Last week, I had the honor of representing IAVA at the first GOP Presidential debate. IAVA is a non-partisan group and does not endorse candidates. However, we will go and have gone to events sponsored by either major party.
My purpose in going to Cleveland was to meet other veteran groups and individuals who are involved in veteran issues. In addition, my hope was also to raise the level of discussion on veteran issues by the candidates. Unfortunately, last Thursday and throughout the campaign so far, neither party has made speaking or highlighting veteran issues a priority. This is unacceptable.
Rather than Fox News and Facebook, last night’s debate should have been sponsored by the numbers 2 and 20. The first being the number of times veterans or the VA was mentioned, and the latter the total number of seconds veteran issues received. The first mention of veterans happened with only 7 minutes remaining in the two hour debate and the last one during the final seconds of the debate.
Those seeking to lead our nation, and those in the media, must do a better job of highlighting and talking about veteran issues. Only three of the ten candidates on stage have a veteran policy agenda page to their website. And if it had not been for a Gold Star wife urging one of the moderators to ask a veteran related question, it is doubtful that they would have raised the issue.
In a two hour debate, Rosie O’Donnell was mentioned before veterans and almost as many times. Committing our troops to fight ISIS was discussed three times without ever mentioning the responsibility to care for these men and women once they return home. The IRS, the EPA, immigration, the economy and numerous other topics where discussed at length without a mention of what would be done under their watch to take care of veterans and their families.
Those seeking our nation’s highest office must also be committed to leading those in need after they come home. Yet, neither party has candidates that are discussing veteran issues and the unique challenges that face them as they come home. They can and they must do better.
IAVA stands ready to help educate and drive candidates to make the treatment of our nation’s veterans a priority. The lack of attention paid or devoted to our issues is tacit approval for the current treatment of veterans. Though improving, the timeliness and quality of care veterans receive is still not where it needs to be. Neither, is the attention to veterans given by our presidential candidates.
One can hope that in the weeks leading up to additional debates, veterans will become a priority to the candidates. IAVA pledges to you to make this a goal and will work to make it a reality.