Political News


Posted October 18

— THE ISSUE: There are an estimated 21.6 million veterans in the United States. Among them, nearly 9 million are enrolled in health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 4.3 million veterans get disability compensation from the VA and nearly 900,000 have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

A 2014 law signed by President Barack Obama aimed to alleviate delays many veterans faced in getting treatment at VA hospitals and clinics and end the widespread practice of fake wait lists that covered up long waits for veterans seeking health care. Two years later, many of the problems remain.



Hillary Clinton has pledged to ensure veterans have access to timely and high-quality health care and vows to block efforts to privatize the Veterans Health Administration, the VA's health-care arm. Clinton also wants to bolster veterans' benefits, including education and housing aid included in the GI bill. She would ensure that military sexual trauma is acknowledged as a disability under VA rules.

Donald Trump says he will expand programs that allow veterans to choose their doctor — regardless of whether they're affiliated with the VA — and still receive government-paid medical care. Trump says that's not privatized care but, he told The Associated Press, "a way of not allowing people to die waiting for doctors."

Trump also pledged to fire or discipline VA employees who fail veterans or breach the public trust. He also would increase mental health professionals and create a "White House hotline" dedicated to veterans. If a valid complaint is not addressed, "I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to," Trump said.



Lifetime health care is part of the bargain for many of those who put their lives on the line in the armed forces, and it's become clear the government isn't holding up its end.

Veterans care has gained prominence since a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care at a Phoenix VA hospital. Similar problems were soon discovered nationwide. Veterans waited months for care even as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up the delays.

A law approved after the scandal broke created a program that allows veterans to seek private care at government expense, but the program is limited to veterans who have waited 30 days for an appointment or live 40 miles from a VA health center. Trump says he would vastly expand the program, calling problems at the VA under President Barack Obama "widespread and totally inexcusable."

Clinton says the VA must retain "the ultimate responsibility" for veterans care. She cites the Veterans Health Administration's leadership in areas such as prosthetics and traumatic brain injury. She promises to create an oversight board to monitor quality of care.

Veterans groups are encouraged by the increased focus on the VA, as evidenced by a recent forum that featured both Clinton and Trump. But they say the VA must do more to improve access to health care, address veterans' suicide and change VA's culture to ensure real accountability.

With nearly 370,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $167 billion, the VA is the largest civilian agency in the government, and second overall to the Defense Department.

Veterans are also a politically consequential group. Nearly 70 percent voted in the 2012 presidential election, a higher rate than the general population.


This story is part of AP's "Why It Matters" series, which is examining three dozen issues at stake in the presidential election between now and Election Day. You can find them at: http://apne.ws/2bBG85a


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  • Craig Elliott Oct 18, 9:12 p.m.
    user avatar

    The article states that veterans have Lifetime health care.

    Just to clarify a few points, veterans' health care is based on a few rules: with the exception of service-related conditions, VA is the insurer of last resort.

    If you have other insurance they pay first. If you have a non-service related condition and don't have other insurance VA prioritizes you behind service-related conditions.

    Given that resources are finite those that were injured in the service of our nation should be first in line.

    USMC 1982-1988, ETS'ed in good health.

  • jimstaro Oct 18, 8:21 a.m.

    For Wars-'0' For Continued Blowback From Policies-'0' For Veterans Of-'0'
    Most of the people served, especially the wealthy and all conservatives, the trump speaks: 2 Aug 2015 - 'I fight like hell to pay as little as possible': Donald Trump says he avoids all the tax he can.

    Two Huge Tax Cuts, and more after those for them, not, 'job creators': Made Wealth off Defense War Investments, like the government funded private for profit merc army and intelligence arm -$$$+++ Making Wealth off Continued Blowback From the Policies-$$$+++ Wants To Make Wealth off All Privatized VA-$$$+++

    * * * How does a Country HONOR It's Fallen, by Their Own 'Sacrifice' in Taking Care of the Brothers and Sisters They Served With!! * * *

    The conservative ideology: Like our long time Vietnam and since Veterans, Conservative, Nemesis, one of their experts(?), used to shape their policies, and very highly compensated: * * Sally Satel Still Selling Care for PTSD Veterans is Waste of Money * * htt