Beto For America

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Honoring Our Commitment

Caring For Our Nation’s Veterans

Beto's plan for honoring our veterans by investing in them at home, and ending wars abroad.

Every year, young women and men leave Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas to serve our country overseas, some sent to fight in “forever wars” that started before they were born.  And every year, many others return home to an El Paso VA where they must seek care for the mental and physical trauma they have sustained.  

A lifelong El Pasoan, Beto has always understood that we must pay any price, and bear any burden, to support all those who have worn the uniform and keep America safe.  That is why, as soon as he became a member of the House of Representatives in 2013, he brought El Paso’s voice and values to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  

Over his three terms in Congress, Beto did not spend a single day in the majority. And yet, he distinguished himself as a leading advocate for veterans—successfully expediting the veterans’ disability claims process, extending emergency mental health care to veterans with Other-Than-Honorable discharges, and improving the staffing and functioning at the El Paso VA facility.  

These laws are already saving lives, but Beto recognizes that our work is far from done. An average of  20 veterans and servicemembers die by suicide every day.  And countless veterans have come home from generations of wars, only to struggle with PTS, find themselves in the grips of addiction, or end up living on the streets. 

Our country can do better.  And we must. 

That is why Beto is unveiling a new, comprehensive plan to improve the services we provide to veterans all across America, which he will push on Day One and beyond, with the same tenacity he did as a Member of Congress. Beto’s plan is built around a four-part framework:

  1. End the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Reinvest the Savings in Veterans
  2. Invest in Building a State-of-the-Art Veterans Affairs Health Care System
  3. Provide All Veterans with Equal Treatment 
  4. Ensure Veterans Can Succeed When They Come Home

See Beto stand up for veterans over the years

Part 1

End “Forever Wars” and Establish a new Veterans Health Care Trust Fund

There is perhaps no greater way to honor the sacrifice of our veterans than to take gravely seriously the awesome responsibility of declaring war.  Eighteen years into the war in Afghanistan, and nearly three decades after our first engagement in Iraq, the time has come to cancel the blank check for endless war and to ensure that any future engagements are the result of a national conversation about our security interests and duly authorized by Congress. 

And when we do make the solemn decision to send our troops to war, we must take steps to honor their service.  In part, this means recognizing that our service members make sacrifices not only during their time of deployment but also once they return home.  Although advances in medical care are ensuring that more and more of our service members are surviving the wounds of war—many of these injuries will require treatment for the rest of their lives. Honoring the service of our troops means standing with them each step on the way through treatment, recovery, and a full life.

Over the next few decades, the costs related to health care and disability compensation for the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan alone are projected to be nearly a trillion dollars. Today, these services — ones which we have promised to veterans and ones which they are owed — are subject to fiscal battles in Washington.  They should not be.

Building on bipartisan proposals he advanced as a Member of Congress, as President, Beto would:

Bring a responsible end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These conflicts have yielded both tremendous human and fiscal costs. By ending these wars, we can reinvest the resources saved in those who have served.  

Establish a new Veterans Health Care Trust Fund.

To ensure the care needed by veterans of our wars will always be funded, Beto would work with Congress to pass a law that creates a Veterans Health Care Trust Fund (VHCTF) for each war we fight. 

Deposit proceeds from a “War Tax” into new VHCTFs. 

Under Beto’s plan, every new VHCTF would be paired with enactment of new war tax.  This new tax would serve as a reminder of the incredible sacrifice made by those who serve and their families.

Relentless for us.

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Part 2

Invest in Building a State-of-the-Art Veterans Affairs Health Care System

As President, Beto will advance a modern VA that not only delivers high-quality care with transparency and accountability, but also work to serve as a model for the rest of the country.  Already, many veterans prefer the care they get at VA medical facilities over other options.  At the VA, providers are held to high standards of professional training, used to working in an integrated health environment focused on veterans holistically, experienced in treating common service-connected conditions, and well-versed in military and veteran culture, making culturally competent care the norm.

Building on his record of delivering for veterans while in Congress, Beto will work to modernize the VA by increasing transparency and accountability, addressing staffing shortages—prioritizing closing the human capital gap of the over 45,000 vacant positions at the VA, including the 40,000 at the Veterans Health Administration, with a focus on the severe shortages in positions dealing with mental health, and instituting changes to decrease the appeals backlog.  He will also ensure that community providers are measuring up to the high standards that all of our veterans deserve.  As President, Beto would work to:

Attract more talent to the VA

A strong VA starts with a deep bench of talent.  For over 70 years, the VA has partnered with American medical schools, resulting in over 70 percent of US physicians having received training at a VA facility with veterans and residents benefitting. Beto recognizes we can expand on these partnerships.  Beto would invest in making VA a magnet for innovators in health care. Beto would:

Make the VA a leader in the digital health care revolution.

The VA is already embarking on the largest modern electronic health record installation in the United States,  and leads the nation in interoperability and secure, electronic transfer of veterans’ health information across silos of care. Importantly, the VA Blue Button initiative has also empowered veterans to truly own their own health information with electronic access vis-à-vis their own personal devices  As President, Beto would lean into that advantage—supporting the transfer of information from the Department of Defense, recognizing that as a priority, and positioning the VA to drive an industry-wide digital health care revolution. Specifically, under Beto’s leadership, the VA would: 

Develop evidence-based standards to promote quality, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness of care and deploy those standards across the VA and community providers. 

Health care for veterans extends beyond the VA system; and, despite the recent expansion of the Choice Program, efforts are still needed to bolster transparency and accountability, and improve the quality of care. Care must be standardized as an expectation extended not only at the VA but for all community providers involved in providing care to veterans. Beto would: 

Honoring Our Commitment
“No one cares more, listens better, asks smarter questions, or acts quicker to right wrongs”
Learn about Daniel Keegan’s tragic story and his mother, Stephanie’s, mission to carry on his legacy.

Establish the VA as a leader on mental health and opioid treatment.

We need to treat mental health with the same diligence, seriousness, and focus as physical health — especially because the epidemic of PTS and veteran suicide in the United States is both unacceptable and preventable.  The VA must make suicide prevention a top clinical priority.  The VA can be a leader on these health issues, pioneering approaches that can be adopted industry-wide.  In addition, the VA can be a driver in innovation for how our country deals with opioid addiction in particular.  In an O’Rourke Administration, the VA would: 

Honoring Our Commitment
“He was willing to talk to me, hear about the issues we faced, and every time I needed help, he was there”
Read Melinda’s story of service in Iraq and after returning home.

Attack bureaucratic backlogs and red tape, creating a model for efficiency within the health-care industry

Under an O’Rourke Administration, the VA would be required to reform the appeals backlog so that decisions can be rendered in less than 100 days—setting an example for rather than lagging behind the rest of the healthcare industry.  Further, Beto will direct the VA to continue timely processing of disability claims.  

Dramatically increase research and investment into diseases that disproportionately impact veterans

We need to better resource the innovators on the cutting edge of new cures for the diseases that disproportionately impact veterans.  That means providing billions in increased funding for research on PTS, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and Alzheimer’s and related dementias, and ALS.

Part 3

Provide All Veterans with Equal Treatment. 

Beto recognizes that for too long, too many of our troops have faced discrimination and are denied the benefits they have earned through their service.  As President, Beto will fight to change the culture of our system, including reviewing and revising eligibility standards, so that women veterans receive the care they need without harassment; LGBTQ+ veterans are honored for their service; veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, or other service-related injuries are not unjustly punished for the effects of their injuries; and that military service is once again celebrated as a pathway to citizenship. 

Veteran Struggling with PTSD Shares Heartfelt Voicemail From Senate Candidate Beto O'Rourke

This veteran struggling with PTSD shared a heartfelt voicemail that Beto O'Rourke left for her to show the country his true character (via NowThis)

Posted by NowThis Politics on Monday, September 17, 2018

Ensure women veterans receive quality care

Women veterans are the fastest growing group of veterans of the United States armed forces—now representing nearly 10 percent of our total veteran population.  But many of the services offered at our VA facilities are still geared towards our male veterans, leaving women veterans feeling excluded and unappreciated.  What is more, one in four women veterans report experiencing sexual harassment or degradation by male veterans at VA facilities.  We must do better.  As President, Beto will:

Ensure LGBTQ+ troops and veterans are treated with respect for their service

LGBTQ+ troops have served our country since its inception. If elected to serve as Commander in Chief, Beto will celebrate their sacrifice, and make certain LGBTQ+ troops and veterans and their families are granted the dignity of their service. He will do this by:

Pardon veterans who have been denied the benefits for conduct stemming from service related-injuries.

Veterans who are discharged with a status of Other-than- Honorable (OTH) discharge— often referred to as having “bad paper” discharges—can be denied their veterans benefits.  Between 2011 and 2015, 12 percent of service members were discharged with a status unable to access benefits, with over 55,000 diagnosed with post-traumatic stress or a related injury. Further, racial disparities are prevalent in the military justice system, with black service members more likely to face disciplinary actions than their fellow soldiers. The Trump Administration has failed to implement the Honor Our Commitment Act, which included provisions Beto championed  in the House extending mental health care to veterans with “bad paper.” As President, Beto will direct the VA to fully implement the Honor Our Commitment Act, and pardon post-9/11 veterans who received OTH discharges for conduct related to PTS or service-related injuries or who were discharged without the due process of a court-martial.  Beto will also work to reform our system so that victims of Military Sexual Trauma, many of whom are women, are not discriminatorily denied their PTS claims.

Restore military service as a pathway to citizenship

Those willing to serve on behalf of the United States should see a pathway to citizenship through their service. Though there is a long tradition of military service leading to citizenship, naturalization data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reflecting the end of 2018 found immigrants serving in the military are being denied citizenship at a higher rate than civilian applicants.  

Part 4

Ensure Veterans Can Succeed When They Come Home

During his time in Congress, Beto worked to improve the transition process by adding a mental health evaluation to the existing physical examination for all departing service members and requiring the process to start a year before separation.  By December 2018, Beto had held 24 veterans’ town halls, engaging with the veteran community to ensure his agenda in Congress put their real needs and concerns at the forefront. Recognizing the value of the veterans community, Beto will harness its support to improve a veterans transition from service. As President, Beto will:

Expand the support offered by the Transition Assistance Program, offering “reverse boot camps” to ensure veterans are prepared for success in their communities prior to discharge. 

Beto will direct the Department of Defense to ensure these boot camps include civilian advisors such as career specialists, education counselors, financial advisors, and mental health professionals to determine service members’ readiness for separation. 

Expand support for families of servicemembers

Beto will ensure families are aware of the support benefits available to them, and instruct the VA to expand services so that family members, who sacrifice alongside their servicemember, get the support they need.

Ensure veterans’ economic well-being

Beto will harness government resources to prevent veteran homelessness and to support veterans seeking to improve their employment credentials,  own their own businesses or farms, or avoid crushing student loan debt.  As President, Beto will ensure federal agencies are:

Veterans’ Town Hall

Posted by Congressman Beto O'Rourke on Friday, December 14, 2018

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