On Veterans Day 2021, the Biden Administration announced new actions to address health effects of military exposures on veterans. The White House provided a fact sheet outliningnew initiatives to address health impacts of military service:
Exposure to contaminants and environmental hazards poses a major health concern for veterans of all generations. There are also gaps and delays in the scientific evidence demonstrating conclusive links between known exposures and health impacts, leaving many veterans without access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and high-quality treatment to address significant health conditions. For example, it took decades to provide access to compensatory benefits and health care to many Vietnam era veterans for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure. For the newest generation of veterans, concerns about burn pits and other exposures continue to mount. While the federal government has taken some steps to address these issues, including implementing registries to track veterans exposed to potentially hazardous substances, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing more to enable timely access to services and benefits for those potentially exposed to hazardous materials.
As we mark Veterans Day and honor those who have worn the uniform of the United States, the Administration is moving forward to support our service members and veterans who may have encountered environmental hazards by:
Developing and testing a model for establishing service connection. It can be difficult for veterans to prove connection for disabilities resulting from environmental hazards. To mitigate this difficulty, VA may create presumptions of exposure in order to establish service connection for various chronic conditions when the evidence of an environmental exposure and the associated health risks are strong in the aggregate but hard to prove on an individual basis. In order to deliver benefits more quickly to veterans who developed disabilities due to exposure to environmental hazards and to lower the evidentiary burden on such veterans, VA developed a new model to accelerate the decision-making process to consider adding new presumptive conditions. This new model takes into consideration not only consensus reports from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, but also includes analyses of data from other sources as well, including data from the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration. The new model relies upon a multi-faceted scale to evaluate the strength of scientific and other evidence and allow VA to make faster policy decisions on key exposures. VA successfully applied this model to examine the association between exposures to particulate matter and three respiratory conditions, as announced last May.
Adding new presumptive conditions. In August, VA began processing disability claims for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis based on presumed exposure to particulate matter. Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations and other areas and who developed these conditions within 10 years of military service are now eligible to apply for disability benefits and access to VA health care. This rulemaking was based upon application of the new presumptive model and involved careful review of a study conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as other evidence assessed by VA subject matter experts.
Applying new model to review evidence of service connection for rare respiratory cancers and constrictive bronchiolitis. VA will further test the new presumptive model to assess potential associations between military environmental exposures and constrictive bronchiolitis, lung cancers, and rare respiratory cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx or trachea and salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea. The President has directed VA to complete the review of rare cancers and provide recommendations about new presumptions of service connection within 90 days. Based on the results of this review, the Administration will consider initiating additional rulemaking. Once the process is complete, the Administration will continue to test this model on additional health conditions and exposures to ensure more timely review and consideration of potential service connection.
Improving data on individual exposures. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) is the primary Department of Defense and VA application to track, record, and assess environmental and occupational exposure to potentially hazardous substances. Currently, ILER is not scheduled to reach full operating capability until September 2023. To ensure full capability of the ILER, DoD plans to expand and accelerate the development schedule—and add additional data—enabling more comprehensive information on health risks of potential exposures to be more rapidly incorporated into service member and veterans medical care and benefit decisions.
Raising awareness of VA benefits related to military exposures. Many veterans are unaware of their eligibility for benefits and services related to potential military exposures. In addition, some claims adjudicators may not have up-to-date awareness of recent policies related to conditions newly presumed to be service-connected. In October 2021, VA launched an outreach campaign to inform service members and veterans about eligibility and benefits related to chronic disabilities that may be due to military exposures while in service. This includes efforts to embed educational and outreach materials into the Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) and as part of the Solid Start program, which reaches out to transitioning service members at regular intervals during the first year following their military separation. VA will also initiate new public service announcements and live events to encourage early and regular engagement with VA and other federal agencies for benefits, health care, and other services. VA also plans to provide refresher trainings for all claims processors, share information related to military exposures, and host a series of Q&A sessions related to implementation of the new presumptive disabilities that were implemented this summer. VA will also revise Frequently Asked Question materials and call scripts to ensure that front line employees are able to better assist veterans through the claims process.
Expanding training for VA and non-VA providers. Veterans often find that their providers and compensation and pension examiners are not well-trained to understand or treat veterans’ exposure concerns. To address this issue, VA has completed a contract with the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) to provide a five-module certificate training program in military environmental exposures. This will provide a basic level of competence for all VA- and non-VA providers across the nation that will help better treat veterans with concerns about toxic exposures. VA will require all providers to complete the first module of this training for an entry-level understanding of the health outcomes of military exposures and encourage the remaining four modules for certification.
Establishing network of specialized providers and call center. Veterans with concerns about the health outcomes of military exposures experience inconsistent care to address these specific issues, especially outside of VA. Beginning in 2022, VA will launch VET-HOME, The Veterans Exposure Team-Health Outcomes of Military Exposures. VET-HOME will consist of two interconnected parts: a call center for veterans and providers, and a nationwide network of specialists. Veterans with questions about environmental exposures will call into a central location and be guided through the registry exam or environmental exposure process. They would then be referred to one of 40 environmental health providers across the United States who would use a telemedicine platform to assess and if necessary refer the veteran to a VA facility to complete any specialty testing, like a pulmonary function test or other lab work. Providers with questions on military exposures would be referred to one the 40 military environmental heath subject matter experts. The results of the consultation would be shared with the veteran’s primary care doctor, helping to deliver better care to the veteran.
Extending Eligibility Period for VA Health Care. Some Veterans do not have concerns about their health until several years after deployment or leaving service. At present, VA allows veterans to receive free VA health care for up to 5 years after discharge or release for any condition related to service in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq. This is called an “enhanced eligibility period.” To ensure that veterans who served in these conflicts have access to health care from VA, the Administration will call upon Congress to implement a change to the statute to enable a longer enhanced enrollment period for the 3 million veterans who deployed to support recent combat operations.
Taken together, these actions will improve our understanding of the health effects of military-related exposures, educate providers and veterans about these exposures, and provide timelier access to health services and benefits for individuals who were exposed. The Administration will continue to prioritize efforts to support veterans who were exposed to environmental hazards during their military service. At the same time, the Administration will work with Congress on its encouraging ongoing efforts to ensure we are able to quickly and fairly recognize additional presumptions of service-connected disabilities, in order to live up to our sacred obligation to provide veterans the care they have earned.
All too often, especially in the Trump years, veterans and active military have been used as props and as pawns to achieve personal and political gain. Trump demeaned Senator John McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and later called those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “losers and suckers” and repeatedly questioned the intelligence of those who serveand couldn’t be bothered to visit the graves of Americans who died in World War I in a cemetery while in France.
Well before Joe Biden became President, he and First Lady Jill Biden were activists on behalf of the military, veterans and military families. As Second Lady, Jill Biden teamed with then First Lady Michelle Obama to create Joining Forces – the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors – to solve many of the problems that military families and veterans face.Now, as President, Biden has advanced policies on behalf of active military, veterans and their familiesand the First Lady continues her work with Joining Forces.
I often have problems each Veterans Day and Memorial Day because these events shroud the horrors of war in glory – necessary because otherwise no one would sign up. And I have often warned about the difference between lying the nation into war as George W. Bush did to invade Iraq, and Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon did during Vietnam, using war for political gain, as Reagan did in invading Grenada, being used by callous business interests to make their fortune, like World War I, and a justified war like World War II.
This Veterans Day, November 11, 2021, Biden’s Proclamation is genuine and speaks to this administration’s commitment: “Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.”— Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com
VETERANS DAY, 2021
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
For generations, millions of Americans have answered the call to serve — taking the sacred oath to defend and preserve our Nation’s ideals of liberty and democracy. These patriots represent the best of us. On Veterans Day, we honor their service, dedication, and valor and are forever grateful for their sacrifice.
Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home. For our 19 million veterans, that means ensuring that they have access to the support and resources for a future of security, opportunity, and dignity. This is even more important as we continue to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Our obligation to support our Nation’s veterans and their families is personal for me and the entire Biden family, and I remain committed to ensuring that every veteran receives the care and support they have earned. The recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will create millions of good jobs for veterans and grow opportunities for veteran-owned businesses. My Build Back Better framework also prioritizes improvements to VA health care, ensuring that every veteran — including our often-underserved female and LGBTQ+ veterans — receives competent, world-class health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last month, the White House Gender Policy Council released the first-ever United States Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality, which included the unique needs and contributions of women service members and veterans. And the Department of Veterans Affairs is also working to get every eligible veteran the information and opportunity they need to register and vote, protecting their voice in the democracy they fought to preserve.
Ensuring veterans have timely access to services and benefits is at the center of my Administration’s commitment to fulfilling our sacred obligation. This includes addressing the adverse health effects of service-related exposures. In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will begin processing disability claims for respiratory conditions connected to exposure during military service in Southwest Asia and other areas. My Administration also added three conditions to the list of those presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange, ending the long wait for disability benefits for many Vietnam era veterans. In the coming months, we are committed to taking additional action to address potential adverse health effects associated with military environmental exposures.
So many of our veterans carry the scars from their service — both visible and invisible — and it is our Nation’s responsibility to help them heal. Too many veterans and service members have considered suicide or taken their own lives, and addressing this tragedy is a national responsibility. That is why I have made military and veteran suicide prevention a top priority, and earlier this month, I released a new comprehensive, cross-sector public health strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide. Implementing this approach will unite us around a common mission and accelerate meaningful improvements in suicide prevention programs, helping us live up to our sacred obligation to those who have served in our Nation’s Armed Forces.
Fulfilling our Nation’s promise to our veterans and military families, caregivers, and survivors is not only a moral imperative — it is crucial to our national security and to maintaining the finest military the world has ever known. We are a Nation that keeps our promises. That is why my Administration is dedicated to a whole-of-government approach in responding to the needs of our veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors.
Through the First Lady’s work with Joining Forces — the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors — my Administration is addressing employment and entrepreneurship, military and veteran child education, and health and well-being for veteran families. Earlier this year, the First Lady met with military and veteran families to learn how we can better support and prioritize their needs, and in September, Joining Forces and the National Security Council released a report outlining the first round of Administration-wide commitments and proposals that support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors. These efforts will honor our sacred obligation to support our veteran families and ensure they receive the resources they need to thrive.
On Veterans Day, we honor our Nation’s veterans, who have given so much to protect our freedoms and the freedom of others around the globe. They represent the highest ideals of our country. While we can never fully repay the debt we owe these heroes, we will honor their service and provide them the care and support they deserve. We also salute and show gratitude for all who ensure our Armed Forces remain strong, united, and unmatched…
I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate ceremonies and private prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States of America and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. And I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities, to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.
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:
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.
The Biden Plan to Keep Our Sacred Obligation to Our Veterans
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.
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.
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 2 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:
Veterans World Class Health Care to Meet Their Specific Needs
Progress to Eliminate Veterans Homelessness and Bring Down Suicide Rates
Meaningful Employment and Educational Opportunities
Management and Accountability.
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
funding for and expand access to telehealth through the VA, particularly in
rural areas not able to access timely care.
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.
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
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:
the first 200 days in office a comprehensive public health and cross-sector
approach to addressing suicide in veterans, service members, and their
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A Biden Administration will:
with DoD to ensure that the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is implemented effectively
and that outcomes are regularly reported.
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.
corporate mentorship programs between veteran-owned businesses and existing
contractors to support veteran entrepreneurship.
implementation of the Forever GI Bill so that veterans receive the educational
benefits they have earned on time.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
standards of health record interoperability that ensure a comprehensive health
record is provided by community care organizations back to the VA.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WASHINGTON – Senator Bernie Sanders on Veterans Day released his veterans agenda, called “Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans,” which will guarantee veterans the benefits and services they were promised, protect and expand disability benefits for veterans, guarantee justice for veterans and expand opportunities for veterans. The proposal comes as Americans around the country honor Veterans Day.
This is from the Sanders campaign:
“As a nation, we have a moral obligation to provide the best quality care to those who put their lives on the line to defend us,” Sanders, who served as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee from 2013 to 2015, said. “Just as planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, so is taking care of the men and women who we sent off to fight the wars. It includes caring for the spouses and children who have to rebuild their lives after the loss of a loved one. It includes caring for the hundreds of thousands of veterans with multiple amputations or loss of eyesight, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. It includes veterans who are having difficulty keeping jobs in order to pay their bills, and it includes the terrible tragedy of veterans committing suicide. As president, I will do everything that I can to make sure that every veteran gets the benefits that they are entitled to receive on time and without delay. Further, we will not dismantle or privatize the VA. We will expand and improve the VA.”
During Sanders’ time as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, a series of reports revealed that the Veterans Health Administration was failing veterans, leaving many to wait too long for care and putting lives in danger. Sanders worked with Sen. John McCain to successfully negotiate and pass a bill that invested billions into the VA system. The landmark legislation authorized twenty-seven new medical facilities and provided $5 billion to hire more doctors and nurses to care for the surging number of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and those veterans from earlier eras in need of more complex care.
The Sanders campaign on Monday also released a new video, “Keeping Our Promise,” which highlights Sanders’ work on that landmark legislation.
Sanders’ plan will:
the nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA during your first year in office. Under a
Bernie Sanders administration, the VA will hire the doctors, nurses and medical
professionals necessary to provide the care that veterans need when they need
Provide at least $62 billion in new funding
to repair, modernize and rebuild the infrastructure at the VA in order to
provide the cutting-edge health care services our veterans have earned and
Ensure that all those with prior military
service in every state and territory have access to the full complement of
health care services they need to stay healthy and well.
Improve and simplify the claims process so
veterans receive the compensation they have earned quickly, accurately, and
without bureaucratic red tape.
Reform harmful VA regulations that restrict
access to care and benefits based on character of discharge.
Ensure veterans can use the full complement
of benefits through the G.I. Bill without hassle or red tape.