The Democratic Party:
Fighting for Veterans and Their Families
“I come here today to propose a Military Family Bill of Rights - real and specific guarantees - that will keep faith with those who served and the families who share in their sacrifice.”
“My administration understands America's obligations not only go to those who wear the uniform today, but to those who wore the uniform in the past: to our veterans.” George W. Bush
August 20, 2001
That’s what Bush SAYS . . . it’s NOT what he DOES
“Parents were buying flak jackets and sending them to sons and daughters in Iraq because soldiers were using outdated vests. To this day, thousands of men and women still don't have Interceptor vests, a high-tech model that has saved the lives of soldiers shot in the chest with AK-47 bullets.” [“Troops Pay Price As Military Skimps” Los Angeles Times 12/7/03]
"’It's shocking,’ says George Washington Law School Professor Jonathan Turley, who exposed the shortage of high-grade flak jackets more than two months ago in an [October] opinion piece for The [Los Angeles] Times. Since then, Turley has been under siege, having lost count of the number of private citizens offering money for the purchase of vests the military has failed to provide.” [“Troops Pay Price As Military Skimps” Los Angeles Times 12/7/03]
Bush’s White House tried to cut the combat pay of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but had to backpedal due to public outrage. “The Pentagon's support for the idea of rolling back "imminent danger pay" by $75 a month and ’family separation allowances’ for the American forces by $150 a month collapsed after a story in The Chronicle Thursday generated intense criticism from military families, veterans groups and Democratic candidates seeking to unseat President Bush in 2004.” [“Troops in danger zone no longer face pay cut” San Francisco Chronicle 8/15/03]
While President Bush has photo ops at Walter Reed Hospital, “[h]undreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait-sometimes for months-to see doctors.” [“Sick, wounded U.S. troops held in squalor” UPI 10/17/03]
“The Bush Administration formally opposed giving members of the National Guard and Reserves access to the U.S. military’s health insurance system. … A recent General Accounting Office report estimated that one out of five Guard members has no health insurance.” [“Health plan for Guard opposed” Gannett News Service /The Olypian 10/23/03]
Bush proposed reducing veterans’ guaranteed lifetime healthcare benefits to two years only. Moreover, Bush’s proposed increasing out-of-pocket costs of co-payments for outpatient care and prescription drugs and included a $250 yearly enrollment fee. [“Veterans’ care squeezed by VA” Cincinnati Enquirer 5/25/03]
“[R]etirees may be asked to pay $10 - up from the current $3 - for each 90-day generic prescription filled by mail through Tricare, the military’s health insurance program. Tricare’s current $9 co-pay for a three-month supply of each brand-name drug would jump to $20. The proposal also would impose charges for drugs the retirees now receive free at military hospitals and clinics. There would be a $10 fee for each generic prescription and a $20 charge for brand name drugs dispensed at those facilities.” [“Drug fees for military retirees may be raised” Virginia Pilot, 1/1/03]
“Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)…said … that overwhelming majorities in both houses passed a version of the ’concurrent receipt’ provision out of basic fairness. Disabled veterans should be able to receive military retirement benefits and VA disability benefits without an offset, he said, because retirement pay is for length of service and disability compensation is for pain and suffering incurred in uniform.”
“The pension provision would for the first time allow military retirees to collect retirement benefits from the Pentagon and disability benefits from the Veterans Administration at the same time. Proponents call this ‘concurrent receipt.’"
(Veterans who are 60% or more disabled qualify for disability, but their military pensions are cut dollar for dollar for any disability payment they receive. Concurrent receipt means the injured veterans would be allowed to keep their pensions in addition to any disability payment, just as other government workers are allowed to do.) [“Bush threatens veto of defense bill” Washington Post, 10/7/02]
“The Bush administration is seeking to block a group of American troops who were tortured in Iraqi prisons during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 from collecting any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Iraqi assets that they won last summer in a federal court ruling against the government of Saddam Hussein.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported “In a sworn court filing in the case for the former prisoners, Paul Bremer, the American administrator in Iraq, said the money won by the former prisoners had already been "completely obligated or expended" in reconstruction efforts. These funds are critical to maintaining peace and stability in Iraq.” [“U.S. fights GIs’ award for Iraqi torture; frozen funds intended for rebuilding” San Francisco Chronicle 11/10/03]
Democrats Fight For America’s Veterans
"While the President is praising troops in one breath, his Administration tries to cut their combat pay in another. While heralding veterans, the Republicans in Congress shortchange veterans' health care by $1.8 billion. While Republicans pretend to oppose the tax on disabled veterans, they refuse to join Democrats in repealing it. No eligible veteran should be excluded, and all should have this unreasonable tax lifted. The men and women who are serving or have served their country deserve no less."
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (CA)
Enhancing Intelligence, Improving Port Security
On September 11, 2001, America was again struck by a surprise attack from a hidden enemy, and again we paid a terrible price. This time, however, the President's response was very different. Where President Roosevelt sought answers, President Bush has sought to avoid blame, repeatedly stonewalling the 9/11 Commission and Congressional efforts to understand intelligence mistakes leading up to September 11th. The Bush Administration has not even completed the National Intelligence Review mandated at the beginning of the Administration. Nor has the Bush Administration taken the necessary steps to improve homeland security by making our ports safer. Read the Full Plan
This nation made a sacred covenant with those it drafted and those who enlisted, but the truth is that every day in America the treatment of too many veterans is breaking that covenant. For John Kerry, the fight continues. He will deliver health care and prescription drugs veterans need. He will grant full concurrent receipt to disabled veterans and fairly compensate soldiers and their families for their valiant service. This is about keeping America’s promise, it is about national obligation -- and, it is about love of country and the help and honor we owe to those who defend it.
The Bush Administration chronically under-funds VA health care. Nearly 90,000 veterans are waiting for healthcare appointments. Instead of adding sufficient resources to the VA system, President Bush has frozen whole classes out of it. ,By the Bush Administration’s own estimate, their policies will exclude approximately 500,000 veterans from the VA healthcare system by 2005. President Bush also proposed increasing fees and co-payments in an effort to shift the burden for care onto the backs of veterans, dropping an additional million veteran from VA health care. John Kerry will stop playing politics with veterans health care funding. He insists on mandatory funding for veterans health care. With President Kerry, veterans will get the appointments they need with VA doctors and the federal government will ensure no veteran’s health care need is unmet.
George Bush Has overstretched the U.S. Military. The Bush administration compensates by using the National Guard and Reserve. Reservists are overburdened and may leave the military in large numbers.
John Kerry will reduce the strain on the military. He calls for a temporary increase of about 40,000 active-duty Army troops. About 20,000 of the troops will be in specialties such as military police and civil affairs, currently and predominantly found in the Reserves. The other 20,000 would be combat troops. Kerry’s proposal will be budget neutral because he will streamline some large weapons programs, reducing the total amount of money spent on missile defense. More emphasis will be put on electronics, advanced sensors and munitions.
Under George Bush, 280,000 veterans await their disability rating and 108,000 other veterans waiti to hear back on appeals of rating decisions. John Kerry will streamline the VA so veterans hear about their status and receive benefits in a timely manner.
We need to treat our troops and their families with respect, dignity, and fairness in what they are paid, where they live, and where their children go to school. We need to make sure our troops are paid enough to increase retention and enlistment. We should improve active duty housing for soldiers and their families. As someone who has led the fight on Gulf War Illness, John Kerry knows we have to be aggressive on health screenings for our troops. These screenings - not being currently done -- are required by law. John Kerry will bolster Family Assistance Centers and Programs on every military base to provide information and services to families of deployed, wounded, or killed service members.
John Kerry and Senator John McCain chaired the country's most thorough investigation into the fate of POWs/MIAs in Southeast Asia. Kerry personally pressed Vietnamese officials to cooperate in ongoing efforts to get answers for families and also sponsored POW/MIA Recognition Day. Kerry's Senate committee pressed for unparalleled declassification of documents, increased excavation work in Vietnam, and gathered testimony from 144 witnesses. According to the Boston Globe, "the effort produced real answers for the some 120 families who had lived for decades without knowing whether a loved one was still alive in Southeast Asia."
Studies estimate more than 30 percent of homeless men in America are veterans. In 2001, Kerry worked to pass the Heather French Henry Homeless Veterans Assistance Act, an ambitious effort to completely end homelessness among veterans. Kerry will work to make sure veterans have the support they need to find housing and jobs as well as the social support they deserve.
John Kerry will provide mortgage insurance to National Guard and Reservists called to active duty. This will ensure that service members who have to take a cut in pay don’t have to worry about losing their homes while serving our nation.
More than one-third of Reservists and National Guard members suffer a pay cut when called to duty. Many of these military service members are professionals with families. Unlike big businesses that can provide supplemental income, most small businesses can’t afford to provide this benefit. With tax credits for small businesses, John Kerry can ensure steady income for National Guard and Reservists’ families.
Kerry supports legislation to provide access to TRICARE for military reservists. This improves readiness of reservists called to active duty and provides care for their families without disruptions. For families that do not live near a TRICARE provider, or that have children or special medical needs, it may be impractical to use a TRICARE provider. In these cases, Kerry supports allowing reservist families to keep their civilian insurance through COBRA.
In 2003, the Bush Administration opposed increasing the death gratuity - from $6,000 to $12,000 -- paid to families of those who die in action. John Kerry supports increasing the death benefit and making the payment tax-free. He supports restructuring compensation provided to surviving families by mandating $250,000 non-taxable life insurance plans for all service members and eliminating all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines serving in harms’ way, the obligation to pay individual premiums. He will fight to provide surviving spouses of service members killed-in-action with one year of military pay equal to what would have been earned and permitting surviving spouses and children of service members killed-in-action to remain in military housing for one year after the death of their spouse.
[“John Kerry: Fighting for America’s Veterans” John Kerry for President]
We Honor Veterans and Their Families