There is nothing more disgusting than the scene of Donald Trump headlining the Rolling Thunder rally in Washington DC over Memorial Day weekend– a rally that ostensibly supports veterans. A man who used his wealth and position to obtain five deferments from serving in Vietnam when so many others without privilege were sent into that hell hole- 2.7 million served in that terrible war, 58,000 never returning home, another 75,000 severely disabled. In all, some 42 million Americans have served in the military since the American Revolution, more than 1.1 million making the ultimate sacrifice.
This is a man who has shown nothing but disrespect for the military and veterans, even as he fear-mongers the lie that the American military is weak and, he crows, we need Trump to restore its greatness. To the extent that defense spending – still the biggest chunk of the budget, amounting to more than the rest of the world spends on its military – has been cut, it is because of the Sequester that was put into place because Republicans in Congress refused to accept Obama’s budget compromise. Trump’s fight is with Congress, not Obama, but that does not stop him (or his supporters) from misdirecting the blame.
In fact, Obama has done more for veterans – and the military and their families – than any other president, including passing the post 9/11 GI Bill, Michele Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces campaign, an all-out drive to improve employment opportunities for veterans and military families, improving services at the Veterans Administration hospitals.
This week, with great fanfare, Trump held a press conference to explain where the $6 million he claimed to have raised for veterans groups in a fundraiser (his excuse for skipping out on a GOP presidential debate), was allocated, including, he said, $1 million of his own money.
He tried to weasel out of paying up – only being forced by media attention.
Let’s consider Trump’s actual record (something that his minions fail to do):
He has indicated he would not support the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which the VA has said has benefited more than 700,000 veterans and their family members who have so far received $20 billion in benefits, saying : “No. I want to bring jobs back to our country.”
He has advocated privatizing the VA when the vast majority of veterans appreciate the specialized services they obtain.
He showed contempt for prisoners of war, as when he dissed Sen. John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam (refusing the opportunity to be freed until his men also were freed), saying, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, ok? I hate to tell you.”
Who does Trump consider a war hero? Trump, as when he referred to his sex life and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases as his “personal Vietnam,” and that though he never actually served in the military, he wrote that he “always felt that I was in the military” because he was sent to a military-themed boarding school. And last year, he downplayed the dangers of war with modern technology, claiming that if an armored Humvee is hit with an explosive, our soldiers just “go for a little ride upward and they come down.” He also has called for expanding the use of torture, which would put US servicemembers at severe risk.
While Trump thinks he can buy veterans’ affection by throwing a few million dollars in their direction, in contrast, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate who as Senator served on the Armed Services Committee, has an actual record of supporting the military, veterans, and military families and has shown time and time again that she understands their needs.
- Joined efforts to build veterans rehabilitation center. Senator Clinton joined with Republican Senator John McCain to personally raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund which led to building the Center for the Intrepid, a $50 million state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio, Texas, designed specifically to help seriously wounded service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Increased assistance for families caring for veterans. Senator Clinton introduced the Heroes at Home Act of 2006, and fought to establish new services for military members and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. She successfully amended the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act to establish a traumatic brain injury family caregiver training curriculum for DOD and VA hospitals, and she championed efforts to make it easier for military family members to provide care for their loved ones.
- Expanded health care coverage for Reservists and National Guard members. Senator Clinton worked with Senator Lindsey Graham to expand veterans’ access to military health insurance, ensuring that all members of the Reserves and National Guard—and their families—had access to military health benefits even when they were not deployed.
- Protected family members caring for wounded warriors. Senator Clinton collaborated with Senator Chris Dodd to author and introduce new legislation that aimed to broaden protections afforded by the Family and Medical Leave Act to the family of wounded service members. The legislation was enacted as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
- Supported survivors of fallen service members. Working with Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Clinton introduced legislation to expand benefits afforded to surviving spouses. She joined with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to introduce a bill to increase the gratuity paid to family members of fallen veterans from $12,000 to $100,000, a proposal that was enacted as part of the 2005 supplemental appropriations act. Clinton also served as an honorary board member for the non-profit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which provides resources and support to family members of those who have died in military service.
[You can read the full, 12-page veterans plan and her new, expanded agenda to support military families.]
On Tuesday, as Trump was holding his mock press conference listing where $6 million in contributions for veterans were allocated and spending more time bashing Clinton and the press, Hillary Clinton released wide-ranging set of proposals to better support military families:
- Ensuring that family leave policies meet the needs of our military families and increasing access to child care for all service members in the Active Duty and Reserve who need it, both on- and off-base.
- Enhancing opportunities for military spouse employment and breaking down antiquated rules, such as onerous state credentialing, that lead to military spouse under-employment. A recent study showed that unemployment and under-employment of military spouses costs the U.S. economy almost $1 billion per year.
- Creating flexibility around military moves by allowing families to continue receiving their housing allowance for up to six months after a military member’s Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move under common-sense circumstances.
- Standing side-by-side with families through transition out of the military, making jobs services and transition programs more widely available to loved ones during the months and years after a service member leaves the service.
- Establish “Joining Forces,” launched by the Obama administration, as a permanent part of the Executive Office of the President, to continue building partnerships between the public, private and nonprofit sectors in support of the military and veteran community.
- Ensuring military children receive a high-quality education and the resources to succeed. This includes preserving and protecting the Post-9/11 GI Bill, making it a lasting part of the nation’s social contract for those who serve and their families, including its provisions for transfer of educational benefits to spouses and children of military personnel.