The first thing we need to recognize is that providing for the health of our veterans is a moral imperative, and we need to fully fund a system that works to maximize veteran health.
In addition to funding the operations of veteran healthcare, we need to ensure that we’re creating a budget that allows for proper research into issues that affect the veteran community in particular. Suicide prevention and PTSD/TBI treatment, long-term effects of battlefield-related injuries, exposure to substances unique to combat environments, and similar areas should be researched to find the optimal treatments, and the VA (in partnership with the CDC) is best equipped to do so.
Staffing needs to be improved. Salaries and benefits should be increased in order to fully staff and maintain best-in-class doctors and administrative staff. Clear metrics for success in each role should be established, and individuals who are not measuring up need to be let go. There also needs to be a push to hire doctors who specialize in treatment of women’s issues, including sexual trauma, and transgender issues, as well as expanding options for these veterans to receive treatment outside of the VA system if they so choose.
On a similar note, we should investigate ways to improve and expand the Choice Act to lower wait times and expand access and increase the efficacy of our electronic records database to make it easier for veterans to find healthcare where they are.
Substance abuse treatment should be expanded, with more available treatment centers and long-term support, as helping with addiction issues will reduce many other issues for veterans (homelessness, unemployment, suicide). The same should be true for general mental health care.
In order to improve access and efficiency, many more GP centers should be opened, especially in rural areas, so that no veteran needs to travel a significant distance to see a doctor (the Choice Act can help with this, as well). If a veteran needs to travel to a specialized treatment center, transportation should be provided or subsidized.
(Read Andrew’s full policy of Veteran Assistance here.)
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Problems to be Solved
- The VHA isn't funded enough to fully support all of our veterans
- Funding for research into PTSD, TBI, and other veteran-specific health issues is too low
- Improve the ability to treat female veterans, and transgender veterans
- More of a focus needs to be placed on treating veterans with substance abuse and mental health issues
- Veterans living in rural areas lack access to medical care
There are many issues unique to the veteran community that we need to address. The transition to civilian life should be smoother, and we need to put more support structures in place. Public misconceptions have lead to issues with employment. Homelessness is a perennial problem, and the VA - especially the Veterans Health Administration - can do much more to improve the well-being of those who have served. These heroes protect and serve us during their tenure, but they come home to a quick thank you and an economy that isn’t set up to help them succeed. We owe them more than a handshake.
As President, I will...
Increase funding for the VHA to attract the top talent and allow for full research into veteran-specific issues
Clearly define goals for the VHA, and fire personnel who can’t help achieve those goals
Hire doctors who specialize in treating women and transgender veterans
Improve the Choice Act to make it easier for veterans to seek treatment
Invest in more GP locations in rural areas, and provide transportation options and reimbursements for veterans who need to travel for treatment