Issues

Caring for our Veterans

While serious people can have legitimate differences about when our country should go to war, there should never be a debate whether we fulfill the promises made to the men and women who served this country in the military. As a nation, we have a moral obligation to provide the best quality care to those who have put their lives on the line to defend us.

Sen. Sanders believes that just as planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, so is taking care of the men and women who we sent off to fight the war. It includes caring for the spouses and children who have to rebuild their lives after the loss of a loved one. It includes caring for the hundreds of thousands of veterans with multiple amputations or loss of eyesight, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. It includes veterans who are having difficulty keeping jobs in order to pay their bills, and it includes the terrible tragedy of veterans committing suicide.

As the former Chairman and a current member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, one of Sen. Sanders’ highest priorities in Congress has been ensuring that our veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned.

Amid reports of unacceptable wait times at many VA medical facilities last year, Sen. Sanders spearheaded a bipartisan effort to pass the most comprehensive veterans’ legislation in decades. The landmark Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act increases accountability within the VA and ensures that all veterans have access to timely health care.

The law written by Sanders strengthens the VA health care system by authorizing 27 new medical facilities and by providing $5 billion to hire more doctors and nurses to care for the surging number of veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It provides incentives to attract young doctors to the VA. It makes it easier for some veterans to see private doctors or go to community health centers, Department of Defense facilities or Indian Health Centers. It expanded VA educational benefits and improved care for survivors of sexual trauma while serving in the military.

Sen. Sanders wants to build on a program he has championed in Vermont, where the National Guard operates an innovative outreach program to provide pre-deployment and post-deployment support to family members and service members. This effort has been hugely successful in terms of making sure that veterans know about and receive the health care, mental health counseling, family assistance, transition assistance and other benefits they need to make sure they can live a healthy and productive life.

Moving forward, Sen. Sanders wants to expand veterans’ benefits by making comprehensive dental care available to all veterans at VA medical centers, and by expanding caregiver provisions. He believes we must do more to meet the mental health needs of our veterans, especially those who have served in harm’s way. We must fully restore cuts to military pensions that were insisted upon by Republicans in the last budget deal.

Instead of cutting benefits for the men and women who have served our country, we should ask the most profitable corporations and the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.

Sen. Sanders also strongly believes that we must end the travesty of veterans’ homelessness. While huge gains have been made over the past six years, the fact that on any given night there are fifty thousand homeless veterans on the street is a national disgrace. We also need to make further improvements to the VA disability claims process, which while significantly streamlined, still takes far too long for many veterans.

Key Actions:

Sen. Sanders will fight to:

  1. Fully fund and expand the VA so that every veteran gets the care that he or she has earned and deserves.
  2. Substantially improve the processing of Veterans’ claims for compensation.
  3. Expand the VA’s Caregivers Program.
  4. Expand mental health service for Veterans.
  5. Make comprehensive dental care available to all veterans at the VA.