Benjamin Krause Testifies Before DNC Platform Committee On Veterans Issues

This is my testimony before the Platform Drafting Committee chairman and members of the Democratic National Committee conference held in Minneapolis July 27 & 28, 2012.

I presented to the committee about veterans issues and the veteran vote for Veterans For Common Sense.

Washington DC must realize that it is time to consult the veteran on a grassroots level in order to fix the system. Anything short of this is a waste of money and time. The political party with the strongest veteran platform will win this election.

 

DNC Platform Drafting Committee Chairman and Members

 

Chairman

Former Governor Ted Strickland, Ohio

Committee Members

Fmr. U.S. Rep. Tony Coelho, Washington, DC

Tino Cuellar, California

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts

DNC Secretary Alice Germond, West Virginia, Ex-Officio, Non-Voting Member

Donna Harris-Aikens, Virginia, NEA Policy Advisor

Colin Kahl, Washington, DC, Policy Advisor

Nancy Keenan, Virginia, President, NARAL

Heather Kendall Miller, Alaska

Thea Lee, Washington, DC, AFL-CIO Policy Director

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, California

Susan Ness, Maryland

Mayor Michael Nutter, Pennsylvania, City of Philadelphia

Carlos Odic, Florida, Youth Representative

Governor Deval Patrick, Massachusetts, 2008 Platform Committee Chair, Ex-Officio, Non-Voting Member

Fmr. U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida

Tom Wheeler, Washington, DC, Ex-Officio, Non-Voting Member

Christen Young, Illinois, Policy Advisor

________

Testimony to DNC Platform Drafting Committee

July 28, 2012
DNC VETERAN STATEMENT
Veterans For Common Sense
by Benjamin Krause
www.disabledveterans.org

Thank you for inviting Veterans For Common Sense to speak about veterans and the veteran vote.

Veterans win when politicians understand the promise of a square deal has become a mere premise of one. What used to work doesn’t anymore, and soldiers are getting ambushed after discharge by a VA benefits system posing as allies.

It is as if we are asking, “Will you pretend with us that we will keep our promise to you?”

President Obama and Secretary Shinseki have begun the essential work of rebooting the VA system. Veterans are grateful for it and have asked me to ask you to continue the effort and to develop new thinking to solve the persistent problems of:

  1. Veteran suicide
  2. Veteran unemployment and homelessness
  3. Veteran college dropout rates
  4. Poor and demoralizing delivery of veteran benefits
  5. Under-utilization of veteran training and expertise in the American workplace

Every unemployed, homeless, or underserved veteran is a lost opportunity and a lost investment for this country.

American taxpayers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars per veteran to train them in the most advanced technologies the world has ever seen, yet we relinquish that investment by letting them join the ranks of the jobless, the homeless, and the underserved.

By failing to solve these five lingering problems, it is as if we are asking, “May we use you, then drop you?”

It does not make economic sense. It does not make moral sense. It does not make future sense. It is a societal sin.

Americans admire their veterans. They greet uniformed soldiers in public places and thank them for their service. They put videos of their homecomings on YouTube and the national news. They want to believe veterans will receive what they need to live a bright after-service life. They are shocked, and feel helpless, when they find out the truth.

Every day, in VA offices around the country, veterans are denied benefits due them. Their disability claims get buried for years in the backlog of 900,000 claims. Veterans commit suicide while waiting for VA healthcare. Stigmas from the Vietnam era still keep new vets from jobs.

President Obama and Secretary Shinseki are among the political leaders who are out to change what’s true for veterans today. They have invested billions in upgrades to technology and policies. Still, recent choices are being made about sequestration that will threaten the progress that has been made.

This situation is complex, and fresh thinking is needed. New solutions about the Department of Veteran Affairs will be required to win the veteran’s vote in the upcoming election. Veterans and their families make up more than 25% of total voters. They will not tolerate further failure to deliver on the promise to fix the VA system.

Veterans want:

  1. New solutions that fit today’s realities.
  2. New leaders within the bureaucracy of the VA who will implement the existing and future policy changes.
  3. Improvements in how they receive and complete their educations. 88% of veterans drop out of college after the first year. Only 3% graduate.
  4. A grassroots voice in fixing the VA.
  5. Opportunities for veteran-owned businesses to compete for VA contracts. Veterans want you to know that nearly 10% of businesses are owned by veterans, generate over $1 trillion, and employ almost 6 million Americans.

We have an army of veteran-owned businesses ready to fix the VA and create jobs for vets. But, nearly 2/3 of the recent 7,200 veteran- owned businesses applying are being denied Veteran Owned Business status with the VA. This was caused by attempted fixes President Obama implemented in 2010.

Veterans win when politicians understand the real needs of all veterans, both those needing help and those delivering it as leaders of society.

One Minnesota veteran spent four years working on multi-million dollar avionics systems. After service, he had a decision to make: go to work or go to school. He chose school. This choice launched him into a draining battle for benefits. While the VA tried to stop him, he worked hard in college, received an Economics degree from Northwestern University, and will soon receive a law degree from the University of Minnesota. After ten years and an advanced legal education, this veteran finally won his disability benefits. I am that Minnesota Veteran.

  • How many veterans never have that chance?
  • How many veterans die before they get their benefits?
  • How many veterans simply give up?

I can tell you how many because I talk to thousands of them regularly on my blogs, vet guides, and presentations.

We, at Veterans For Common Sense, devote ourselves to helping other veterans secure their benefits and rights.

The struggle is real, the repair is colossal, and the solutions are possible. Every day I receive emails from veterans who have been denied benefits and were able to use my experience, and the experiences of others, to battle their way to what is theirs. A grass roots solution is the only way to fix the VA.

Veterans For Common Sense will not give up the fight until every veteran receives their square deal, that is, the care and opportunities they were promised.

Our nation, and our veterans, will thrive when we:

  1. Leverage the skills veterans have learned in the military to help solve what ails all Americans: a withering economy, chronic drug problems, urban blight, and social ills.
  2. Welcome veterans into our businesses, schools and organizations as the highly trained leaders they are.
  3. Train colleges and universities to acquire and retain veterans as students.
  4. Shift our country’s view of veterans to that of a resource rather than a problem.
  5. Create a VA that stops the blocks and walks the talk.

Veterans win when politicians understand it is time to make the premise the promise once again — when we ask the question, “May we help you?” and mean it.

We, at Veterans For Common Sense, are ready to be a part of the new solutions.

Thank you.

Voc Rehab Survival Guide Benjamin Krause is the creator of the DisabledVeterans.org community, author of the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, and numerous other guides. 

Benjamin is an award winning investigative reporter, Veterans Law attorney, and a disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. After receiving an Honorable Discharge, Benjamin began his decade long fight for benefits after being lowballed with a 10% rating in 2002. During that fight, he received degrees from Northwestern University and  the University of Minnesota Law School while using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

You can connect with Benjamin on  Google+,  Twitter,  Facebook and LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. says

    You cannot reform the VA from the outside looking in because the rotting ulcer is deep inside this criminal organization – and they have what they call “service to our veteran heroes” as their perfect cover. Mr. Shinseki knows about the rot because I told him. Chairman Miller and everyone in the House VA Committee know because I told all of them too. Senator Patty Murray? I told her too. Do you think President Obama doesn’t know? Think about it. Did they increase the VA’s budget to help the veterans or to help themselves? It is very obvious that the veterans’ plight has not improved because you are still hard at work trying to beg for what the veterans, by rights were supposed to have. So where did all that money go? I know where because I was there.

    Dino Gorospe
    Department of Veterans Affairs Whistleblower

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Dino. I don’t agree since I have convinced the VA to change certain policies directly – and I’m an outsider. Plus, within Veterans For Common Sene, we have requested cert from the Supreme Court to challenge the 9th Circuits reversal – the goal is to either change the VA’s processing of PTSD / TBI or to raise awareness of the issue. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction – and we are outsiders, too.

      Keep up the good fight by trying to affect change doing things your way. I’ll do it my way. So long as people are working toward the same goal, it will hopefully reform the agency. Sounds like you’re doing good things. Good luck!

So what do you think?