How to provide real help for veterans | Perry Gershon for Congress
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How to provide real help for veterans

How to provide real help for veterans

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This article was originally published in the Long Island Advance

Veterans deserve much more practical support given their sacrifices for this country through selfless patriotic duty. My grandfather Colonel Willard Angen was part of the force that liberated Dachau and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I could not be more proud of him and his service. Our great nation has a duty to ensure returning servicemen receive the civilian life that heroes deserve, but right now we are failing them. We can, and must, do better.

Bureaucratic red tape obstructs assimilation into the civilian workforce, and it inhibits education through the post-9/11 GI bill. The state of veterans’ healthcare is worst of all. Veterans deserve the best quality care, and they receive far less. From the 67 percent of airmen who have both PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder, to the disproportionate veterans’ suicide rate, our country’s response to the needs of veterans is unacceptable. Only 2.3 percent of private healthcare providers meet all readiness requirements to treat veterans.

Lee Zeldin and his Republican colleagues in Congress are exacerbating many of these problems. The Affordable Care Act was a boon for veterans, lowering uninsured rates and providing more healthcare to veterans. But Zeldin voted to repeal it, and studies show repeal would only increase the uninsured rate among vets.

Earlier this year, when Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin resigned, he warned of “advocates” within the administration looking to privatize its care. This may be good policy for special interests, like Koch brothers-backed groups that can profit at veterans’ expense, but it would be a terrible outcome for veterans. Veterans’ groups have overwhelmingly condemned privatization. The more healthcare veterans are forced to receive outside the VA, the more diminished VA services will become. The VA is essential at providing tailored care, suited to the issues vets most frequently face.

Lee Zeldin might have a more informed position on veterans’ issues if he hadn’t left the Veterans Affairs Committee to join the Financial Services Committee. The move helped him solicit hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Wall Street. It didn’t help vets.

We must resist efforts to privatize the VA, while protecting health insurance offered through the ACA, and adopting a new approach for our veterans returning home. When elected, I will work to streamline VA services, launch information campaigns to inform veterans of the services they are entitled to, and promote legislation encouraging the growth of satellite facilities to treat veterans who cannot access the VA due to geographic limitations. We should find a way for veterans to see private doctors for matters requiring less specialized care, when travel time to a VA facility is excessive.

Moreover, I will prioritize reversing Trump’s federal pay freeze that affects staff who serve and care for our vets in disproportionately large numbers. I’ll also work hard to facilitate veterans’ assimilation into civilian employment. I will fight to pass legislation that will increase transparency of post-9/11 GI Bill education options to give veterans complete information when making choices. On the employment side, I will work to increase the number of job fairs on-base before our soldiers return home, as well as pass legislation that encourages partnerships between the military and industries where veterans’ skills will be most closely aligned.

When it comes to appropriations, given the amount of funding for active duty military operations, it seems reasonable to propose that allocations for veterans keep pace with increases in the defense budget. They deserve no less. The service they provide is too important to be underfunded, as it is today.

We must truly show veterans our appreciation for their admirable sacrifice (not simply talk about it). If given the privilege to serve them and all residents of NY-1, veterans will be one of my top priorities.

Posted on September 20, 2018.

I'm a businessman, not a career politician, so I look at things differently.
Government cannot fix our problems, but I believe we can work together to provide opportunity and create an economy that works for all of us.

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