Tag Archives: Joe Biden

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Advances Plan to Assist Military Families, Caregivers, Survivors

Vice President Joe Biden with Dr. Jill Biden are proposing an expansive plan to assist military families, caregivers and survivors © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Second Lady in the Obama Administration, Dr. Jill Biden worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of bettering lives for military families. VP Joe Biden, candidate for President, is proposing a plan to reinvigorate and expand that program for military families, caregivers and survivors. This is from the Biden campaign:

FACT SHEET:
The Biden Plan to Fulfill Our Commitment to Military Families, Caregivers and Survivors

As parents of a service member who deployed to Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden understand that it’s not just military members who sign up to serve our nation, their families do too. The Bidens understand the sleepless nights, wondering if your deployed loved one is safe; the difficulties children experience while their parent is serving far away; and all the added sacrifices and challenges, big and small, military families face because they choose selfless service. Our military families never fail to give their best to the United States, and we owe them our best in return.
 
Less than one percent of Americans sign up to serve. They volunteer to shoulder the sacrifices necessary to keep our country safe. That’s why Vice President Biden has long been adamant that, as a nation, our one truly sacred obligation is to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them to war, and to take care of them and their families — during deployments and when they return home.  
 


Building on the Biden Commitment to Military Families  
The Obama-Biden Administration made support for our military families a signature issue–and a personal priority. Together with First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Biden created Joining Forces, a national initiative driving top-level focus on the issues that matter to military families, service members, and veterans including employment, education, and wellness. Joining Forces supported opportunities that led to the hiring or training of more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses and drove reforms in all 50 states to reduce credentialing barriers for qualified military spouses seeking employment. Dr. Biden also supported the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Military Spouse Employment Partnership, which brought together hundreds of companies to help 100,000 military spouses find jobs.
 
As a life-long educator, Dr. Biden spearheaded “Educate the Educators”–a commitment from more than 100 colleges and universities to take steps to meet the unique needs of military-connected children–and championed the GI Comparison tool to help veterans and military family members choose high-quality post-secondary educational institutions. She also worked to make sure that all 50 states signed the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to better address relocation challenges facing military school-aged children. 
Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden continued this commitment after leaving office, making support for military families a key focus of their continued public service. The Biden Foundation sought to drive economic opportunity for military spouses, create supportive educational environments for military-connected children, and change the conversation around mental health for service members, veterans, and their families.

As President and First Lady, the Bidens will ensure we keep our national commitment to military families by relaunching and strengthening Joining Forces, making it a priority for a Biden Administration.
 

 
We know that many future service members come from military families. So family readiness is integral to mission readiness, both now and in the future. This cannot be an afterthought. It is a national security imperative, and it should be resourced and supported as such.
 
Through nearly two decades of sustained warfare, military families have met many challenges and sacrificed much for our country. They have answered the call to duty again and again. To sustain the world’s finest fighting force, Biden will ensure that families on the homefront receive our full support and the benefits they have earned and deserve through:

Paying Service Members a Competitive Wage

Providing Resources for Military Spouses, Caregivers, and Survivors

Prioritizing Support for Military Children  

President Biden will inspire a future generation of Americans to volunteer for military service by ensuring we fulfill our obligations to the generations who have already answered the call to serve our country and by supporting the well-being of ALL military families.
 
Modernize Compensation to Keep Pace with the Current Economy: Today, more military families are struggling to make ends meet, and some report food insecurity, lack of quality childcare, and poor financial health. That is totally unacceptable. Military service members and their families risk everything for our country–they must be guaranteed a living wage. But the existing compensation framework simply does not allow military families–especially those who are young and more vulnerable–to thrive in today’s modern economy. President Biden will work aggressively to update the federal workforce compensation framework for service members so that the government leads the way in ensuring hard-working families can attain a middle class life, and he will support legislation which will, in the meantime, provide an additional allowance for military families living below the poverty line.
 
Create Stability by Increasing Time between Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Moves: Every year, more than 400,000 Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves occur for service members and their families. This system is expensive, and it is broken. Military families consider frequent relocation as a driver for negative outcomes in career opportunities for military spouses, military child education, and the development of supportive social networks. While every service member and family understands that mission is paramount, we must invest in solutions that build stability for families and set conditions for service member retention and military family well-being.
 
As president, Biden will commission research and develop solutions to support the increase of time between PCS moves while ensuring we meet targets for Operational and Personnel Tempo in order to meet our national security demands. This will require that we comprehensively examine the potential positive and negative impacts of any changes to deployment cycles, unit assignment policies, and force size calculations. One such solution could be investing in the creation of virtual or hybrid learning scenarios for mandatory Professional Military Education (PME) so that service members and their families can remain in place, rather than PCS to a new base for a short educational tour.
 
Ensure Military Spouse Professional and Economic Opportunity: Military spouses are often more highly educated than their civilian peers, yet they face an unemployment rate of around 30%. Frequent relocation and high operational tempos often stifle their career trajectory. The military personnel system was designed with the single-earner family in mind, but many military families, like their civilian counterparts, depend on earning a second income or simply want the opportunity for the military spouse to pursue a career. Military families are increasingly experiencing challenges such as food insecurity or insufficient savings for emergencies, and with far too many military spouses unemployed or underemployed, meeting these needs is a challenge. LGBTQ military spouses may also be disproportionately affected when they reside in states that are allowed to discriminate based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Trump Administration has not only allowed but encouraged these discriminatory practices, all while claiming to support the military. It’s hypocritical and just plain wrong.
 
To increase economic opportunity for military spouses, President Biden will:

Invest $500 million in a 3-year Department of Defense (DOD) military spouse entrepreneurship pilot program, which will provide micro-grants, mentorship, and technical assistance to military spouses who are interested in starting or growing small businesses.

Ensure that the DoD’s Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunity office is fully funded and staffed so that effective programming such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarships, and the Military Spouse Transition Program (MySTeP) have the opportunity to deliver results and raise awareness and utilization among military families.

Build bridges between the private sector and the U.S. government to help educate employers about the value of military spouse talent, drive commitments to hire, retain, and promote them, and create concrete career opportunities, as Joining Forces did.

Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to include military spouses.

Undo the Trump administration’s discriminatory policies and redouble efforts with state officials to ensure that LGBTQ military spouses have the support they need to pursue successful careers.

Continue efforts begun during the Obama-Biden Administration to put an end to unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. While licensing is important in some occupations to protect consumers, in many occupations licensing does nothing but thwart economic opportunity. If a military spouse who works in an occupation that requires a license or credential and has to move because of their military member’s career, they may have to get certified all over again. As president, Biden will build on the Obama-Biden Administration’s efforts to incentivize states to reduce unnecessary licensing requirements and to ensure licenses are transferable from one state to the next.

Fully fund installation-based child care facilities and expand awareness of the DoD fee assistance program, as supported by leading advocates for military families,, so that military spouses can more easily pursue their educations and careers and tap into respite care to relieve stressors of deployments.

Improve Support for Caregivers: Caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans face a variety of challenges, including negative health outcomes, lost wages, and difficulties planning their future. They are essential to military families and our veterans, and we owe them the same commitment and support that they show to our wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans. 
 
As president, Biden will:

Ensure that caregivers of active duty service members receive adequate professional and peer support, including competent mental health care, financial readiness training, and transition support throughout the rehabilitation timeline (whether that is leading to the service member’s medical retirement or a return to duty).

Provide transparency and high-touch case management via in-person or telehealth sessions with caregiver coordinators for those caregivers enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support Program, especially to provide personalized assistance as they navigate dual eligibility for benefits and services from both the DoD and VA.

A critical part of meeting our commitment to military families is to do so on time, something the Trump Administration has failed to do. President Biden will ensure that the eligibility expansion for the VA Caregiver Support Program meets its timelines and collects longitudinal satisfaction data through regular surveying of those enrolled or enrolling in the program.

Help caregivers of wounded, ill, injured, or elderly veterans pay for long-term care by providing relief through the creation of a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported by AARP. This tax credit will be in addition to the financial support provided by the VA Caregiver program.

Support proposals to expand opportunities for much needed respite care for caregivers, to include those offered within DoD, VA, and through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Institute a waiver for the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 35), so that spouses and survivors who have not accessed their benefits in the allotted time frame will have the opportunity to request additional time.

End Needless Financial Burdens Facing Survivors: As President, Joe Biden will end the needless financial burdens caused by the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency Indemnity Compensation Offset (SBP/DIC Offset) or “Widow’s Tax.” It is wrong that we punish the families of the fallen financially in the wake of their extreme sacrifice. 
 
Improve Military Child Education: There are more than 1 million children of active duty service members worldwide. Whether they are educated in Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, local school districts, parochial schools, home schools, or online schools, military children require support to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed in their education. 
 
As president, Biden will:

Propose legislation to expand the Military Student Identifier (MSI) to all military-connected children (to include children of National Guard and Reserve personnel regardless of activation/order status), children of veterans, and children of deceased service members or veterans, who are often impacted by the service of their parents. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, we passed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, which included the MSI, a designation that allows educators and schools to better understand where military-connected children are receiving their education, and how we can better support them. Currently, the MSI extends only to children of active duty service members, excluding children of National Guard, Reserve, veterans, caregivers, and children of the fallen. But these children face unique challenges too, and we need to know who they are so we can determine what support they need .

Promote efforts across states to streamline enrollment requirements, standardize educational resources, and train teachers and school-based leadership to ensure we are meeting the unique needs of military children effectively, no matter where they study or how often they have to move.

Promote greater awareness of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children among military families, teachers, and administrators.

Create and disseminate training tools that empower military-connected parents to better advocate for their children.

Provide financial incentives for school districts to train educators on the unique needs and barriers faced by military-connected youth so that they are able to help military children thrive, no matter where they receive their education.

Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members by strengthening the GI Bill Comparison Tool and School Feedback Tool to help put an end to post-secondary institutions’ predatory practices.

Enact legislation eliminating the so-called 90/10 loophole that gives for-profit schools an incentive to enroll veterans, service members, and military family members who are using the GI Bill or Tuition Assistance in programs that aren’t delivering results. 

Expand and Improve Behavioral Health Services for Military Dependents: Children and spouses in military families are resilient, but they do experience high levels of stress, whether due to frequent moves, deployment and training schedules of the service member, or weak social/emotional support networks. School-age children and adolescents who experience separation from a parent (either through deployment or other assignments) show higher levels of emotional and behavioral distress. About 25 percent of high school freshmen and juniors in a military family have reported suicidal thoughts during the previous year, and the stresses of military life can exacerbate health issues, among them depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders.
 
Biden has committed to achieving mental health parity, expanding access to behavioral health care, and removing the stigma surrounding behavioral health issues. He will redouble our efforts to ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services.
 
It is also essential that we invest in an infrastructure that promotes health and well-being, reduces risky behaviors, and provides timely, convenient access to high-quality mental health and substance use/abuse services for military dependents. We must ensure that DoD facilities are fully staffed, equipped, resourced, and able to support the behavioral health of military dependents. If this capacity is not in place, we must invest in solutions to create additional affordable, accessible, and high-quality capacity in the civilian sector. Care must be effective and grounded in evidence-based treatments. Providers must be culturally competent, educated in the unique needs of military families. And families who seek support should never go into debt for treatment or be concerned about confidentiality.
 
The Biden Administration will:

Increase funding for and expand access to telehealth for military families, particularly in areas not able to access timely care.

Expand the number of free, non-medical Military OneSource counseling sessions for military families from 12 sessions to 18 and expand access to Coast Guard families regardless of activation status.

Invest in recruiting and retaining behavioral health care professionals in military treatment facilities to ensure there are enough clinicians to support the needs of not only our active duty force, but military dependents.

Redefine the federal “Health Professional Shortage Areas” (HPSAs) to specifically include military-impacted geographies.

Expand the National Health Services Corps to incentivize early professional behavioral health providers to serve this population.

Re-prioritize and expand the work of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) interagency task force on the behavioral health needs of veterans and military families, to include issues related to traumatic brain injury, substance use disorder and addiction, and other related conditions. Additionally, President Biden will fully restore SAMHSA’s focus on evidence-based solutions and appoint a specific position on the Domestic Policy Council to drive a whole-of-government focus on these issues. 

Direct the Department of Defense to produce a robust, annual report on the state of military family behavioral health, in coordination with VA and SAMHSA.

Guarantee Safe Housing: The government has broken its trust with military families by providing sub-par housing. Now, we have to work twice as hard to rebuild this trust. That will require the utmost transparency and accountability from both the government and the private sector partners charged with housing the families of our service members.
 
The Biden Administration will:

Enforce a comprehensive and standardized tenant bill of rights for all military families, and as advocates have rightly demanded, ensure DoD senior leadership enforces compliance. We won’t be making more empty promises to military families. We will hold these landlords, and ourselves, accountable.

Require regular, standardized, objective, and published reporting of military family satisfaction and concerns from all housing.

Establish a public-facing document outlining expectations of quality and consequences for all housing providers and, when necessary, terminate long-term leases held by private companies.

Know our Families: Long periods of sustained war-fighting have made us reactive in our responses to military family needs. To best support these families and optimize their health and well-being, we must improve our understanding of their current and emerging needs. We can’t be caught on our heels. We must anticipate and prepare solutions that respond to the evolving needs of military families across the military life cycle. We must be able to track and identify emerging trends so that we can be nimble and responsive to the changing needs of our military families.
 
As president, Biden will:

Convene a multi-disciplinary working group of policy makers, program leaders, and research and subject-matter experts to construct a strategic research plan to inform solutions to support military families.

Designate specific resources for research and development related to military families outcomes within the budget of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to include resources for research within both the Military Family and Community Policy and the Defense Health Program.

Require that DoD work across the federal government to leverage national and state-level assessments of health and well-being to ensure they appropriately assess military affiliation in ongoing data collections across the United States. It is imperative that all national surveys include variables that allow us to examine how well military families fare relative to others.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: On Veterans Day, Biden Releases Personal Reflection, Detailed Agenda

Vice President Joe Biden released a detail plan for veterans © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for president, with Dr. Jill Biden, issued a statement on Veterans Day, and his campaign issued a detailed plan about what a Biden Administration would do for veterans. Here are is the statement and fact sheet from the campaign:

John Steinbeck memorably wrote that, “A soldier is the most holy of all humans, because [they are] the most tested.” From Fort McHenry to San Juan Hill, from the Argonne Forest to Midway, from the Mekong Delta to Fallujah, and on every battlefield between, America’s veterans have always been the most tested among us — and they have never failed in their duty.
 
In each generation, a small fraction of Americans serve and sacrifice on behalf of us all. Less than one percent of our population risks everything to protect our country, incurring in the rest of us a debt far greater than our nation could ever repay. We have always believed that the most sacred obligation of our government is to do right by the men and women who defend our nation at war — to care for them and their families, both while they are deployed and after they come home. It’s an obligation we are honor-bound to keep.
 
Veterans Day offers us a moment to reflect on that obligation, and to recommit ourselves to all that it truly means. Every one of our veterans deserves timely, world-class health care — the very best of what our country has to offer. They deserve comprehensive mental health support, and a thoughtful, well-funded plan to address the ongoing tragedy of veteran suicides. They deserve a serious approach to ending veteran homelessness, and greater resources to help them readjust to life at home once their service concludes. Not only do they deserve these things — their families and caregivers do, too.
 
Our veterans also deserve a leg up when it comes to educational and economic opportunities — everything from tuition assistance to skills training to entrepreneurship programs. That isn’t just for their benefit; America benefits enormously from the leadership, talent, and experience of veterans who gird every sector of our economy with sinew and smarts. The GI Bill was one of the greatest engines of widespread prosperity our country has ever conceived, helping to cement the most resilient middle class in the history of the world in the wake of World War II. Our veterans and our country deserve that commitment to be upheld and advanced.
 
Most of all, our veterans deserve leaders who will fight for them as ardently and as forcefully as they have fought for us.
 
That’s why, on this Veterans Day, we are proud to release a detailed and comprehensive plan to honor the full breadth of our obligation to veterans and their families — and to restore the sacred commitments that this White House has seen fit to ignore.
 
This plan and this cause are personal to us. Over the course of many years, it has been our honor to visit our troops in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and to witness their incredible strength of character firsthand. We have been blessed to visit with wounded veterans in Landstuhl, Germany, and at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and to welcome troops to our home for Thanksgiving dinners and spend many Christmas Days with the heroes at Walter Reed. When our son Beau was deployed to Iraq for a year, we whispered prayers, and learned a small portion of what sacrifice means to the families of those who serve.
 
Every one of the more than 18 million veterans in our country has earned our admiration and our gratitude — but it is our duty to repay them with something more than that. We must honor their service with bold policies that meet our sacred obligation, with opportunities commensurate to the sacrifices they and their families have made, and with trustworthy national leadership.

FACT SHEET:
The Biden Plan to Keep Our Sacred Obligation to Our Veterans
  

Joe Biden believes that as a nation, we have many obligations, but we have only one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families–both while they are deployed and after they return home. As the parents of a son who deployed to Iraq, Joe and Jill Biden understand the gravity of this promise. Our service members ensure our freedoms, our security, and the very future of our country. They are willing to sacrifice everything. Many do. And each of them deserves our respect and enduring gratitude, both while on active duty and after separating from service. 
 
President Trump has repeatedly failed our veterans and ignored this sacred obligation. From the outrage of deporting undocumented veterans without checking their record of military service, to allowing his wealthy Mar-a-Lago friends to drive veterans policy, to pursuing policies designed to privatize and dismantle the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Trump neither understands nor respects the idea of “duty, honor, country” that inspires our brave military members to serve and imbues our veterans with pride. 
 
Less than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military, and the other 99 percent of us owe them the secure futures they have earned. As president, Joe Biden will keep faith with our veterans and their families. He will meet our sacred obligation.


The Biden Record of Delivering for Our Veterans  
Joe Biden has fought aggressively for our service members and veterans throughout his career in public service. His record speaks for itself. On the broad range of issues that matter to our brave military members and our veterans, Joe Biden has always had their back.
 
As a senator, Joe Biden was an early advocate for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins to be able to access the care and benefits they deserve.
He championed funding for prosthetics for veterans and mammogram coverage for female veterans, fought for proper burial allowances, and supported the concurrent receipt of retirement and disability pay for veterans. He co-sponsored the legislation to establish the Vietnam, Korean, and WWII memorials in Washington, D.C., as well as the post-9/11 GI Bill to provide educational benefits to a new generation of heroes.
 
Biden also led the way in the Senate on critical issues to protect the health of our military, most notably driving the fight to increase funding for up-armored Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) by $23.6 billion, which saved thousands of lives and limbs of U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he introduced legislation to prohibit cuts to military medical care during times of war.
 
In the White House, Biden continued to be a clarion voice advocating for our veterans. The Obama-Biden Administration accomplished major milestones, including cutting the population of homeless veterans by almost half and reducing the unemployment rate for veterans by more than half. In 2013, when an unacceptable backlog of veterans’ disability claims was uncovered at the VA, the Obama-Biden Administration took aggressive action to rectify the failures and ultimately reduced the backlog by nearly 90 percent in just over three years. The Obama-Biden Administration also increased the overall funding request for the VA by more than 85 percent during its years in office, including a 76 percent increase in funding devoted to the critical issue of veterans’ mental health. It successfully implemented the new GI Bill and approved the long overdue expansion of benefits to those suffering from Agent Orange-related conditions.
 
During the Obama-Biden Administration, the VA also led in creating the Blue Button app to help veterans access their health data and medical records more easily. Today, Blue Button is used by more than million veterans.
 
Additionally, Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama created and led the Joining Forces initiative to build support for our veterans and military families, including a focus on increasing employment opportunities. Between April 2011 and the end of the Administration, Joining Forces supported programs and secured commitments from employers that led to the hiring or training of more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses.
 

 
Our longest wars have taken their toll, both on our newest generation of veterans and on the system built to support them and previous generations of veterans. According to the most recent census data, there are more than 18 million veterans in the United States, and today’s veterans population has needs that the VA has never before addressed. This is reflected both in the growing interest for “anywhere, anytime” health care service models and in our growing understanding of behavioral health challenges, the harmful impacts of burn pits, environmental toxins, traumatic brain injury, and the devastating epidemic of opioid addiction and suicide. The VA must adapt to meet the ever-evolving needs of the veteran community. 
 
At the same time, the VA continues to struggle with poor organizational performance, staff shortfalls, leadership gaps, and IT systems failures. The integration of a new generation of veterans into the VA system has added a substantial number of veterans eligible for health care and other benefits as overall demand for services has surged, with the combination creating capacity challenges across the system. Too often, the VA’s performance in terms of access, outcomes, cost, and accountability is mixed. There have been both important successes and intolerable failures or gaps in service. Solving these challenges will require a substantial investment in talent, leadership time, budget, and public attention. It’s what we owe our veterans. It is past time to rethink and reinvent a better VA.
 
There is nothing partisan about improving support for service members, veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. As president, Joe Biden will unite the country and restore the VA as the premier agency for ensuring our veterans’ overall well-being by:

Providing Veterans World Class Health Care to Meet Their Specific Needs

Driving Progress to Eliminate Veterans Homelessness and Bring Down Suicide Rates

Creating Meaningful Employment and Educational Opportunities

Improving VA Management and Accountability. 

To support the VA mission, a Biden Administration will ensure coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), state agencies, and the thousands of non-governmental organizations that support this vital community. It will work faithfully to restore public trust in the VA so that no one in the military community or beyond will ever again question whether the United States of America keeps its promises to those who serve our country.
 
Providing Veterans World Class Health Care to Meet Their Specific Needs
The Veterans Health Administration serves upwards of 9 million veterans and is responsible for their whole health, physical and mental. Studies have found that health outcomes at VA hospitals are often better than their non-VA counterpart, and more than 90 percent of those who receive their health services through the VA report that they would recommend it to a fellow veteran. As president, Joe Biden will work to ensure that the VA provides the world class health care that our veterans have earned and deserve and sets the example for private sector care.
 
In the area of mental health, the VA and DoD have done pioneering work to address the specific needs of veterans, deploying innovative treatment solutions such as telehealth and other platforms to address a variety of conditions. The private sector trails the VA in its ability to provide behavioral health services to the nation as a whole, much less to understand the unique needs of veterans.
 
At the same time, the VA is also struggling with a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, and many VA facilities are more than 60 years old. Further, across the system, the variance in quality of — and access to — care is unacceptable. As the demand for treatment has increased, the VA must continually strive to improve services and outcomes for veterans, especially in the areas of pain, polytrauma recovery, substance-use disorder (SUD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and general behavioral health, in the most effective and cost-efficient way possible.
 
In addition to protecting and building on the Affordable Care Act with a public option to expand access to quality, affordable health care and lower costs, and commitments to keep rural hospitals open and expand health care delivery models for rural areas, a Biden Administration will:

Rebuild trust in the Department of Veterans Affairs. During the Obama-Biden Administration, we improved access to health care offerings for veterans in their communities, but there is still more work to do. Private sector points of care were designed to provide care to veterans when it was faster, closer, or offered superior services for a particular veteran’s needs. We must ensure that health care purchased in the community actually improves access and convenience and does not compromise the health of our veterans. President Biden will establish the right balance of VA care and purchased care, region by region, based on veteran needs, existing VA capacity, and availability of market alternatives.

Conduct a thorough assessment of the staffing needs and requirements across the VA to inform specific hiring initiatives and programs for attracting and retaining medical professionals. This includes ensuring that professionals are working to the full scope of their license and creating incentives to support health care professionals joining the VA workforce.

Refine and update Community Care Guidelines, ensuring that if a veteran is referred to a community care provider that does not meet the same level of access and quality as the VA, the veteran will be referred back to the VA. This full-circle referral process will better ensure that veterans are seen in a timely manner and receive the best possible quality of care.

Establish cultural competency training protocols to ensure that providers in VA facilities and in community care settings understand and are equipped to support the needs of LGBTQ veterans in the health care setting.

Work with Congress to improve health services for women veterans. Biden will ensure that each VA Medical Center has at least one full-time women’s primary care physician; and, within 200 days of taking office, make available a women veterans training module for community health care providers. And, Biden will work with Congress to enact the Deborah Sampson Act and ensure that the safety and privacy concerns of women veterans are addressed throughout his Administration.

Provide funding to ensure there is safe, reliable child care at all VA Medical Centers.

Work with Congress to eliminate co-pays for preventive health care for veterans, which can create unnecessary barriers to seeking basic preventive care. 

Expand the list of presumptive conditions to ensure no veteran who experienced a TBI or had exposure to burn pits or other environmental toxins goes without access to VA health care and benefits. We cannot ask our veterans who are suffering to wait decades, as we did with Agent Orange. President Biden will also increase access to VA care beyond the 5-year eligibility window for combat veterans, as conditions related to toxic exposure may take many years to manifest.

Increase research dollars by $300 million to invest in better understanding the impact of TBI and toxic exposures (including burn pits) on long-term health outcomes, and continue to drive research focused on the needs of disabled veterans.

Ensure that disabled veterans that require a prosthesis are able to access the most modern prosthetics technology available, and that they are able to upgrade their equipment at no cost as new developments occur.

Expand funding for direct and purchase-care treatment for disorders related to the misuse of alcohol and opioids in order to reduce unacceptably long wait-times for treatment.

A Biden Administration will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts. This will include allowing the VA to research the use of medical cannabis to treat veteran-specific health needs.

Ensure the full integration of veteran caregivers as members of the health care team for veterans. The VA offers a diverse array of programs and supports for caregivers, however, we must ensure that the VA remains a caregiver-friendly environment and respects their role in ensuring the recovery and rehabilitation of their loved one. 

Increase funding for and expand access to telehealth through the VA, particularly in rural areas not able to access timely care.

Modernize VA hospitals and clinics to serve our veterans better through a nationwide infrastructure plan that provides a comprehensive refresh of VA health facilities. Biden will retrofit VA’s existing brick and mortar physical locations, where patient volume warrants, and repurpose older facilities to meet new needs such as assisted-living facilities and long-term care alternatives. Biden will improve both the buildings and equipment, so the VA continues to lead in providing 21st century care.  

Create safe, modern, clean, and recovery-oriented housing for veterans being treated for SUDs and those who are homeless by refurbishing buildings condemned or not in use, such as the massive VA Los Angeles campus.

 
Driving Progress to Promote Veterans’ Mental Health and Well-Being
Suicide is a public health crisis–the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. As a society, we need to work together to eliminate the stigma felt by those who are suffering and struggling with their mental health. There is no shame in asking for help. As president, Joe Biden will increase access to mental health treatment by enforcing full mental health parity and ensuring all Americans have access to high-quality mental health care, regardless of their insurance coverage status. Service members and veterans are at an elevated risk of dying by suicide. Recent data show that, on average, 20 veterans and service members die by suicide every day, and among some groups, the rate of suicide is rising alarmingly. Even one death by suicide is devastating, and we must do more to stem the tide. The Trump administration has grossly mismanaged this crisis, at one point leaving millions of VA dollars dedicated to suicide prevention efforts unused, and that’s just not right. This is a serious challenge, and our goal must be to remove the stigma in military communities to seek help, ensure that every veteran that reaches out is immediately connected to support and services, and to ultimately end the suicide crisis among veterans. As president, Biden will ensure a multi-faceted, substantive, and sustained commitment that addresses this as the public health emergency that it is.
 
The same is true when it comes to veterans experiencing homelessness. The Obama-Biden Administration proved that we can make huge inroads to address this persistent challenge with sustained attention and cross-coordination among government departments. But with just over 23,000 veterans without shelter on any given night, we have much more work to do.
 
A Biden Administration will:

Publish within the first 200 days in office a comprehensive public health and cross-sector approach to addressing suicide in veterans, service members, and their families.

Work aggressively to facilitate immediate access to mental health services for veterans in crisis, to include standardizing performance expectations around same day, walk-in and urgent mental health services; hiring more ER psychiatric staff and peer specialists; expanding crisis line capacity to ensure all calls are answered and appropriate referrals occur within hours; and implementing specific programs to encourage veterans to prioritize their mental health by reaching out to the VA when they need support. Within the first year in office, President Biden will have a goal of completely eliminating wait times for veterans who reach out with suicidal ideation so that they are immediately taken into treatment.

Together with states, community-based organizations, and employers, implement public education and outreach initiatives to help veterans understand that care is available and effective. We must work to end the culture of silence around mental health issues and remove the stigma associated with getting mental health treatment, particularly among service members who are more used to helping others than asking for it themselves.

Ensure the DoD’s Suicide Prevention Office and the VA have the resources and staff they need to make smart investments with allocated funds–and that money dedicated to suicide prevention efforts never goes unused.

Create a national center of excellence for reducing veteran suicide, similar to the National Center on Homelessness among Veterans. Biden will recruit top-level leadership to build strategic partnerships and solutions that extend beyond the VA’s health care system.

Require all providers of veterans services funded by the VA to receive training on suicide risk identification and safety planning, to include lethal means restriction and appropriate response and reporting about suicide. 

Enact policies that promote the value and dignity of life by supporting programs that increase economic stability; promote connectedness through structured social support; and reduce risky behaviors, such as substance use, poor sleep, and improper firearm storage.

Expand capacity at Vet Centers to ensure veterans in communities can access readjustment counseling services and resources, including financial and long-term planning. President Biden will specifically expand outreach and resources for veterans as they experience periods of transition, not just out of the military, but throughout their life, including into post-career retirement.

Tackle issues that contribute to higher suicide risk. This includes implementing programs to disseminate high-quality treatments for PTSD, ensuring that veterans have access to the best treatments available no matter where they receive care, and instituting policies that seek to eliminate discrimination, end harassment and hold perpetuators of sexual assault in the military accountable. A Biden Administration will not tolerate the sexual assault culture that has become all too common in the military and veteran sector.

Work with Congress to continue to drive down veteran homelessness by permanently authorizing the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program, which provides critical funding for wrap-around services for those facing homelessness. President Biden will also work to ensure that we better understand the unique needs of women and LGBTQ veterans experiencing homelessness.

Reform the policy and review processes for veterans so that less-than-honorable discharges will not be unjustly awarded for conduct directly linked to the behavioral health effects of PTSD, TBI, or other trauma experienced while serving.

 
Creating Civilian Lives of Meaning and Opportunity
The Obama-Biden Administration worked tirelessly to bring down high unemployment levels among our veterans. Over the course of 8 years, the Obama-Biden administration cut the veteran unemployment rate by more than half. That is vitally important progress, but now, we have to think about empowering our veterans and their future employers with the tools they need to build pathways to successful, long-term careers. Recent data indicate that veterans are more likely than their civilian counterparts to take a job at lower skill-level. As president, Biden will keep his foot on the gas to ensure that service members transitioning back to civilian lives have the best opportunities to succeed and build fulfilling futures.
 
A Biden Administration will:

Work closely with DoD to ensure that the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is implemented effectively and that outcomes are regularly reported.

Ensure that more transitioning service members are able to access job training and placement services prior to their end of active duty service. By expanding private sector relationships through programs like the SkillBridge program, Biden will give qualified transitioning service members the opportunity to start building a meaningful civilian career as early as possible.

Work with the Department of Labor to enforce the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) hiring benchmark among federal contractors and subcontractors, and provide preferences and incentives to corporations that meet the benchmark.

Promote corporate mentorship programs between veteran-owned businesses and existing contractors to support veteran entrepreneurship.

Ensure careful implementation of the Forever GI Bill so that veterans receive the educational benefits they have earned on time.

Implement annual reporting to be led by the VA in partnership with the Department of Education and promote interagency cooperation and data sharing to better understand academic outcomes for all GI Bill users.

Develop best-practice guidelines for supporting veterans in higher education to assist higher education institutions to improve graduation rates among GI Bill recipients and provide financial incentivizes for campuses that follow guidelines and transparently report their outcomes.

Work aggressively to close the 90/10 loophole on GI Bill and Tuition Assistance dollars to keep for-profit bad actors from raiding the benefits service members and veterans have earned.

Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members by strengthening the GI Bill Comparison Tool and School Feedback Tool to put an end to post-secondary institutions’ predatory practices.

Protect undocumented members of our armed services, veterans, and their spouses from deportation, because if you are willing to risk your life for this country, you and your family have earned the chance to live safe, healthy, and productive lives in America.

Work with DoD and the Department of Homeland Security to provide timely naturalization for those who have served honorably in our military, with an earned path to citizenship prior to discharge or retirement.

 
Improving VA Management and Accountability
The agency charged with meeting the needs of our veterans–not only their health care needs, but administering their full range of benefits and overseeing the cemeteries that guard their honor in death–should not be limited by outdated management tools and practices. Our veterans deserve the best services available. As president, Biden will enhance the capacity of the VA to serve our veterans as efficiently as possible by overseeing a generational upgrade to clinical and management systems, by leveraging commercial best-practices and modern technologies to meet the unique demands of public sector mission.
 
A Biden Administration will:

Improve health care access, quality, and customer experience by seamlessly augmenting direct care with purchase care enabled under the Mission Act. Enhance the administrative, financial, and operational systems that underpin the provision of care in the network model by improving vital case management systems, quality oversight, integrative health treatments and supporting administrative, financial and IT systems. These reforms will help ensure access to high-quality care and a first-rate customer experience that satisfies all veterans, regardless of where they receive care.

Create standards of health record interoperability that ensure a comprehensive health record is provided by community care organizations back to the VA.

Invest in improving human resource and management practices across the VA to strengthen the customer experience for our veterans and deliver services more efficiently. This will include a focus on workforce training and cultivating a culture across the VA that places a premium on quality and service.

Leverage options under the Mission Act to pilot alternative payment models and prioritize care models that improve the quality of care, not just the volume of services. Veterans should be able to access care in a way that works best for them, not the way that is most convenient for the system, in particular when it comes to meeting specific needs such as rehabilitation services, SUD, and behavioral health.  

Reduce delays and errors in claims processing and in scheduling the medical exams necessary for veterans to complete their disability claims. This has been a constant source of frustration for veterans. The long delays in the system, and rates of error — in both Regional Offices and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals — are too long and too high, and unfairly delay adjudication of veterans claims. A Biden VA will identify the sources of the problem and undertake the investments in personnel and training needed to ensure that veterans receive accurate decisions in a more timely manner. 

Help more veterans gain access to their own health data and medical records through the Blue Button app. Blue Button has been downloaded by more than 2 million veterans and is increasingly being used by Medicare beneficiaries and the private sector. By making Blue Button easier to use, the VA will continue to lead the movement of patient-centered models of care.

Implement a VA-hosted health record that can serve any and every American who wants one. We can leverage Blue Button to access health information no matter where it is, to allow veterans and citizens to manage and use it as they see fit. By putting our veterans first, we can make the VA the nexus of the best care everywhere.

Create a national health database for non-profit research scientists and the commercial sector that would accelerate discovery of the best therapies against the devastating diseases of our time: cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Biden will direct the VA to support the database using its infrastructure, making access available to all. Veterans will be able to choose, on an individual basis, whether or not to contribute their data. This national repository for longitudinal health data will enable us to use technological innovations to see patterns that people don’t easily recognize and make connections we don’t normally make for the U.S. population as a whole.

With Latest North Korean Missile Test, Biden Attacks Trump for Foreign Policy Failures

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea.  Foreign policy is Biden’s greatest strength among the Democratic rivals for 2020. Here is his statement:

This morning, North Korea fired two missiles in a deliberate attempt to provoke its neighbors and intimidate the United States — again. It was the 12th such test the regime has conducted since May in violation of UN resolutions, and which President Trump has down-played. After the latest round of denuclearization talks collapsed almost immediately in Stockholm earlier this month, these tests are a stark reminder that Donald Trump — a self-proclaimed deal maker — has achieved nothing but a string of spectacular diplomatic failures that are making the American people less safe.    

His “love letters” to murderous dictator Kim Jong Un have delivered little more than made-for-TV moments. North Korea today has more fissile material and more capability than when talks began, and Trump has given away our leverage — including suspending military exercises with our allies and granting Kim co-equal status at two summits with the president of the United States of America — for practically nothing in return. Now a more confident Kim is ticking up the pace of his violations because he believes he can pressure Trump to bend to his will. There is no deal, because there is no strategy and no patience for the kind of tough, hard diplomacy that actually produces results.

It’s a pattern we see over and over again. Donald Trump talks a big game, promises the greatest deal ever, then gives away America’s best negotiating tools in exchange for a photo op for himself. He only cares about his own self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. And every single time, it’s the American people who end up paying. 

He pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.

He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord and dismisses climate change as a hoax. In less than a week, we will officially notify our departure from Paris, even as California is on fire and states throughout the Midwest are still recovering from record flooding over the summer.

He scuttled negotiations with the Taliban that might have opened the door to a peace settlement, reportedly because he didn’t get the Camp David moment of glory he wanted. Meanwhile he’s significantly weakened our negotiating position by imposing a possibly politically-motivated timeline for removing our troops from Afghanistan, without extracting any concessions from the Taliban in return.

His vaunted Middle East peace deal has yet to emerge. He gave away our strongest asset to take on ISIS by precipitously withdrawing our troops from Northeast Syria. He promised to get tough with China, saying trade wars were “good and easy to win.” But at more than a year in, what do we have to show for it? Nothing but pain for American farming and manufacturing, and vague promises that would only restore trade levels with China back to where they were before Trump’s irresponsible trade war.

The American people can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump’s art of no deals.

Biden: Baghdadi Was Win for National Security Professionals But Trump’s Reckless Foreign Policy Makes Nation Vulnerable to Terrorism

Vice President Joe Biden on the assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, praised the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals “beyond compare,” but criticized Donald Trump saying, “He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the 2020 candidate for President, issued a statement criticizing Trump’s “lack of strategy to secure our nation against terrorist threats.”

The successful operation to take Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi off the battlefield was a win for American national security. And it’s an important reminder of the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals. They are beyond compare. 
 
I’m glad President Trump ordered the mission. But as more details of the raid emerge, it’s clear that this victory was not due to Donald Trump’s leadership. It happened despite his ineptitude as Commander-in-Chief. 

It’s been reported that Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw our troops from northern Syria forced the planning for the mission to be accelerated and the timeline compressed. His erratic behavior made it harder and more dangerous for the special forces carrying it out. And they had to fly through territory that is now hostile to the U.S., taking fire along the way—including territory we controlled just weeks ago. 

Trump has also made it less likely we will be able to successfully replicate a mission like this in the future. The operation leveraged a limited presence of U.S. counterterrorism capabilities in the region, which he keeps trying to dismantle. It was made possible by the work of intelligence professionals, who he has relentlessly attacked. It relied on allies he has belittled, undermined, and in some cases betrayed and abandoned.  

Trump’s total disregard for our alliances and partnerships endanger any future intelligence sharing or cooperation. In fact, the first people he saw fit to thank after our brave troops were the Russians and the Iranian-backed Syrian government. All this makes us less safe and less prepared for whatever terrorist leader emerges next.
 
And make no mistake, the threat is not gone. One man does not constitute an organization, and Trump has opened a path for ISIS to reconstitute itself under new leadership by withdrawing troops from the region. In doing so, he has given up our best asset to keep the pressure on ISIS during a dangerous period of organizational chaos. His fixation on keeping troops in the region to defend the oil fields betrays his true priorities—profit seeking—and will surely serve as a tool for future terrorist recruitment. And with his decision to slash humanitarian assistance to the region, it’s more likely that ISIS will be able to insinuate itself back into areas where we had successfully rooted it out. 

There is a difference between deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East indefinitely, and keeping small numbers of special operations and intelligence assets in place to maintain local partnerships and keep pressure on terrorists. That’s the smart, strong, and sustainable strategy we pioneered during the Obama-Biden Administration. That’s the effective policy we put in place, which laid the groundwork to end ISIS’s territorial caliphate. That’s the way we built the very relationships that ultimately delivered this victory.
 
Now, Trump wants to tear it all down and walk away.
 
He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Details Plan for Education Beyond High School

Vice President Joe Biden has announced a detailed plan for education beyond high school in order to build a stronger, more inclusive middle class. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. In a recent poll, Americans have indicated that education is a top issue. Vice President Joe Biden has announced a detailed plan for education beyond high school in order to build a stronger, more inclusive middle class.  This is from the Biden campaign:

For many, earning a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or other credential after high school is unaffordable or saddles them with so much debt it prevents them from buying a home, saving for retirement. Or, it puts financial stress on their parents and grandparents. In an increasingly globalized and technology-driven economy, 12 years of education is no longer enough for American workers to remain competitive and earn a good income. While 6 in 10 jobs require some education after high school, not all require a bachelor’s degree. 

Biden is proposing a bold plan for education and training beyond high school that will give hard-working Americans the chance to join or maintain their place in the middle class, regardless of their parents’ income or the color of their skin. Four years of college shouldn’t be the only path to the middle class. Biden’s plan ensures every child in the U.S. can afford the path that makes sense for them – whether its an industry credential, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. Coupled with his proposals to make sure there are quality jobs ready for our workers, Biden is putting forward a bold plan to rebuild the backbone of our country – the middle class – and this time make sure everyone has the chance to come along.

As president, Biden will:

  • Invest in community colleges and training to improve student success and grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class.
  • Strengthen college education as the reliable pathway to the middle class, not an investment that provides limited returns and leaves graduates with mountains of debt they can’t afford.
  • Support colleges and universities that play unique and vital roles in their communities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.

Earlier this week, the campaign announced Women for Biden, highlighting how Trump’s administration has turned its back on women. The Trump Administration’s failure to deal with the student debt crisis is a perfect example. Women hold two thirds of the nation’s $1.5 trillion student debt. Instead of reducing the debt burden or expanding educational opportunities for women, Trump’s administration – with Secretary Betsy DeVos leading the U.S. Department of Education – has worked to cut access to education and sided with for-profit colleges and loan companies over students and graduates. 
 
Biden’s plan builds on his and Dr. Biden’s work to give hard working Americans access to two years of community college without debt. A majority of community college students are women and face unique barriers to completing their degrees. Biden will expand these students’ access to needed services like child care, and ensure that Pell Grants can be used for other costs like housing and books.   
 
This plan builds on Vice President Biden’s comprehensive plan to invest in our children’s education from birth through 12th grade. And, in the months ahead, Biden will also outline in further detail his proposals to make sure there are quality jobs ready for our workers.

FACT SHEET:
THE BIDEN PLAN FOR EDUCATION BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL 

Joe Biden is running for president to rebuild the backbone of the United States – the middle class – and this time make sure everyone has a chance to come along. In today’s increasingly globalized and technology-driven economy, 12 years of education is no longer enough for American workers to remain competitive and earn a middle class income. Roughly 6 in 10 jobs require some education beyond a high school diploma. And, because technology continues to change, American workers  – whether they have an industry-recognized credential, an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a PhD – will need opportunities to continue to learn and grow their skills for career success and increased wages in the 21st century economy.

But for too many, earning a degree or other credential after high school is unaffordable today. For others, their education saddles them with so much debt it prevents them from buying a home or saving for retirement, or their parents or grandparents take on some of the financial burden.
 
Biden is proposing a bold plan for education and training beyond high school that will give hard-working Americans the chance to join or maintain their place in the middle class, regardless of their parents’ income or the color of their skin. President Biden will:

Invest in community colleges and training to improve student success and grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class.

Strengthen college as the reliable pathway to the middle class, not an investment that provides limited returns and leaves graduates with mountains of debt they can’t afford.

Support colleges and universities that play unique and vital roles in their communities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.

All of these proposals will be implemented in partnership with states as well as school faculty and staff. Educators must play a key role in decisions affecting teaching and learning.
 
Of course, increasing the quality and affordability of post-secondary education system alone is not enough to make sure our middle class succeeds. This plan builds on Vice President Biden’s comprehensive plan to invest in our children’s education from birth through 12th grade. And, in the months ahead, Biden will also outline in further detail his proposals to make sure there are quality jobs ready for our workers.
 
INVEST IN COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND TRAINING TO IMPROVE STUDENT SUCCESS AND GROW A STRONGER, MORE PROSPEROUS, AND MORE INCLUSIVE MIDDLE CLASS
 
Dr. Jill Biden, a current community college professor, refers to community colleges as America’s best kept secret. They are a proven, high-quality tool for providing hard-working Americans access to education and skills and a pathway to the middle class. In fact, today in the United States there are an estimated 30 million quality jobs, with an average salary of $55,000, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Every year, millions of Americans attend community colleges to get the credentials they need to obtain these jobs. And, community colleges offer affordable, quality ways for students to complete the first two years of a four-year degree.
 
Part of what makes community colleges so extraordinary is that, working with limited resources, they have figured out how to provide a high-quality, cost-effective education to students often juggling additional responsibilities, such as jobs or child care. But as a country, we haven’t invested enough in making sure community colleges can reach all the Americans who could benefit from their programs, or improve their quality and completion rates.
 
The Biden Administration will build on community colleges’ success and unleash their full potential to grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class by:

Providing two years of community college or other high-quality training program without debt for any hard-working individual looking to learn and improve their skills to keep up with the changing nature of work. In 2015, President Obama and Vice President Biden proposed to make two years of community college tuition-free for hard-working students. Since then, Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden have championed progress toward this goal, and hundreds of state and local College Promise programs have expanded access to free two-year or four-year college educations. As president, Biden will build on this progress by enacting legislation to ensure that every hard-working individual, including those attending school part-time and DREAMers (young adults who came to U.S. as children), can go to community college for up to two years without having to pay tuition. Individuals will also be able to use these funds to pursue training programs that have a track record of participants completing their programs and securing good jobs. Importantly, this initiative will not just be for recent high school graduates; it will also be available to adults who never had the chance to pursue additional education beyond high school or who need to learn new skills. And, students who do want a bachelor’s degree could then transfer to a four-year school, including to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions that play vital roles in their communities. This plan will be a federal-state partnership, with the federal government covering 75% of the cost and states contributing the remaining obligation. The federal government will cover up to 95% of the cost for Indian Tribes operating community colleges serving low-income students. 

Creating a new grant program to assist community colleges in improving their students’ success. The Biden Administration will support community colleges implementing evidence-based practices and innovative solutions to increase their students’ retention and completion of credentials. Reforms could include academic and career advising services; dual enrollment; credit articulation agreements; investing in wages, benefits, and professional development to recruit and retain faculty, including teacher residencies; and improvements to remediation programs. The Biden plan will also help community colleges around the country scale successful programs to help a larger number of students.

Tackling the barriers that prevent students from completing their community college degree or training credential. There are too many Americans who don’t complete their education or training programs not because of a lack of will, but because of other responsibilities they are juggling, such as a job to pay their bills or caring for children. Often these students and their families also face housing and food insecurity. The Biden Administration’s community college initiative will be a first-dollar program, meaning that students will be able to use their Pell grants, state aid, and other aid to help them cover expenses beyond tuition and fees. In addition, the Biden plan will give states financial incentives to foster collaboration between community colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, especially veterans, single parents, low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities who may face unique challenges. Wraparound support services can range from public benefits and additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups. And, Biden will establish a federal grant program to help community colleges create emergency grant programs for students who experience an unexpected financial challenge that threatens their ability to stay enrolled.

Make a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. In 2014, President Obama asked Vice President Biden to develop a national strategy for reforming our nation’s workforce training programs designed to prepare “ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.” Building on the successful models championed through that initiative, President Biden will make an investment of $50 billion in high-quality training programs. These funds will create and support partnerships between community colleges, businesses, unions, state, local, and tribal governments, universities, and high schools to identify in-demand knowledge and skills in a community and develop or modernize training programs – which could be as short as a few months or as long as two years – that lead to a relevant, high-demand industry-recognized credential. These funds will also exponentially increase the number of apprenticeships in this country through strengthening the Registered Apprenticeship Program and partnering with unions who oversee some of the best apprenticeship programs throughout our nation, not watering down the quality of the apprenticeship system like President Trump is proposing.

Invest in community college facilities and technology. Biden will invest $8 billion to help community colleges improve the health and safety of their facilities, and equip their schools with new technology that will empower their students to succeed in the 21st century.

STRENGTHEN COLLEGE AS A RELIABLE PATHWAY TO THE MIDDLE CLASS
 
We have a student debt crisis in this country, with roughly more than 44 million American individuals now holding a total of $1.5 trillion in student loans. One in five adults who hold student loans are behind on payments, disproportionate number of whom are black. Thus, student debt both exacerbates and results from racial wealth gap.
 
This challenge is also intergenerational. Almost one in ten Americans in their 40s and 50s still hold student loan debt. But, college debt has especially impacted Millennials who pursued educational opportunities during the height of the Great Recession and now struggle to pay down their student loans instead of buying a house, opening their own business, or setting money aside for retirement.
 
There are several drivers of this problem. The cost of higher education has skyrocketed, roughly doubling since the mid-1990s. States have dramatically decreased investments in higher education, leaving students and their families with the bill. And, too often individuals have been swindled into paying for credentials that don’t provide value to graduates in the job market. As president, Biden will address all of these challenges.
 
Biden’s plan to make two years of community college without debt will immediately offer individuals a way to become work-ready with a two-year degree or an industry certification. It will also halve their tuition costs for obtaining a four-year degree, by earning an associate’s degree and then transferring those credits to a four-year college or university. And, as a federal-state partnership, it will ensure states both invest in community colleges and give states some flexibility to also invest in college readiness or affordability at four-year institutions. In addition, President Biden will:

Target additional financial support to low-income and middle-class individuals by doubling the maximum value of Pell grants, significantly increasing the number of middle-class Americans who can participate in the program. Pell grants help 7 million students a year afford college, but they have not kept up with the rising cost of college. In the 1970s, Pell grants covered roughly 70 to 80 percent of the cost of a four-year degree at a public institution; today, that percentage has been cut in more than half, to roughly 30 percent. Biden will double the maximum value of the Pell grant, a level of investment experts say is necessary to close the gap between the rich and poor so that everyone has the opportunity to receive an education beyond high school, and will automatically increase the value based on inflation. Doubling the maximum value of Pell grants will increase the grant value for individuals already eligible for Pell and, given the program’s formula for determining eligibility, expand the benefits of Pell to more middle class Americans. As president, Biden will also take care of young immigrants by ensuring DREAMers are eligible for financial aid if they meet other requirements for that aid. And, he will restore formerly incarcerated individuals’ eligibility for Pell.

More than halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans by simplifying and increasing the generosity of today’s income-based repayment program. Under the Biden plan, individuals making $25,000 or less per year will not owe any payments on their undergraduate federal student loans and also won’t accrue any interest on those loans. Everyone else will pay 5% of their discretionary income (income minus taxes and essential spending like housing and food) over $25,000 toward their loans. This plan will save millions of Americans thousands of dollars a year. After 20 years, the remainder of the loans for people who have responsibly made payments through the program will be 100% forgiven. Individuals with new and existing loans will all be automatically enrolled in the income-based repayment program, with the opportunity to opt out if they wish. In addition to relieving some of the burden of student debt, this will enable graduates to pursue careers in public service and other fields without high levels of compensation. Biden will also change the tax code so that debt forgiven through the income-based repayment plan won’t be taxed. Americans shouldn’t have to take out a loan to pay their taxes when they finally are free from their student loans.

Make loan forgiveness work for public servants. Public servants do the hard work that is essential to our country’s success – protecting us, teaching our children, keeping our streets clean and our lights on, and so much more. But the program designed to help these individuals serve without having to worry about the burden of their student loans – the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – is broken. Biden will create a new, simple program which offers $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for every year of national or community service, up to five years. Individuals working in schools, government, and other non-profit settings will be automatically enrolled in this forgiveness program; up to five years of prior national or community service will also qualify. Additionally, Biden will fix the existing Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by securing passage of the What You Can Do For Your Country Act of 2019. Biden will ensure adjunct professors are eligible for this loan forgiveness, depending on the amount of time devoted to teaching.

Create a “Title I for postsecondary education” to help students at under-resourced four-year schools complete their degrees. The Biden Administration will establish a new grant program to support under-resourced four-year schools that serve large numbers of Pell-eligible students. The funds will be used to foster collaboration between colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, especially veterans, single parents, low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities who may face unique challenges. Wraparound support services can range from public benefits and additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups. And, Biden will ensure that these funds can be used to help colleges create emergency grant programs for students who experience an unexpected financial challenge that threatens their ability to stay enrolled.

Create seamless pathways between high school, job training, community college, and four-year programs to help students get their degrees and credentials faster. The Biden Administration will provide grants to states that work to accelerate students’ attainment of credentials, including bachelor’s degrees, while still ensuring quality and accountability. For example, some communities have adopted the early college model, allowing students to begin earning credits towards an associate’s degree while still in high school. And, in some areas students can be dual enrolled in the community college and the four-year program they wish to complete. Biden will challenge more communities to expand on these accelerated pathways and create a seamless transition between high school, community college, other job training, and four-year programs, enabling students to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in less time. Approaches to accelerating degree attainment include guided pathways that provide a sequence of classes for a specific area of study; shifting toward a 12-month academic calendar; better aligning high school, community college, and four-year college courses; providing college credits for quality, degree-related on-the-job training; and offering degree-related paid internships for course credit. Read more about Joe Biden’s plan for education from birth through 12th grade here.

Prioritize the use of work-study funds for job-related and public service roles. Biden will work to reform federal work study programs to ensure that more of these funds place students in roles where they are either learning skills valuable for their intended careers, or contributing to their communities by mentoring students in K-12 classrooms and community centers.

Stop for-profit education programs from profiteering off of students. Students who started their education at for-profit colleges default on their student loans at a rate three times higher than those who start at non-profit colleges. These for-profit programs are often predatory – devoted to high-pressure and misleading recruiting practices and charging higher costs for lower quality education that leaves graduates with mountains of debt and without good job opportunities. The Biden Administration will require for-profits to first prove their value to the U.S. Department of Education before gaining eligibility for federal aid. The Biden Administration will also return to the Obama-Biden Borrower’s Defense Rule, forgiving the debt held by individuals who were deceived by the worst for-profit college or career profiteers.  Finally, President Biden will enact legislation eliminating the so-called 90/10 loophole that gives for-profit schools an incentive to enroll veterans and servicemembers in programs that aren’t delivering results.

Crack down on private lenders profiteering off of students and allow individuals holding private loans to discharge them in bankruptcy. In 2015, the Obama-Biden Administration called for Congress to pass a law permitting the discharge of private student loans in bankruptcy. As president, Biden will enact this legislation. In addition, the Biden Administration will empower the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – established during the Obama-Biden Administration – to take action against private lenders who are misleading students about their options and do not provide an affordable payment plan when individuals are experiencing acute periods of financial hardship.

Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members. Veterans and their family members served our country and as a nation, we must maintain our commitment to GI benefits. The Obama-Biden Administration took groundbreaking action to ensure that veterans and their family members were empowered to make informed decisions regarding their education and, in turn, ensure that programs educating them met high quality standards. President Biden will build and convene coalitions of experts and advocates to continue this work. He’ll also strengthen the GI Bill Comparison Tool and School Feedback Tool to put an end to post-secondary institutions’ predatory practices.

SUPPORT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES THAT PLAY UNIQUE AND VITAL ROLES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES
 
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges And Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American And Native American Pacific Islander-serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Alaska Native-serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions (ANNHs), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), and Native American-serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs) serve a disproportionate number of students of color and low-income students, yet are severely under-resourced, especially when compared to other colleges and universities.
 
This makes HBCUs and MSIs’ contributions even more impressive. HBCUs, for example, disproportionately educate first-generation and low-income students. In Vice President Biden’s home state of Delaware, the HBCU Delaware State University graduates nearly half of the state’s black undergraduate students.
 
As president, Biden will take steps to rectify the funding disparities faced by HBCUs, TCUs, and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) so that the United States can benefit from their unique strengths. Students at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs will benefit from Biden’s proposals to double Pell grants, slash the income-based repayment of loans to 5% of income, and provide free tuition for students at all community colleges, including those that are MSIs. In addition, Biden will invest over $70 billion in these colleges and universities to:

Make HBCUs, TCUs, and under-resourced MSIs more affordable for their students. The Biden plan will invest $18 billion in grants to these four-year schools, equivalent to up to two years of tuition per low-income and middle class student, including DREAMers and students who transfer to a four-year HBCU, TCU, or MSI from a tuition-free community college. Schools must invest in lowering costs, improving retention and graduation rates, and closing equity gaps year over year for students of color.

Invest in the diverse talent at HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs to solve the country’s most pressing problems. The Biden Administration will invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future – including fields tackling climate change, globalization, inequality, health disparities, and cancer – to learning and career opportunities. These funds will provide additional work study opportunities and incentivize state, private, and philanthropic dollars for these centers. Biden will also boost funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities, many of which are HBCUs and TCUs, as outlined in his Plan for Rural America. As president, Biden will also dedicate additional and increased priority funding streams at federal agencies for grants and contracts for HBCUs and MSIs. And, he will require any federal research grants to universities with an endowment of over $1 billion to form a meaningful partnership and enter into a 10% minimum subcontract with an HBCU, TCU, or MSI.

Build the high tech labs and facilities and digital infrastructure needed for learning, research, and innovation at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will invest $20 billion in infrastructure for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to build the physical research facilities and labs urgently needed to deliver on the country’s research and development, to update and modernize deteriorating facilities, including by strengthening the Historic Preservation program, and to create new space for increasing enrollments, especially at HSIs. While schools will be able to use these funds to upgrade the digital infrastructure, Biden will also support TCUs and other institutions in rural areas by investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure and tripling funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. Additionally, as president, Biden will ensure all HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs have access to low-cost federal capital financing programs and will work with states to ensure they can take advantage of these programs. And, he will work to incentivize further public, private, and philanthropic investments in school infrastructure.

Provide support to continuously improve the value of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs by investing $10 billion in programs that increase enrollment, retention, completion, and employment rates. These programs may include partnerships with both high schools, other universities, and employers; evidence-based remedial courses; academic and career advising services; and investing in wages, benefits, and professional development and benefits to recruit and retain faculty, including teacher residencies. Additionally, Biden will incentivize states, private, and philanthropic dollars to invest in these programs, while ensuring schools that do not receive matches increase their competitiveness.

Expand career pathways for graduates of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in areas that meet national priorities, including building a diverse pipeline of public school teachers. Biden will invest $5 billion in graduate programs in teaching, health care, and STEM and will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies, including Department of Energy National Laboratories, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.

Triple and make permanent the capacity-building and student support for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act. These funds serve as a lifeline to under-resourced HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs year over year, ensuring that the most vulnerable students have the support they need to succeed. The Biden Administration will make permanent $750 million per year in Title III and Title V funding, which will provide a dedicated revenue stream of $7.5 billion over the first ten years.

Reduce disparities in funding for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will require federal agencies and states to publish reports of their allocation of federal funding to colleges and universities. When inequities exist between HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs and similar non-HBCU, TCU, MSI colleges, federal agencies and states will be required to publish robust rationale and show improvements in eliminating disparities year over year. To ensure funding is more equitably distributed among HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, the Biden Administration will require that competitive grant programs make similar universities compete against each other, for example, ensuring that HBCUs only compete against HBCUs. And, President Biden will require higher education accreditors to provide increased transparency in their processes.

Additionally, Biden recognizes the critical role low-endowment private colleges and universities play in providing educational opportunities and jobs in many rural communities. As president, he will establish an innovation competitive grant fund for these institutions, giving them additional funds to invest in increasing graduation rates; closing ethnic, racial, and income disparities; and increasing career outcomes for low-income students, students of color, first-generation students, and students with disabilities..
 
SUPPORTING LEARNERS AND WORKERS, NOT REWARDING WEALTH
 
The Biden plan for education beyond high school is a $750 billion investment over ten years targeted at growing a stronger, more inclusive middle class. It will be paid for by making sure that the super-wealthy pay their fair share. Specifically, this plan will be paid for by eliminating the stepped-up basis loophole and capping the itemized deductions the wealthiest Americans can take to 28%.

For more on Vice President Biden’s plan, see HERE. To see how Vice President Biden’s plan would impact you, click HERE.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Outlines Plan to End America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

Vice President Joe Biden announced a detailed plan to end the epidemic of gun violence. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the latest 2020 Democratic Candidate to come out with a detailed plan to end the epidemic of gun violence, once again proving that there is no shortage of pragmatic plans to solve the most intransient, important issues we face as a nation and a world – what has been lacking is political will. Have you seen a plan from Donald Trump? Me neither.Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

This is from the Biden 2020 campaign:

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced a detailed plan to end America’s gun violence epidemic ahead of his participation in the Giffords and March for Our Lives presidential gun safety forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

While Democratic leaders and the American public have reached an undeniable and broad consensus about what needs to be done to address the gun violence epidemic that has engulfed communities across America, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Congressional Republicans, and the NRA refuse to take any sensible action. As president, Biden will not let anyone hold our nation’s children, families, and communities hostage to the scourge of gun violence Americans face every day. 

Biden is introducing a bold, comprehensive plan that not only calls for common sense gun safety reform, but outlines how he is going to get it done for the American people. Biden’s plan calls for universal background checks, closing loopholes in the background check system, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, incentivizing states to establish red flag law, holding gun manufacturers accountable, and investing in public health research regarding the causes and prevention of gun violence.

As a leader who has championed common sense gun safety laws both as a United States Senator and Vice President, Biden has unmatched substantive expertise on addressing gun violence. He has been pushing the conversation on ending gun violence for at least 25 years. And he has taken on the NRA twice and won – first with the Brady Bill, which established firearms background check system, and then securing the passage of a ten-year ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines together with Senator Dianne Feinstein. 

Based on his expertise and experience on this issue, Biden’s plan also includes three standout sections that further demonstrate how he will end the gun violence epidemic:

Addressing the daily combination of guns and domestic violence;

Tackling urban gun violence with targeted, evidence-based community interventions; and

Supporting survivors of violence and their communities.

On the second anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, Vice President Biden released a statement decrying Donald Trump’s continued inaction on sensible gun reform and his capitulation to the NRA. Biden also declared, “We can beat the NRA; we can get those weapons of war off our streets; and we can make sure our children don’t grow up in constant fear. Real leadership — moral leadership — can get these reforms done.”

Today’s plan follows Biden for President’s release of “Purpose,” a video of gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg who credits Biden for helping inspire his mission as a gun safety advocate after his 14-year-old daughter was killed in Parkland, Florida. 



FACT SHEET: 
THE BIDEN PLAN TO END OUR GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC

Vice President Joe Biden presents a plan to address gun violence as a public health epidemic. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Joe Biden knows that gun violence is a public health epidemic. Almost 40,000 people die as a result of firearm injuries every year in the United States, and many more are wounded. Some of these deaths and injuries are the result of mass shootings that make national headlines. Others are the result of daily acts of gun violence or suicides that may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to the families and communities left behind.

Joe Biden has taken on the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the national stage and won – twice. In 1993, he shepherded through Congress the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which established the background check system that has since kept more than 3 million firearms out of dangerous hands. In 1994, Biden – along with Senator Dianne Feinstein – secured the passage of 10-year bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As president, Joe Biden will defeat the NRA again.
 
Joe Biden also knows how to make progress on reducing gun violence using executive action. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with developing both legislative proposals and executive actions to make our communities safer. As a result of this effort, the Obama-Biden Administration took more than two dozen actions, including narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” increasing the number of records in the background check system, and expanding funding for mental health services.
 
It’s within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment, which is limited. As president, Biden will pursue constitutional, common-sense gun safety policies. Biden will:
 
Hold gun manufacturers accountable. In 2005, then-Senator Biden voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but gun manufacturers successfully lobbied Congress to secure its passage. This law protects these manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products – a protection granted to no other industry. Biden will prioritize repealing this protection.
 
Get weapons of war off our streets. The bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that Biden, along with Senator Feinstein, secured in 1994 reduced the lethality of mass shootings. But, in order to secure the passage of the bans, they had to agree to a 10-year sunset provision and when the time came, the Bush Administration failed to extend them. As president, Biden will:
 

Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Federal law prevents hunters from hunting migratory game birds with more than three shells in their shotgun. That means our federal law does more to protect ducks than children. It’s wrong. Joe Biden will enact legislation to once again ban assault weapons. This time, the bans will be designed based on lessons learned from the 1994 bans. For example, the ban on assault weapons will be designed to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor changes that don’t limit the weapon’s lethality. While working to pass this legislation, Biden will also use his executive authority to ban the importation of assault weapons.

Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. Currently, the National Firearms Act requires individuals possessing machine-guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles to undergo a background check and register those weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to these requirements, such weapons are rarely used in crimes. As president, Biden will pursue legislation to regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.

Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities. Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.

Reduce stockpiling of weapons. In order to reduce the stockpiling of firearms, Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one.

Keep guns out of dangerous hands. The federal background check system (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is one of the best tools we have to prevent gun violence, but it’s only effective when it’s used. Biden will enact universal background check legislation and close other loopholes that allow people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases. Specifically, he will:

Require background checks for all gun sales. Today, an estimated 1 in 5 firearms are sold or transferred without a background check. Biden will enact universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members. This will close the so-called “gun show and online sales loophole” that the Obama-Biden Administration narrowed, but which cannot be fully closed by executive action alone.

Close other loopholes in the federal background check system. In addition to closing the “boyfriend loophole” highlighted below, Biden will:

Reinstate the Obama-Biden policy to keep guns out of the hands of certain people unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons, which President Trump reversed. In 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration finalized a rule to make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends to the background check system records that it holds of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms because they have been adjudicated by the SSA as unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons. But one of the first actions Donald Trump took as president was to reverse this rule. President Biden will enact legislation to codify this policy.

Close the “hate crime loophole.” Biden will enact legislation prohibiting an individual “who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission” from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

Close the “Charleston loophole.” The Charleston loophole allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. Biden supports the proposal in the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the timeline from three to 10 business days. Biden will also direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to put on his desk within his first 100 days as president a report detailing the cases in which background checks are not completed within 10 business days and steps the federal government can take to reduce or eliminate this occurrence.

Close the “fugitive from justice” loophole created by the Trump Administration. Because of actions by the Trump Administration, records of almost 500,000 fugitives from justice who are prohibited from purchasing firearms were deleted from the background check system. The Biden Administration will restore these records, and enact legislation to make clear that people facing arrest warrants are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.

End the online sale of firearms and ammunitions. Biden will enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.

Create an effective program to ensure individuals who become prohibited from possessing firearms relinquish their weapons. Federal law defines categories of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and the federal background check system is an effective tool for ensuring prohibited persons cannot purchase firearms. But we lack any serious tool to ensure that when someone becomes newly prohibited – for example, because they commit a violent crime – they relinquish possession of their firearms. There are some promising models for how this could be enforced. For example, California has a mandatory process for ensuring relinquishment by any individual newly subject to a domestic violence restraining order. As president, Biden will direct the FBI and ATF to outline a model relinquishment process, enact any necessary legislation to ensure relinquishment when individuals newly fall under one of the federal prohibitions, and then provide technical and financial assistance to state and local governments to establish effective relinquishment processes on their own.

Incentivize state “extreme risk” laws. Extreme risk laws, also called “red flag” laws, enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them. And, he’ll direct the U.S. Department of Justice to issue best practices and offer technical assistance to states interested in enacting an extreme risk law.

Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs. Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun.

Adequately fund the background check system. President Obama and Vice President Biden expanded incentives for states to submit records of prohibited persons into the background checks system. As president, Biden will continue to prioritize that funding and ensure that the FBI is adequately funded to accurately and efficiently handle the NICS system.


ADDRESSING THE DEADLY COMBINATION OF GUNS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

The statistics tell a devastating and overwhelming story. The likelihood that a woman in a domestic violence situation will be killed increases by a factor of five if a gun is nearby. Half of mass shootings involve an individual shooting a family member or former intimate partner. This deadly connection tragically impacts children as well: 86% of children killed in shootings with four or more victims were involved in domestic or family violence.
 
Biden recognizes that the gun violence and domestic violence epidemics are linked and cannot be solved in isolation. Addressing the interconnectedness of these challenges will be a core focus of Biden’s anti-violence work as president.
 
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, which Leader McConnell refuses to bring to the floor for a vote, includes a number of reforms to keep firearms out of the hands of abusers. Senator McConnell should ensure this legislation gets passed long before President Biden would take the oath of office. But if McConnell refuses to act, Biden will enact legislation to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” and “stalking loophole” by prohibiting all individuals convicted of assault, battery, or stalking from purchasing or possessing firearms, regardless of their connection to the victim. This proposal is modeled after existing laws in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania. Biden also supports enacting the proposal to prohibit anyone under a temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm before their hearing.
 
In addition, President Biden will:

Establish a new Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse to focus on the connection between mass shootings, online harassment, extremism, and violence against women. As President, Joe Biden will convene a national Task Force with federal agencies, state leaders, advocates, law enforcement, and technology experts to study rampant online sexual harassment, stalking, and threats, including revenge porn and deepfakes — and the connection between this harassment, mass shootings, extremism and violence against women. The Task Force will be charged with developing cutting-edge strategies and recommendations for how federal and state governments, social media companies, schools, and other public and private entities can tackle this unique challenge. The Task Force will consider platform accountability, transparent reporting requirements for incidents of harassment and response, and best practices.

Expand the use of evidence-based lethality assessments by law enforcement in cases of domestic violence. Lethality assessments, sometimes called “risk” or “danger” assessments, are a proven strategy to help law enforcement officers identify domestic violence survivors who are at high risk of being killed by their abusers. These survivors are then connected with social service programs that can offer services and safety planning. An evaluation of the Lethality Assessment Program (LEP) created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence showed promising results. Increased federal funding will incentivize jurisdictions to take advantage of implementing these programs more widely.



Make sure firearm owners take on the responsibility of ensuring their weapons are used safely.

Put America on the path to ensuring that 100% of firearms sold in America are smart guns. Today, we have the technology to allow only authorized users to fire a gun. For example, existing smart gun technology requires a fingerprint match before use. Biden believes we should work to eventually require that 100% of firearms sold in the U.S. are smart guns. But, right now the NRA and gun manufacturers are bullying firearms dealers who try to sell these guns. Biden will stand up against these bullying tactics and issue a call to action for gun manufacturers, dealers, and other public and private entities to take steps to accelerate our transition to smart guns.

Hold adults accountable for giving minors access to firearms. Biden supports legislation holding adults criminally and civilly liable for directly or negligently giving a minor access to a firearm, regardless of whether the minor actually gains possession of the firearm.

Require gun owners to safely store their weapons. Biden will pass legislation requiring firearm owners to store weapons safely in their homes.

Empower law enforcement to effectively enforce our gun laws.

Prioritize prosecution of straw purchasers. “Straw purchasers” buy a firearm on behalf of an individual who cannot pass a background check. Biden will end those loopholes by enacting a law to make all straw purchases a serious federal crime and ensure the U.S. Justice Department has sufficient resources to prioritize their prosecution.

Notify law enforcement when a potential firearms purchaser fails a background check. Too often, when prohibited persons attempting to buy a firearm fail a background check, state and local law enforcement is never informed of the attempt. As president, Biden will direct the FBI to set up a process to ensure timely notification of denials to state and local law enforcement, and he’ll support legislation to codify this process. This empowers law enforcement to follow up and ensure prohibited persons do not attempt to acquire firearms through other means.

Require firearms owners to report if their weapon is lost or stolen. Responsible gun owners have a responsibility to inform law enforcement if their weapon is lost or stolen. Biden will enact legislation to make this the law of the land.

Stop “ghost guns.” One way people who cannot legally obtain a gun may gain access to a weapon is by assembling a one on their own, either by buying a kit of disassembled gun parts or 3D printing a working firearm. Biden will stop the proliferation of these so-called “ghost guns” by passing legislation requiring that purchasers of gun kits or 3D printing code pass a federal background check. Additionally, Biden will ensure that the authority for firearms exports stays with the State Department, and if needed reverse a proposed rule by President Trump. This will ensure the State Department continues to block the code used to 3D print firearms from being made available on the Internet.

Reform, fund, and empower the U.S. Justice Department to enforce our gun laws. Biden will direct his Attorney General to deliver to him within his first 100 days a set of recommendations for restructuring the ATF and related Justice Department agencies to most effectively enforce our gun laws. Biden will then work to secure sufficient funds for the Justice Department to effectively enforce our existing gun laws, increase the frequency of inspections of firearms dealers, and repeal riders that get in the way of that work.

Direct the ATF to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. This report will provide officials with critical information to better identify strategies for curbing firearms trafficking.


TACKLE URBAN GUN VIOLENCE WITH TARGETED, EVIDENCE-BASED COMMUNITY INTERVENTIONS

Daily acts of gun violence in our communities may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to survivors and victims’ families as gun violence that does make the front page. And, these daily acts of gun violence disproportionately impact communities of color. But there is reason to be optimistic. There are proven strategies for reducing gun violence in urban communities without turning to incarceration. For example, Group Violence Intervention organizes community leaders to work with individuals most likely to commit acts of gun violence, express the community’s demand that the gun violence stop, and connect individuals who may be likely perpetrators with social and economic support services that may deter violent behavior. These types of interventions have reduced homicides by as much as 60%Hospital-Based Violence Intervention engages young people who have been injured by gun violence while they are still in the hospital, connecting them to social and economic services that may decrease the likelihood they engage in or are victims of gun violence in the future. Biden will create a $900 million, eight-year initiative to fund these and other types of evidence-based interventions in 40 cities across the country – the 20 cities with the highest number of homicides, and 20 cities with the highest number of homicides per capita. This proposal is estimated to save more than 12,000 lives over the eight-year program.



Dedicate the brightest scientific minds to solving the gun violence public health epidemic. In 2013, President Obama issued a memorandum clarifying that a longstanding appropriations rider that prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal scientific agencies from using federal dollars to “advocate or promote gun control” does not prohibit those agencies from researching the causes and prevention of gun violence. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) subsequently embarked on funding some of this research, though Republican leadership in Congress refused to appropriate any funds to the CDC for this work. Biden will call for Congress to appropriate $50 million to accelerate this research at the CDC and NIH.
 
Prohibit the use of federal funds to arm or train educators to discharge firearms. We should be passing rational gun laws, not requiring educators who already have too much on their plates to also protect the safety of their students. Biden supports barring states from using federal dollars to arm or train educators to discharge firearms.
 
Address the epidemic of suicides by firearms. Biden believes any plan to address the gun violence epidemic must address suicides by firearms, which account for 6 in 10 gun-related deaths but are often left out of the conversation. Many of the policies noted above – including safe storage requirements and extreme risk protection orders – will have a serious impact on efforts to reduce gun violence. But there’s so much more we need to do to support people experiencing suicidal ideation. In the months ahead, Biden will put forward a comprehensive plan to improve access to mental health services.
 


SUPPORTING SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE AND THEIR COMMUNITIES
 
Violence causes ripples of trauma throughout our communities, impacting not just the victims of violence but also their communities and first responders. Fear of school shootings is having a noticeable impact on the mental health of Gen Z. Intimate partner violence is linked to depression, post-traumatic stress, and other mental health challenges among survivors. And, this trauma can be intergenerational. Science now shows that young children who witness violence – including in their home – literally alters the parts of their brains that affect “reasoning, planning, and behavioral control.”
 
We need to reduce violence to prevent trauma from happening in the first place. But we also must treat the resulting trauma as a serious crisis in its own right.
 
As president, Biden will:

Make federal programs more trauma-informed. During his first 100 days, Biden will direct his Cabinet to conduct a review of all federal programs that directly serve communities likely to experience violence and identify reforms to make sure those programs effectively address resulting trauma. Biden will then invest significant federal funds in expanding and improving the federal government’s support for trauma-informed and culturally responsive care.

Create a network of trauma care centers. Biden will bring together offices within the federal government to establish specialized trauma care centers for survivors of violence, with a special focus on survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Domestic violence services are focused on meeting the emergency needs of survivors, including safety planning and crisis intervention. As a result, frontline providers lack the resources they need to offer therapeutic services to help survivors heal from trauma. These trauma care centers will be flexible in meeting the needs of communities, and could be housed at rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs, universities, and existing mental health centers.

Train health care and other service providers in trauma-centered care. To prevent revictimization and secondary trauma, Biden will align training efforts throughout relevant federal programs to include a focus on understanding the traumatic effects of violence, providing appropriate care to avoid furthering the trauma, linking survivors with evidence-based trauma therapies, and reducing myths about domestic and sexual violence. This will be accomplished through agency directives, policy guidance, and special conditions for grantees and contractors.

For more on Vice President Biden’s plan, see HERE.

Biden attacks Trump as G7 Opens: ‘Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure’

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, stated Trump’s “incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the “Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, issued this statement:

“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world.  He has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the United States and our allies in Europe. 

“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique, because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation. No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.

“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most important strategic alliance.

“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden’s Plan for Rural America

Vice President Joe Biden, running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, presented his plan for Rural America © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Vice President Joe Biden has presented his plan for Rural America. This summary is provided by the Biden campaign:

Rural America is home to roughly 20% of Americans, but we are all connected to rural communities in many ways. Rural Americans fuel us and feed us. Rural lands provide us with places to spend time outdoors with friends and family and relax.

A healthy, vibrant rural America is essential to the success of our country. Yet in small town after small town, parents watch their kids and grandkids leave rural communities because there just is not enough opportunity for them at home. For too many rural Americans, a pathway to the middle class is out of reach if they stay in their rural communities.
 
The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class, so that this time everyone comes along regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or zip code.  It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote area. Everyone means everyone.
 
As president, Biden will build a pathway to the middle class for rural Americans, in rural America. He will pursue a rural economic development strategy that partners with rural communities to invest in their unique assets, with the goal of giving young people more options to live, work, and raise the next generation in rural America. It’s not just good for those in rural America, it’s good for everyone across our country.

I. FUNDAMENTALLY REVITALIZE RURAL ECONOMIES

Rural America is asset-rich. It feeds and fuels the rest of the country, gives us places to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family, and is home to creative, hard-working Americans. Yet rural America’s economy is traditionally based on extraction, taking the resources out of rural communities and never returning the profits.
 
The Biden strategy for rural economic development will be to partner with rural communities, invest in their unique assets, and make sure the wealth created in rural America stays in rural America.
 
Under this strategy, Biden will:

Strengthen our agricultural sector by:

Pursuing a trade policy that works for American farmers. More than 20% of all crops grown and products raised in the United States are exported, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and helping to stabilize farm income. But America’s farmers and rural communities have paid a heavy price for President Trump’s tariffs. While Trump is pursuing a damaging and erratic trade war without any real strategy, President Biden will stand up to China by working with our allies to negotiate from the strongest possible position. And, he’ll make sure our trade policy works for American farmers.

Supporting beginning farmers. America tries to make it easy to start a business, but unless you inherit the land, it’s much more difficult to start a farm. The Biden Administration will expand the Obama-Biden Administration’s microloan program for new and beginning farmers, doubling the maximum loan amount to $100,000. And, it will increase funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm ownership and operating loans that typically serve beginning farmers who grew up on a family farm but need low-cost capital to add to their family’s operation to support another household.

Fostering the development of regional food systems. The Biden Administration will partner with small and mid-sized farmers to help them collectively create supply chains to deliver fresh produce and other products to schools, hospitals, and other major state and federal institutions, including the Defense Department. This will allow these farmers to negotiate their own prices. And, it will help farmers identify markets for specialty crops and secondary products, like ice cream produced by dairy farmers to bring in additional revenue.

Re-investing in land grant universities’ agricultural research so the public, not private companies, owns patents to agricultural advances. The Biden Administration will reinvest in agricultural research by bolstering funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Our farmers need new technologies to compete in world markets while protecting our soil and water. These new technologies – and the next new seeds – should be developed and owned by the American people, not private companies who can use patents to expand profits.

Partnering with farmers to make American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, giving farmers new sources of income in the process. Many farmers are some of the best stewards of our land, air, and water. The government needs to partner with them to accelerate progress toward net-zero emissions. As president, Biden will ensure our agricultural sector is the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, and that our farmers earn income as we meet this milestone. Toward this end, the Biden Administration will dramatically expand and fortify the pioneering Conservation Stewardship Program, created by former Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin, to support farm income through payments based on farmers’ practices to protect the environment, including carbon sequestration. In addition to seeking full federal funding for the program, the Biden Administration will ensure the program can participate in carbon markets. Corporations, individuals, and foundations interested in promoting greenhouse gas reductions could offset their emissions by contributing to Conservation Stewardship Program payments to farmers for those sequestering carbon — for example, through cover crops. This will not only help combat climate change, which Vice President Biden has called an existential threat, but also create additional revenue sources for farmers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. And, this approach will create a whole series of new businesses that survey, measure, certify, and quantify conservation results. In addition, the Biden Plan will make a significant investment in research to refine practices to build soil carbon while maximizing farm and ranch productivity. Soil is the next frontier for storing carbon.

Strengthening antitrust enforcement. From the inputs they depend on – such as seeds – to the markets where they sell their products, American farmers and ranchers are being hurt by increasing market concentration. The Biden Administration will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Expand bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. The Biden Administration will create a low-carbon manufacturing sector in every state in the country, but not just in cities. As president, Biden will grow the bioeconomy and bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. This means taking every aspect of agricultural production – from corn stock to manure – to create chemicals, materials, fabrics, and fibers in a process that is good for the environment and creates new sources of revenue for farmers. Key to this strategy will be connecting research universities, community colleges, incubators and accelerators, manufacturing institutes, employers, unions, and state and local governments – alone or as part of a regional pact. The federal government will provide them with significant funding for deployment of a place-based plan to help their state or region build a competitive and low-carbon future in manufacturing that reflects climate impacts in their local communities.

Promote ethanol and the next generation of biofuels. Joe Biden believes renewable fuels are vital to the future of rural America – and the climate. The Biden Plan will invest $400 billion in clean energy research, innovation, and deployment – more than twice what America spent to put a man on the moon. And, as part of this effort, developing the next generation of biofuels will be a top priority. The Biden Plan will invest in research to develop cellulosic biofuels in a manner that protects our soil and water and addresses the challenge of climate change, while turning grass, crop residues, and other biomass into fuel. Doubling down on these liquid fuels of the future will not only make value-added agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change – reducing emissions in planes, ships, and other forms of transportation – but will also create quality jobs across rural America. From day one, President Biden will use every tool at his disposal, including the federal fleet and the federal government’s purchasing power, to promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol, and other biofuels.

Invest in wind and solar energy. President Obama put Vice President Biden in charge of the Recovery Act, which invested more than $90 billion in clean energy technology. Those investments contributed to a doubling of the share of domestically produced wind turbine components and produced a dramatic decrease in solar costs, making wind and solar power cost-competitive. Biden will build on the Recovery Act by setting an ambitious but essential goal for America to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. His clean energy plan will accelerate the already dramatic growth of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.

Invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure, and triple funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. High-speed broadband is essential in the 21st Century economy. Yet far too many rural communities still don’t have access to it. Rural Americans are over 10 times more likely than urban residents to lack quality broadband access. At a time when so many jobs and businesses could be located anywhere, high-speed internet access should be a great economic equalizer for rural America, not another economic disadvantage. Investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure has the potential to create more than a quarter million new jobs. The Biden Plan will triple Community Connect broadband grants and partner with municipal utilities to bring cutting-edge broadband connections to communities across rural America.

Invest in green infrastructure nationwide. As president, Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can meet America’s economic needs and withstand the impacts of climate change. The Biden Administration will use this infrastructure funding to ensure that rural communities across the country have access to clean, safe drinking water. It will modernize the lock and dam system vital to getting rural products to markets, leveraging the federal resources to the maximum extent possible with the private sector. And, it will build the roads to give farms and small town businesses access to markets and an efficient means to participate in the world economy. 

Expand access to credit for new and small businesses. Entrepreneurs in small towns and rural areas should have access to the capital they need to realize their dreams. The Biden Administration will dramatically expand funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to help rural entrepreneurs. Biden will expand the number of Rural Business Investment Companies to help rural companies obtain capital.

II. PARTNER WITH RURAL COMMUNITIES TO HELP THEM FULLY ACCESS FEDERAL RESOURCES

A contributing factor to place-based inequality across the U.S. is the simple fact that some communities are more successful at accessing federal dollars and technical assistance than others. The federal government’s programs are too often too challenging to navigate for cities and towns that do not have the ability to hire highly qualified professionals to engage with the system.
 
The Biden Administration wants to fundamentally change how the federal government interacts with rural communities that so often do not have access to federal programs. The Biden Administration will partner with these communities to help them fully access federal resources to create jobs, build wealth, and give rural Americans who live in poverty the chance to join the middle class.
 
The Biden Administration will do this in two ways:

Create a White House “StrikeForce” to partner with rural communities to help them access federal funds. The Biden Administration will create a White House StrikeForce consisting of agency leaders who will partner with community-building organizations in persistent poverty rural communities and help them unlock federal resources. This approach is modeled on the StrikeForce Secretary Tom Vilsack successfully established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Prioritize persistent poverty rural communities. Approximately 85% of roughly 350 persistent poverty counties in the United States fall outside of a metropolitan area. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, but especially rural America, Vice President Biden supports applying Congressman James Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula, which will allocate 10 percent of funding to areas “where 20 percent or more of the population has been living below the poverty line for the last 30 years,” to all federal programs.

III. PROTECT AND BUILD ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE IN RURAL COMMUNITIES

The Affordable Care Act was a big deal in rural America, and it should be protected and built upon. As president, Biden will protect and build on Obamacare – not get rid of it and start over with something new. He will not support any policy that means getting rid of Obamacare, whether proposed by a Democrat or Republican.
 
Vice President Biden believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have health insurance and access to affordable, quality health care. He believes that it’s a right, not a privilege. It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote community.
 
Rural America faces unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to access to quality health care. In many rural communities, the local hospital is one of the largest – if not the largest  – employers. Keeping our rural hospitals open is critical not only for saving lives, but also for supporting local economies in rural America. Yet, since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals across the United States have closed. Combined, these closures represent the loss of over 10,000 jobs. And, they could mean life or death for patients in rural communities. Already, someone injured in a rural area has to travel, on average, nearly twice as far to get to the closest hospital as someone injured in an urban area. These critical moments lost in travel time are one reason an estimated 60% of all trauma fatalities occur in rural communities.
 
This problem is at risk of getting even worse. Roughly 1 out of 3 rural hospitals are at risk of shutting down. And that’s only part of the story. Rural clinics and rural nursing homes are closing as well.
 
You can read Vice President Biden’s full health care plan here. To specifically help rural Americans, his plan will also:

Keep our rural hospitals open by:

Defending the Affordable Care Act. The first step to save our rural hospitals is to defend the Affordable Care Act. In fact, one proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have caused $1.7 billion in cuts to rural hospitals, 181 additional rural hospitals “forced into the red,” and nearly 38,000 lost jobs.  President Biden isn’t going to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, he’s going to build on it.

Finishing the job of expanding coverage to low-income adults. Research found that, in states that took up the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, the expansion was a critical tool in keeping rural hospitals open. Yet, 14 states have still not expanded Medicaid eligibility, and an estimated 4.9 million individuals would be eligible for coverage but for their state’s inaction. Vice President Biden’s plan will enroll all of these individuals in a new public option, without a premium and with benefits like those offered in Medicaid. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it will help rural hospitals remain solvent. And, under the Biden Plan, which preserves individuals ability to choose private insurance, these hospitals won’t be threatened by having to get by on low Medicare reimbursement rates for all.

Giving rural hospitals the flexibility they need to keep their doors open and care for their patients. The Biden Administration will provide rural health care providers with funding and flexibility necessary to identify, test, and deploy innovative approaches to keeping their doors open and providing care for the unique needs of rural communities. The Affordable Care Act supports this type of innovation, for example through demonstration projects like the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, which is giving rural hospitals in the state more flexibility to decide how best to spend dollars to improve the health of the population they serve. The Biden Plan will expand funding for these types of demonstration projects, and then accelerate efforts to replicate proven models to other rural hospitals across the country. And, the Biden Plan will identify and eliminate federal rules making it harder for rural hospitals to serve their communities. For example, many rural hospitals serving small populations do not have enough patients to maintain inpatient care, but those communities still need a 24/7 emergency department. One approach to ensure they can keep their doors open is to create a new designation, the Community Outpatient Hospital, as proposed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act. The Biden Administration will make sure the federal government is helping rural hospitals meet community needs, not serving as a roadblock.

Adequately funding our rural hospitals. To help hospitals keep their doors open, President Biden supports the elimination of payment cuts and additional payments for rural hospitals as detailed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act.

Expand primary care and innovative health care delivery models in rural communities by:

Doubling funding for community health centers. Community health centers  provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most. More than half of community health centers are in rural areas.

Equipping rural community health centers to be hubs for healthy communities. As president, Biden will establish a grant program to help community health centers hire social workers or other professionals to coordinate resources necessary for community health, such as transportation to get patients to health centers and connections to housing and nutrition services.

Expanding the pipeline of rural health care providers. The Biden Administration will use a comprehensive approach to increase the number of rural individuals going to medical school or other training programs and returning or staying in rural communities to provide care, with a focus on primary care physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and other in-demand providers. This initiative will include additional funding for residency programs in rural areas, expanding theNational Health Service Corps, and developing high school-community-college-health-center partnerships to inspire rural youth to pursue jobs in health care and pursue the advanced credits or industry credentials that will put them on the path to success in the field.

Building new health clinics and deploying telehealth in rural America. The Obama-Biden Administration successfully used the USDA Community Facility Direct Loan & Grant Program to build rural hospitals and mental health clinics across rural America and equip them with the best technology. As president, Biden will expand this grant funding, with a focus on accelerating the deployment of telehealth for mental health and specialty care. Telehealth – the use of videoconferencing and other technology to provide remote care – can be a vital resource for rural communities with limited access to providers.

——  

Previously Released Biden Plans & Rural America  

To Protect & Build on the Affordable Care Act, including a public option, which will give rural Americans a new health insurance choice, and other policies to lower health care costs.
 
For Educators, Students, and Our Future, which will triple funding for Title I schools, including those in rural communities, and expand high school-community college-business partnerships to prepare students for good jobs.
 
For a Clean Energy Revolution and Climate Justice, which commits our country to fulfilling our obligation to all workers impacted by the energy transition, like coal miners and power plant workers and their communities.
 
In the months ahead, Biden will release a higher education proposal which will include a policy to support small, low-endowment private colleges that are often anchor institutions in rural communities.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: The Biden Plan for Older Americans

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, released his plan for seniors to have secure retirement © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. This is from the Biden 2020 campaign:

THE BIDEN PLAN FOR OLDER AMERICANS

The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class. The middle class isn’t a number, it’s a value set. And, a key component of that value set is having a steady, secure income as you age so your kids won’t have to take care of you in retirement. This means not only protecting and strengthening Social Security, but also helping more middle-class families grow their savings. 

A dignified retirement also means having access to affordable health care and support. Too many Americans – and too many older Americans – cannot afford their prescriptions or their long-term care. Their families are faced with saving for their own retirement or taking care of their aging parents. It’s not right. 
 
Working- and middle-class Americans built this country. And, they deserve to retire with dignity – able to pay for their prescriptions and with access to quality, affordable long-term care. 

I. STAND UP TO THE ABUSE OF POWER BY PRESCRIPTION DRUG CORPORATIONS

Too many Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs, and prescription drug corporations are profiteering off of the pocketbooks of sick individuals. The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry by:

  • Repealing the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program but not drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power of prescription drug lobbying. The Biden Plan will repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.
  • Limiting launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers. Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not traditional chemical drugs, but specialized biotech drugs that will have little to no competition to keep prices in check. Without competition, we need a new approach for keeping the prices of these drugs down. For these cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched, under the Biden Plan the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an independent review board to assess their value. The board will recommend a reasonable price, based on the average price in other countries (a process called external reference pricing) or, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first, based on an evaluation by the independent board members. This reasonable price will be the rate Medicare and the public option will pay. In addition, the Biden Plan will allow private plans participating in the individual marketplace to access a similar rate.
  • Limiting price increases for all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs to inflation. As a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The Biden plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of their brand, biotech or abusively priced generic over the general inflation rate.
  • Allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries. To create more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe.
  • Terminating pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending.Drug corporations spent an estimated $6 billion in 2016 alone on prescription drug advertisements to increase their sales, a more than four-fold increase from just $1.3 billion in 1997. The American Medical Association has even expressed “concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” Currently, drug corporations may count spending on these ads as a deduction to reduce the amount of taxes they owe. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these ads. As president, Biden will end this tax deduction for all prescription drug ads, as proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
  • Improving the supply of quality generics. Generics help reduce health care spending, but brand drug corporations have succeeded in preserving a number of strategies to help them delay the entrance of a generic into the market even after the patent has expired. The Biden Plan supports numerous proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic manufacturers have access to a sample.

II. PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN MEDICARE AS WE KNOW IT AND ENSURE QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL OLDER AMERICANS 

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.
 
Today, the Affordable Care Act is still a big deal – especially for older Americans. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. The law limited the extent to which insurance companies may charge you higher premiums just because of your age. And, the Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare by extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund; giving Medicare beneficiaries access to free recommended preventive services, such as an annual wellness visit; and closing the prescription drug coverage gap, often referred to as the “donut hole.”
 
But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under relentless attack.

Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and again to repeal it. Following the lead of President Trump, Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing conditions – struck down in court.
 
As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choicereducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate. You can read Biden’s full health care plan [here]. In addition, to improve older Americans’ access to affordable, quality health care, Biden will:

  • Protect Medicare as we know it. Today, Medicare provides health insurance coverage to over 60 million older Americans and people with disabilities.  As president, Biden will continue to defend our nation’s commitment to older Americans and people with disabilities through Medicare, and he will keep Medicare as a separate and distinct program, and ensure there is no disruption to the current Medicare system.
  • Protect Medicaid and ensure its beneficiaries can access home and community-based long-term care when they want it. Medicaid pays for more long-term care than any other insurer in the country. In fact, roughly 6 in 10 individuals residing in nursing homes are enrolled in Medicaid, including many older Americans. Yet, the Trump Administration is reportedly considering a plan to cut Medicaid funding by turning it into a block grant. And Republican leadership in states like Iowa, where Medicaid has been privatized with devastating results for some of its most vulnerable residents, are not fulfilling their obligations under the program. The Biden Plan will protect Medicaid funding and make sure the program gives those on Medicaid who need long-term care the flexibility to choose home- and community-based care. In addition, the Biden Administration won’t let states skirt their duties under Medicaid and will take enforcement action against any state that allows profiteering to get in the way of Medicaid beneficiaries’ health.
  • Provide tax relief to help solve the long-term care challenge. The Biden Plan will also help Americans pay for long-term care by providing relief for Americans needing long-term care by creating a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported by AARP. These informal caregivers – whether family members or other loved ones – have for too long been doing tireless work without any financial support. In addition, Biden will increase the generosity of tax benefitsfor older Americans who choose to buy long-term care insurance and pay for it using their savings for retirement.
  • Care for our caregivers. The physical, emotional, and financial challenges of caring for a loved one is enormous. As president, Biden will work to enact at the federal level the AARP-endorsed Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which has already been passed in 39 states. This legislation will help our caregivers by ensuring hospitals equip them with instructions and information when their loved ones are discharged. Biden also supports additional proposals to support caregivers, such as funding to give them access to respite care.

III. PRESERVE AND STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY

Social Security is the bedrock of American retirement. Roughly 90% of retirement-age Americans receive Social Security benefits, and one-in-four rely on Social Security for all, or almost all, of their income. The program has not only ensured that middle-class workers can enjoy the sound and secure retirement they worked so hard for, it also lifted over 17 million older Americans out of poverty in 2017 alone.
 
The Biden Plan will protect Social Security for the millions of Americans who depend on the program. With Social Security’s Trust Fund already in deficit and expected to be exhausted in 2035, we urgently need action to make the program solvent and prevent cuts to American retirees.
 
But the Biden Plan doesn’t stop there. As president, Joe Biden will strengthen benefits for the most vulnerable older Americans – including widows and widowers, lifelong workers with low monthly benefits, and old-age beneficiaries who may have exhausted their other savings. Specifically, the Biden Plan will:

  • Put Social Security on a path to long-run solvency. The impending exhaustion of the Social Security Trust fund imperils American retirement as we know it. Waiting to act only jeopardizes the program further, and will make an eventual solution that much more difficult. The Biden Plan will put the program on a path to long-term solvency by asking Americans with especially high wages to pay the same taxes on those earnings that middle-class families pay.
  • Preserve the nature of Social Security. Social Security is one of our nation’s great public policy successes, in large part due to the fact that participation in the program is shared across almost all workers. Efforts to privatize the program – such as an approach suggested under the Bush Administration – will undermine the program’s solvency, while putting at risk individuals’ income in retirement. Similarly, proposals to make the program “means-tested” – so that only low-income retirees workers receive benefits – jeopardizes the program’s universal nature and key role as the bedrock of American retirement. Ultimately, the success of Social Security is largely due to the fact that almost all Americans can rely on the program to make their retirement more secure.
  • Provide a higher benefit for the oldest Americans. At advanced ages, Americans become more vulnerable to exhausting their savings, sometimes falling into poverty and living a life of hardship. The Biden Plan will provide the oldest beneficiaries – those who have been receiving retirement benefits for at least 20 years – with a higher monthly check to help protect retirees from the pain of dwindling retirement savings.
  • Implement a true minimum benefit for lifelong workers. No one who has worked for decades and paid into Social Security should have to spend their retirement in poverty. The Biden Plan will revolutionize the Social Security’s minimum benefit, which has deteriorated over time to the point of being entirely ineffective. Under the Biden Plan, workers who spent 30 years working will get a benefit of at least 125% of the poverty level.
  • Protect widows and widowers from steep cuts in benefits. For many couples, the death of a spouse means that Social Security benefits will be cut in half – putting pressure on the surviving spouse who still needs to make the mortgage payment and handle other bills. The Biden Plan will allow surviving spouse to keep a higher share of the benefits. This will make an appreciable difference in the finances of older Americans, especially women (who live longer on average than men), raising the monthly payment by about 20% for affected beneficiaries.
  • Eliminate penalties for teachers and other public-sector workers. Current rules penalize teachers and other public sector workers who either switch jobs or who have earned retirement benefits from various sources. The Biden Plan would eliminate these penalties by ensuring that teachers not eligible for Social Security will begin receiving benefits sooner – rather than the current ten-year period for many teachers. The Biden Plan will also get rid of the benefit cuts for workers and surviving beneficiaries who happen to be covered by both Social Security and another pension. These workers deserve the benefits they earned.

IV. EQUALIZE SAVING INCENTIVES FOR MIDDLE-CLASS WORKERS

In the modern retirement landscape, a sound retirement begins with years of diligent saving. While other aspects of the Biden Plan will help raise wages for workers and reduce costs for spending like child care and health insurance, the Biden Plan will also ensure that middle-class families get a leg up as they grow their nest egg.
 
Under current law, the tax code affords workers over $200 billion each year for various retirement benefits – including saving in 401(k)-type plans or IRAs. While these benefits help workers reach their retirement goals, many are poorly designed to help low- and middle-income savers – about two-thirds of the benefit goes to the wealthiest 20% of families. The Biden Plan will make these savings more equal so that middle class families can enter retirement with enough savings to support a healthy and secure retirement. President Biden will do so by:

  • Equalizing the tax benefits of defined contribution plans. The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. The Biden Plan will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement. 
  • Removing penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement. Under current law, people who work as caregivers without receiving wages are ineligible to get tax breaks for retirement saving. The Biden Plan will allow caregivers to make “catch-up” contributions to retirement accounts, even if they’re not earning income in the formal labor market, as has been proposed in bipartisan legislation by Representatives Jackie Walorski and Harley Rouda.
  • Giving small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. As proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, the Biden Plan will call for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offer tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work – putting millions of middle-class families in the path to a secure retirement.

V. PROVIDE HELP FOR OLDER WORKERS WHO WANT TO KEEP WORKING

With longer lifespans and the changing nature of work, many Americans are choosing to stay in the workforce longer. Despite their valuable contributions, these workers often face illegal discrimination or steep tax penalties when they try to continue to earn a living. Joe Biden believes that all workers deserve an opportunity to earn a living and will fight to change the laws to allow all people – regardless of their age – to get the pay they deserve. The Biden Plan will:

  • Protect older Americans against harmful age discrimination. As president, Biden will back bipartisan legislation protecting older workers from being discriminated against in the workforce. According to an AARP survey, this practice is widespread – with more than 60% of older workers reporting discrimination because of their age. The Biden Plan will put in place workplace safeguards making it easier for older workers to prove that they were treated unfairly at work.
  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to older workers. The EITC is one of the most effective strategies for helping low-wage workers achieve a living wage. Unfortunately, the EITC is not available to workers once they turn 65, putting them at a distinct disadvantage relative to their younger peers. As president, Joe Biden will allow low-wage older workers to claim the tax credit they deserve.

Biden Plan for Universal Healthcare: Protect, Build on Obamacare

Vice President Joe Biden, in the race for the Democratic nomination for President, has staked out a position on improving on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as his solution to providing universal healthcare  – essentially, enabling people keep their private insurance but creating a new public option. That is more moderate than the Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who want a more extreme Medicare for All that replaces private insurance (though it is unlikely that there will not still be a market for supplemental private insurance, just as there is now for Medicare). Here, is the Biden campaign’s description and rationale for Biden’s plan to protect and build upon the Affordable Care Act: – Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Vice President Joe Biden, in the race for the Democratic nomination for President, has staked out a position on improving on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as his solution to providing universal healthcare  – essentially, enabling people keep their private insurance but creating a new public option. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.

Today, the Affordable Care Act is still a big deal. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. Young people who are in transition from school to a job have the option to stay covered by their parents’ plan until age 26.

But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under relentless attack.

Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and again to repeal it. Following the lead of President Trump, Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing conditions – struck down in court.

As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choicereducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.

For Biden, this is personal. He believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality health care. He knows that no one in this country should have to lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, “what will I do if she gets breast cancer?” or “if he has a heart attack?” “Will I go bankrupt?” He knows there is no peace of mind if you cannot afford to care for a sick child or a family member because of a pre-existing condition, because you’ve reached a point where your health insurer says “no more,” or because you have to make a decision between putting food on the table and going to the doctor or filling a prescription.

In the coming months, Joe Biden will build on today’s plan by rolling out his proposals to tackle some of our greatest public health challenges – from reducing gun violence to curing devastating diseases as we know them like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and addiction.

I. GIVE EVERY AMERICAN ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE

From the time right before the Affordable Care Act’s key coverage-related policies went into effect to the last full year of the Obama-Biden Administration, 2016, the number of Americans lacking health insurance fell from 44 million to 27 million – an almost 40% drop. But President Trump’s persistent efforts to sabotage Obamacare through executive action, after failing in his efforts to repeal it through Congress, have started to reverse this progress. Since 2016, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by roughly 1.4 million.

As president, Biden will stop this reversal of the progress made by Obamacare. And he won’t stop there. He’ll also build on the Affordable Care Act with a plan to insure more than an estimated 97% of Americans. Here’s how:

Giving Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare. If your insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another, better choice. Whether you’re covered through your employer, buying your insurance on your own, or going without coverage altogether, the Biden Plan will give you the choice to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare. As in Medicare, the Biden public option will reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other health care providers. It also will better coordinate among all of a patient’s doctors to improve the efficacy and quality of their care, and cover primary care without any co-payments. And it will bring relief to small businesses struggling to afford coverage for their employees.

Increasing the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more working Americans. Today, families that make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level may receive a tax credit to reduce how much they have to pay for health insurance on the individual marketplace. The dollar amount of the financial assistance is calculated to ensure each family does not have to pay more than a certain percentage of their income on a silver (medium generosity) plan. But, these shares of income are too high and silver plans’ deductibles are too high. Additionally, many families making more than 400% of the federal poverty level (about $50,000 for a single person and $100,000 for a family of four), and thus not qualifying for financial assistance, still struggle to afford health insurance. The Biden Plan will help middle class families by eliminating the 400% income cap on tax credit eligibility and lowering the limit on the cost of coverage from 9.86% of income to 8.5%. This means that no family buying insurance on the individual marketplace, regardless of income, will have to spend more than 8.5% of their income on health insurance. Additionally, the Biden Plan will increase the size of tax credits by calculating them based on the cost of a more generous gold plan, rather than a silver plan. This will give more families the ability to afford more generous coverage, with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

Expanding coverage to low-income Americans. Access to affordable health insurance shouldn’t depend on your state’s politics. But today, state politics is getting in the way of coverage for millions of low-income Americans. Governors and state legislatures in 14 states have refused to take up the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility, denying access to Medicaid for an estimated 4.9 million adults. Biden’s plan will ensure these individuals get covered by offering premium-free access to the public option for those 4.9 million individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid but for their state’s inaction, and making sure their public option covers the full scope of Medicaid benefits. States that have already expanded Medicaid will have the choice of moving the expansion population to the premium-free public option as long as the states continue to pay their current share of the cost of covering those individuals. Additionally, Biden will ensure people making below 138% of the federal poverty level get covered. He’ll do this by automatically enrolling these individuals when they interact with certain institutions (such as public schools) or other programs for low-income populations (such as SNAP).

II. PROVIDE THE PEACE OF MIND OF AFFORDABLE, QUALITY HEALTH CARE AND A LESS COMPLEX HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Today, even for people with health insurance, our health care system is too expensive and too hard to navigate. The Biden Plan will not only provide coverage for uninsured Americans, it will also make health care more affordable and less complex for all. 
 
The plan’s elements described above will help reduce the cost of health insurance and health care for those already insured in the following ways:

All Americans will have a new, more affordable option. The public option, like Medicare, will negotiate prices with providers, providing a more affordable option for many Americans who today find their health insurance too expensive.

Middle class families will get a premium tax credit to help them pay for coverage. For example, take a family of four with an income of $110,000 per year. If they currently get insurance on the individual marketplace, because their premium will now be capped at 8.5% of their income, under the Biden Plan they will save an estimated $750 per month on insurance alone. That’s cutting their premiums almost in half. If a family is covered by their employer but can get a better deal with the 8.5% premium cap, they can switch to a plan on the individual marketplace, too.

Premium tax credits will be calculated to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles. Because the premium tax credits will now be calculated based on the price of a more generous gold plan, families will be able to purchase a plan with a lower deductible and lower out-of-pocket spending. That means many families will see their overall annual health care spending go down.

The Biden Plan has several additional proposals aimed directly at cutting the cost of health care and making the health care system less complex to navigate. The Biden Plan will:

Stop “surprise billing.” Consumers trying to lower their health care spending often try to choose an in-network provider. But sometimes patients are unaware they are receiving care from an out-of-network provider and a big, surprise bill. “Surprise medical billing” could occur, for example, if you go to an in-network hospital but don’t realize a specialist at that hospital is not part of your health plan. The Biden Plan will bar health care providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient doesn’t have control over which provider the patient sees (for example, during a hospitalization).

Tackle market concentration across our health care system. The concentration of market power in the hands of a few corporations is occurring throughout our health care system, and this lack of competition is driving up prices for consumers. The Biden Administration will aggressively use its existing antitrust authority to address this problem.

Lower costs and improve health outcomes by partnering with the health care workforce. The Biden Administration will partner with health care workers and accelerate the testing and deployment of innovative solutions that improve quality of care and increase wages for low-wage health care workers, like home care workers.

III.  STAND UP TO ABUSE OF POWER BY PRESCRIPTION DRUG CORPORATIONS
 
Too many Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs, and prescription drug corporations are profiteering off of the pocketbooks of sick individuals. The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry by:

Repealing the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program, but not drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power of prescription drug lobbying. The Biden Plan will repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.

Limiting launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers. Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not traditional chemical drugs but specialized biotech drugs that will have little to no competition to keep prices in check. Without competition, we need a new approach for keeping the prices of these drugs down. For these cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched, under the Biden Plan the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an independent review board to assess their value. The board will recommend a reasonable price, based on the average price in other countries (a process called external reference pricing) or, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first, based on an evaluation by the independent board members. This reasonable price will be the rate Medicare and the public option will pay. In addition, the Biden Plan will allow private plans participating in the individual marketplace to access a similar rate.

Limiting price increases for all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs to inflation. As a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The Biden Plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of their brand, biotech, or abusively priced generic over the general inflation rate.

Allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries. To create more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe.

Terminating pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending. Drug corporations spent an estimated $6 billion in 2016 alone on prescription drug advertisements to increase their sales, a more than four-fold increase from just $1.3 billion in 1997. The American Medical Association has even expressed “concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” Currently, drug corporations may count spending on these ads as a deduction to reduce the amount of taxes they owe. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these ads. As president, Biden will end this tax deduction for all prescription drug ads, as proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Improving the supply of quality generics. Generics help reduce health care spending, but brand drug corporations have succeeded in preserving a number of strategies to help them delay the entrance of a generic into the market even after the patent has expired. The Biden Plan supports numerous proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic manufacturers have access to a sample.

IV. ENSURE HEALTH CARE IS A RIGHT FOR ALL, NOT A PRIVILEGE FOR JUST A FEW
 
Joe Biden believes that every American – regardless of gender, race, income, sexual orientation, or zip code – should have access to affordable and quality health care. Yet racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination permeate our health care system just as in every other part of society. As president, Biden will be a champion for improving access to health care and the health of all by:

Expanding access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion. The Affordable Care Act made historic progress by ensuring access to free preventive care, including contraception. The Biden Plan will build on that progress. Vice President Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment because health care is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income. And, the public option will cover contraception and a woman’s constitutional right to choose. In addition, the Biden Plan will:

1) Reverse the Trump Administration and states’ all-out assault on women’s right to choose. As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion, such as so-called TRAP laws, parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements.

2) Restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The Obama-Biden administration fought Republican attacks on funding for Planned Parenthood again and again. As president, Biden will reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers that refer for abortions or provide related information and reverse the Trump Administration’s rule preventing Planned Parenthood and certain other family planning programs from obtaining Title X funds.

3) Just as the Obama-Biden Administration did, President Biden will rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded. This rule currently bars the U.S. federal government from supporting important global health efforts – including for malaria and HIV/AIDS – in developing countries simply because the organizations providing that aid also offer information on abortion services.

Reducing our unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, which especially impacts people of color. Compared to other developed nations, the U.S. has the highest rate of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth, and we are the only country experiencing an increase in this death rate. This problem is especially prevalent among black women, who experience a death rate from complications related to pregnancy that is more than three times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white women. California came up with a strategy that halved the state’s maternal death rate. As president, Biden will take this strategy nationwide.

Defending health care protections for all, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could increase premiums merely due to someone’s gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Further, insurance companies could increase premiums or deny coverage altogether due to someone’s HIV status. Yet, President Trump is trying to walk back this progress. For example, he has proposed to once again allow health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate based on a patient’s gender identity or abortion history. President Biden will defend the rights of all people – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity – to have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination.

Doubling America’s investment in community health centers. Community health centers  provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most.

Achieving mental health parity and expanding access to mental health care. As Vice President, Biden was a champion for efforts to implement the federal mental health parity lawimprove access to mental health care, and eliminate the stigma around mental health. As President, he will redouble these efforts to ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services.

In the months ahead, Biden will put forward additional plans to tackle health challenges affecting specific communities, including access to health care in rural communities, gun violence, and opioid addiction.

SUPPORTING HEALTH, NOT REWARDING WEALTH

Joe Biden believes in rewarding work, not just wealth – and investing in hard-working Americans’ health, not protecting the most privileged Americans’ wealth. Warren Buffett said it best when he stated that he should not pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.
 
The Biden Plan will make health care a right by getting rid of capital gains tax loopholes for the super wealthy. Today, the very wealthy pay a tax rate of just 20% on long-term capital gains. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the capital gains and dividends exclusion is the second largest tax expenditure in the entire tax code: $127 billion in fiscal year 2019 alone. As President, Biden will roll back the Trump rate cut for the very wealthy and restore the 39.6% top rate he helped restore when he negotiated an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2012. Biden’s capital gains reform will close the loopholes that allow the super wealthy to avoid taxes on capital gains altogether. The Biden plan will assure those making over $1 million will pay the top rate on capital gains, doubling the capital gains tax rate on the super wealthy.

WATCH: Joe Biden talks more about the need to build on and protect ACA in THIS new video.

See also: Biden Gives Speech on Foreign Policy that Defines His Quest for Presidency