With the 2016 presidential election quickly approaching, campaign season is in full swing and boasts no shortage of candidates. Presidential hopefuls from all sides of the political spectrum have pulled no punches when it comes to the multitude of issues currently concerning the American public. In fact, candidates have weighed in on any number of topics, from immigration reform to civil liberties, with incredible diverse and aggressive opinions. Perhaps this willingness to engage and volunteer opinions is what makes the lack of attention to one topic in particular so striking, especially in the glare of the ongoing G.O.P. presidential debates.
Do you know where the candidates stand when it comes to veterans' affairs and healthcare needs?
G.O.P. Debates and Veterans' Affairs
Almost without exception, the G.O.P. candidates taking part in the recent debates have declined to comment in any significant way upon the many issues currently facing America's veterans. During the first debate, for example, veterans were mentioned only one time during the entirety of the program -- and even then, the question was asked with only a few minutes left on the clock. Disappointed with the lack of attention to American soldiers and their welfare both at home and abroad, veterans voiced the hope that the second G.O.P. debate would include a more detailed discussion of the candidates' plans and intentions to improve their care and support systems.
The second G.O.P. debate was on September 16th, and it left veterans disappointed once again. Coverage of veterans' issues actually diminished from the first debate, with zero direct questions concerning the millions of Americans affected by the current VA system. In fact, veterans were only mentioned by two of the candidates during the entire broadcast. Donald Trump offered a vague promise to ensure that care for veterans is bettered, and Carly Fiorina brought up healthcare delays for veterans a few times in passing. No one even hinted at a concrete plan to help improve the problems, nor did anyone seem to have been particularly well-informed or passionate about the issue.
There is no dearth of problems to discuss. A staggering 22 veterans commit suicide per day in the United States, and millions more find themselves homeless and unable to find work. The same people who fought to protect the U.S. and its democratic process are returning home to find a broken support and healthcare system that often offers little in the way of comprehensive medical care for physical and emotional ailments stemming from years of combat. This seems to be an especially glaring failure given that the United States spends, by far, the most money of any other country in the world on military spending.
Despite these facts, however, the media as well as moderators of the debates seem to be far more interested in the comments that Trump makes about Fiorina's physical appearance than they are in the candidates' concern -- or lack thereof -- towards veterans.
A Growing Lack of Attention to Veterans
The lack of attention to American veterans and the care they receive once they return home is not necessarily a new development when it comes to presidential debates. Veterans and their supporters faced this same problem in the 2012 debates, for example, where only repeated urging convinced the candidates to briefly consider the topic. And as more and more people are aware, the number of candidates with any sort of military service background is constantly shrinking. Not only is this concerning for a country that is still in the midst of a war that has already spanned 14 years, but it's especially worrisome considering that one of the major topics up for debate is the looming ISIS/ISIL threat and how the United States will engage with it.
In the last two debates there has barely been any mention of veterans, and the talk of going to war only increases. The only mention of veterans is in a jingoistic rather than practical way. Veterans and their issues are being widely appropriated for the political gain of candidates, in other words, but no one seems to have an actual plan when it comes to VA reform or ensuring that more jobs and certifications are in place to help veterans survive once they return from active duty.
The time for idle discussion and vague promises meant to garner the approval of the American public has long since passed, if indeed it ever truly existed in the first place. Now it's time to address the ever-growing number of veterans and how the United States can care for those who fought for its freedom rather than how it can create even more people to fail in the near-future. Stop talking about "doing better" for veterans and start outline concrete plans that will help the millions of veterans currently fighting to survive on the domestic front.