With the President soon to leave the White House, it seems prudent to ask whether veterans benefited under the Obama Administration.
If “yes”, how much? If “not”, why not?
Four years ago, at the Democratic Platform Committee, I delivered the above address.
I really wanted to help veterans and hoped President Obama and the White House were listening. My message was to push more grassroots level activism with local emphasis.
At the time, I believed President Obama would resolve the disability backlog, fix deficiencies in suicide policies and PTSD treatments, all while preventing employee accountability scandals like the wait time fraud that started at Phoenix VA.
A Little Backstory
While in law school, I worked with Veterans For Common Sense. The nonprofit’s focus was to improve VA processing of health care and benefits adjudications for veterans suffering from PTSD leading to suicide.
We stumped on Capitol Hill, and thanks to my bud Patrick Bellon, I had a chance to address Obama’s DNC about how to help veterans.
Since that time, I developed the most popular veteran-centric reform focused news source online. I also exposed the biggest disability compensation scandal (TBI scandal) this century.
Now, after four years since my DNC presentation, and before Trump takes office, it seemed prudent to take come time to reflect on what happened and to see how things worked out.
Obama Administration On Veterans
Did veterans see an increase or decrease in help from VA during the course of President Obama’s presidency? Did he follow through with his promises to help us?
In case you are wondering, here are the particulars about my presentation about veterans to the DNC. Do you think Obama or DNC was listening?
My DNC Platform Committee Presentation
DNC PLATFORM DRAFTING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS
Former Governor Ted Strickland, Ohio
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
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:
- Veteran suicide
- Veteran unemployment and homelessness
- Veteran college dropout rates
- Poor and demoralizing delivery of veteran benefits
- 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.
- New solutions that fit today’s realities.
- New leaders within the bureaucracy of the VA who will implement the existing and future policy changes.
- Improvements in how they receive and complete their educations. 88% of veterans drop out of college after the first year. Only 3% graduate.
- A grassroots voice in fixing the VA.
- 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:
- 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.
- Welcome veterans into our businesses, schools and organizations as the highly trained leaders they are.
- Train colleges and universities to acquire and retain veterans as students.
- Shift our country’s view of veterans to that of a resource rather than a problem.
- 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.