and education program for our country’s veterans but for the first-time it’s under serious threat. Eight of the top 10 recipients of New GI Bill funding are for-profit schools; yet they’re averaging dropout rates between 50 to 70 percent. Political leaders must defend the New GI Bill from predatory for-profit schools by closing the 90-10 loophole and taking the target off veterans’ hard earned benefits.
2. Employ the New Greatest Generation: Veterans are highly skilled, talented leaders who stand ready to use their skills in civilian jobs. Yet, the unemployment rate for new veterans averaged 12.1% in 2011, three percentage points higher than the national average. Political leaders must strengthen USERRA to protect service members’ jobs, and military skills must more easily translate into civilian credentials and licenses in the workforce.
3. Prevent suicide among troops and veterans: For the first time in our nation’s history, the suicide rate among veterans and service members has surpassed that of civilians. In July, the Army alone reported 38 suicides – the highest recorded to date. Political leaders must improve oversight of mental health programs, increase the number of mental health professionals and swiftly address the stigma surrounding mental health to ensure timely access to the highest quality mental health care possible.
4. Build a truly 21st Century VA: The VA has fallen behind in serving the needs of veterans of all generations. According to the Inspector General, over 50 percent of veterans who seek a mental health evaluation at the VA must wait an average of 50 days. Meanwhile, despite record budgets, nearly one million veterans’ benefits claims are stuck in the VA backlog. The VA must quickly move to a paperless, electronic claims system. Our veterans cannot afford to wait years for the resources they depend on.
5. Improve Care for Female Veterans: Women are a growing part of the United States military and account for almost 12 percent of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet care and support for these women warriors has lagged behind. The VA health care system and disability claims system are still not designed to support the unique needs and experience of female veterans. While we have seen progress in reforming these systems, our leaders must be more focused on getting female veterans the care they deserve.
As our country shifts attention from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the stakes for veterans, service members and their families have never been higher. A simple “thank you for your service” on the campaign trail isn’t enough. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans across America deserve concrete specifics from our nation’s leaders about how they intend to build and support this New Greatest Generation.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the country's first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 125,000 veteran members and civilian supporters nationwide. Its mission is to improve the lives of this country's newest generation of veterans and their families. As a non-partisan organization, IAVA does not endorse any candidate for office.
To arrange an interview at the conventions with IAVA’s Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino or other IAVA Members on the top 5 issues impacting the veterans’ community, please contact Michelle Mccarthy at (201)-675-1063 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For complete policy recommendations, read IAVA’s 2012 Policy Agenda online at www.iava.org/policyagenda2012.
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