America must always be protected, its values and citizens defended. We must uphold human rights globally and remain a vigilant force against terrorism. To do this we must enable and ensure our military is strong, resilient, properly funded and fully supported.
I believe that our military should prioritize the use of force whenever our national security is at stake. The world has become increasingly dangerous and complex. We should use all the tools of American power, beginning with diplomacy and economic development, to confront global threats and always ensure war is the last resort.
As your representative, I will fight for the equal rights of all brave Americans serving our country in uniform. I will continue to defend the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and am fully committed to ensuring fair and equal treatment of LGBTQ active duty members and veterans. I stand by the many Flag Officers and Senior Executive Service officials who advise us that we should ensure opportunities for all qualified members of the military to compete for jobs on a level playing field. No exceptions.
Additionally, I am committed to further addressing the issue of sexual assault in the military. We must increase our efforts to investigate and prosecute cases. We must stand by victims of sexual assault and provide the necessary treatment for physical, emotional and psychological trauma, as well as career ramifications. We must continue to improve our military culture and ensure all workplaces are safe and inclusive.
The military is a family. But what few acknowledge is that when soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen serve, so do their families. As Americans, we respect and honor our veterans. We are indebted to all courageous men and women who answer our country’s call to duty. Their service and sacrifice, their dedication and love of country, advances our cause of freedom and democracy nationally and internationally. We must invest as much in their transition from the military as we do in their transition into the military.
I believe that by whole-heartedly supporting our veterans, we strengthen our military, our economy, and our country. We cannot separate supporting our veterans from our broader commitment to take care of our troops and their families.
Our nation has been at war for nearly two decades. We are grateful and indebted to the men and women who serve and continue to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in countries around the world. It is critical that we guarantee our servicemen and servicewomen the resources and training necessary to be effective in the military, as well as in civilian life. Too many veterans suffer trauma reintegrating to a life outside of service, often going without proper assistance when applying for jobs and medical care. I care about our veterans and will prioritize those services and programs that make their transition possible and successful.
There is a profound mental health crisis among our military men and women. One active duty member takes his or her own life almost every day. One veteran commits suicide almost every hour. These are devastating facts, requiring urgent attention and action. As your congressman, I will commit to provide all active and retired military the care and counseling they need. This includes improving training for health care professionals in the recognition and treatment of PTSD, traumatic brain injury, depression and other combat-related issues. We must recognize that proper, on-going treatments may require years, or even the remainder of a soldier’s life. We owe this to each and every soldier, sailor, marine and airmen.
America has the capacity to better leverage technology, giving veterans the health care they need. The VA’s continued reliance on paper record keeping has contributed to the exponential growth of backlogged veterans claims. By digitizing these records, we can create major efficiencies throughout the VA system for speedier and more thorough health care delivery.
Additionally, we must work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase its telehealth capabilities. Many veterans do not have easy access to health care facilities or feel comfortable going to medical centers. For many of these veterans, technology can offer access to primary care physicians and specialists without leaving their homes.
I will expand the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), an initiative through the Department of Veterans Affairs granting unemployed veterans up to 12 months of paid benefits to retrain in a field where they can find employment. We must also broaden the program so that all out-of-work veterans can seek meaningful employment, utilizing skills mastered in their military careers, or acquire new skills in fields of their choosing.
As your congressman, I will seek funding for veteran jobs programs. Many of the skills veterans learn – including the ability to work in teams and in high stress environments – are critical to law enforcement and firefighters. These careers are natural choices for veterans, but they often need additional help with supplemental training. The Department of Justice already commits grants to two programs, Vets 2 Cops and Vets 2 Firefighters, which assist veterans interested in pursuing careers in these fields. The funding for these existing programs must be increased and more government programs should be created for veterans seeking jobs.
I support offering bigger tax credits to businesses hiring veterans. This incentivizes more companies to take a first look at veterans when making hiring decisions. I will expand outreach efforts to companies to encourage them to post job openings on Veterans Job Bank, a central source for veterans searching for employment opportunities.
It’s not just veterans who bear the cost of service. Military families also make innumerable sacrifices to keep all of us safe. We should embrace these families as our own and commit every day to integrate them into our communities.
I will prioritize expanding employment and career development opportunities for military families, help employers create military family-friendly workplaces, and encourage schools to become more responsive to students with one or more parent in the military.