Truman National Security Project

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2 Table of Contents Employment/Jobs 3 Education 6 Veterans Affairs Backlog 9 Healthcare 11 Post Traumatic Stress & Traumatic Brain Injuries 15 Preventing Suicide 17 Ending Homelessness 19 Contact Us 21 A special thanks goes out to all who assisted with the 2014 Truman Veterans Platform. 2

3 Employment Expanding Economic Opportunity for our Veterans THE ESSENTIALS Veterans are highly disciplined, well educated, and have developed transferrable skills during their time of service, yet many young veterans have difficulty translating their training into civilian careers. We need to make it easier for our post- 9/11 veterans to transition from tackling challenges abroad to achieving success at home. The overall veteran unemployment rate has been lower than the non- veteran unemployment rate, but our post- 9/11 veterans are still lagging behind older vets and non- vets in the job market. The Obama administration s investments in veteran job training and employment programs have narrowed the gap, but there is still more work to be done. Through continued expansion of public- private partnerships, we can make sure every veteran who needs a job can find one when they return home Veterans Unemployment Rate 3

4 PLATFORM RECOMMENDATIONS Expand the military s new Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success) program, which mandates a five- day core program for all separating servicemembers. The program provides an individual transition plan, pre- separation counseling, employment workshops, financial planning, skills- gap analysis, and a how- to guide for accessing VA benefits. Extend the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which expired on March 31, This program provided 12 months of training assistance to veterans aged who are not eligible for any other VA education benefit programs. Key Statistics As of September 2014 the unemployment rate for all veterans stands at 5.6%, while the unemployment rate for post- 9/11 vets is 8.1% (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Additionally, VA employs 108,319 veterans, which is 32.5% of the VA workforce (Department of Veterans Affairs). Support the Small Business Administration s Veterans programs such as the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Guaranty Program and the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (MREIDL), which promote entrepreneurship and business development for returning veterans. These programs grant loans to veterans for expansion, renovation, new construction, purchase of land or buildings, and working capital. They also allow for up to $2 million in direct loans to assist small business owners when an essential employee has been called up for active duty in their role as reservist or member of the National Guard. 4

5 Support re- authorizing and permanently locking in all the veteran hiring tax credits within the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. The program included the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credit Programs, which gave businesses up to $9,600 for hiring a veteran. Inform veterans in your community about the Veterans Employment Center, a new online resource for returning veterans and their families looking for new career opportunities. This website simplifies the job search by featuring career opportunities within government all in one place. 5

6 Education Investing in America s Future Post- 9/11 veterans receive their education benefits under the Post- 9/11 GI Bill, which covers the cost of an in- state public college education. In 2010, Congress amended the Post- 9/11 GI Bill to include members of the National Guard and designate funding for vocational training. THE ESSENTIALS Receiving a quality education is a ticket to opportunity and those who have served deserve a top- notch education upon returning home. Our veterans deserve an equal chance to attain the very dream they fought to defend. Every returning servicemember has earned the opportunity to attend an affordable college or receive a vocational education. The Post- 9/11 GI Bill and other veterans education legislation represent an investment in our nation s future. Congress must continue to fund and expand the resources needed to effectively implement these programs. 6

7 FOR- PROFIT COLLEGES For- profit colleges recruit veterans heavily because GI Bill funding can be counted toward the 10% of the college s revenue that must, by law, come from non- federal sources. Without this law, some for- profit colleges might be completely funded by federal loans. These colleges use aggressive and sometimes dishonest recruitment techniques to court veterans. For- profit colleges have collected more than a third of GI Bill funds, but have educated only 25% of vets. The 90/10 rule bans for- profit schools from receiving government funding if they draw more than 90% of their revenue from federal student aid programs. According to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, eight of the top ten recipients of Post- 9/11 GI Bill funds are for- profit schools. 7

8 PLATFORM RECOMMENDATIONS Amend the Post- 9/11 GI Bill to allow veterans to pay existing loans with their benefits, including student loan debt. Close the 90/10 loophole, to protect veterans from for- profit school scams that take their benefits without giving them a quality education. Expand the Veterans Upward Bound Program, which provides services to assist veterans who are at risk for academic failure, who have been out of high school or post- secondary education for five or more years, or who meet the definition of an individual with a disability by providing enhanced instruction in mathematics, laboratory science, foreign language, and literature. Support the new Postsecondary Education Complaint System, which streamlines veteran education complaints to the VA. Support the GI Comparison Tool, an online feature designed to let veterans get quick facts about thousands of schools and job training programs. Key Statistics Over one- third of the three million post- 9/11 veterans have utilized the GI Bill. College enrollment among veterans grew 67% between From , 72% of student veterans who graduated did so from public universities. The college graduation rate of veterans utilizing the GI Bill is 52% compared to 56% for traditional students. Post- 9/11 GI Bill claims increased 28% from 2012 to Support the VET Success on Campus Program, in order to provide career and academic counseling, benefits assistance, and job readiness training. It operates on 94 college campuses and serves 94,000 veteran students. 8

9 Veterans Affairs Backlog Guaranteeing Veterans our Timely Support The VA s claims backlog is caused by an increase in disability claims. This increase of claims resulted not only from slow processing and outdated systems, but also from the 2009 decision to expand eligibility for veterans affected by Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Agent Orange. THE ESSENTIALS As two of America s longest wars draw to a close, Department of Defense (DoD) and VA must work together to make sure those who served receive, in a timely matter, the treatment and benefits they have earned. Our veterans have dedicated their lives to our country. We need to honor our commitment by providing our veterans with the expedient, high quality services they deserve. Key Statistics The 2009 decision to expand eligibility for those affected by Agent Orange and PTS doubled the claims backlog. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans only account for 20% of VA s casework and only 21% of the current backlog. The largest segment of those receiving VA benefits are ages Since 2007, Congress has provided the VA with a 70% increase in funding. As of July 2014, the VA backlog stood at 270,913 claims, down from 608,225 in March PLATFORM RECOMMENDATIONS Support the combined efforts of the DoD and VA disability claims process to reduce bureaucracy. 9

10 Continue to fund and expand the online benefits process that leverages the latest information technology. Continue to fund VA efforts to reduce claim- processing times for all benefits medical, educational, and disability by hiring additional caseworkers. Work with the DoD and VA to continue to educate and advise active duty, guard, and reserve personnel of their benefits and of benefits for family members through social media, workshops, and events. Work with the VA to support the important reforms outlined in the Veterans, Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, which set aside $17 billion in additional VA funding to hire new staff and increase access to care. This law allows veterans to seek outside care if they are 40 miles from a VA medical facility or cannot get an appointment within 30 days, and gives the VA Secretary additional power to expedite dismissal of employees for performance or misconduct. Until 2009, veterans could not claim PTS as a presumptive disability or disability that was incurred or worsened in service. Previously, only former POWs, Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and Gulf War veterans were allowed to make this claim. 10

11 Healthcare Taking Care of Those Who Protected Us UNDERSTANDING TRICARE TRICARE is the healthcare program for more than 9.6 million active duty servicemembers, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, their families, survivors, certain former spouses, and others worldwide. The DoD pays for the healthcare costs of active duty military families and servicemembers, while the VA covers expenditures for veterans and their families. Since 2001, the cost of healthcare for active duty servicemembers has doubled. The rising cost, in the words of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, is eating the Defense Department alive, and diverting funding from other priorities. Solutions to this don t just diverge on partisan lines; fractures within both parties have emerged. Although proposals for fee increases are relatively low compared to the generous benefits recipients receive, veterans organizations are against increases across the board, viewing them as another burden placed on those who have already sacrificed so much for their country. Key Statistics 60% of Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans are using VA Healthcare. Healthcare is on track to claim 11% of the Defense Departments cost plans by

12 The Essentials Advances in battlefield medicine are saving lives today far more effectively than in previous wars. Congress must recognize that additional health services will be needed for this new generation of veterans. To honor our strong commitment to our nations veterans, we have an obligation to deliver these well- earned benefits. The VA healthcare system leads the world in treatment for injuries and illnesses unique to veterans such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), cancers related to Agent Orange exposure and mesothelioma- related cancers. Common Error: Voucher Systems Veterans have put their lives on the line for our country. Vouchers put a dollar value on their service. We shouldn t make vets a profit center. The VA hospital system is the number one training hospital in the United States. We need to continue to help develop the brightest young minds in the medical industry to research and develop innovative ways to treat physical and psychological wounds. President Obama and congressional Democrats have continually expanded veterans healthcare to include improved care for poly- trauma, vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, and women s health needs. 12

13 PLATFORM RECOMMENDATIONS Expand VA mobile healthcare centers and partnerships with community health centers to ensure all veterans are able to find high quality care regardless of location. In many rural areas, community health centers may be the only medical facility a veteran can access without spending a full day riding in a car or bus. Ensure our healthcare system provides our female servicemembers and veterans the same opportunities for excellent care while also responding to unique health care needs. Support the Million Veteran Program, a ground breaking genomic medicine program, which looks to collect genetic samples and general health information from one million veterans. In the next five to seven years, the program will lead to advanced medical research and development. Support the The Family and Medical Leave Act to continue to allow caregivers to take leave to care for family members after they have left the military. Protect and defend the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, a law that funds all veterans medical care a year in advance so the VA can expect sufficient and predictable funding even in the case of a government shutdown. Support the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which expands mental health and counseling to veterans, allows the VA to use Congress now provides funding for the Veterans Health Administration a year in advance so that medical care for veterans is not disrupted by wrangling or budget delays. 13

14 hospitals outside their own network to treat returning service members, eliminates co- pays for disabled veterans, and provides maternity care for female veterans. 14

15 Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries Addressing the Signature Wounds of Modern Wars THE ESSENTIALS Referred to as shell shock during World War I, Post- Traumatic Stress (PTS) is as old as war itself. TBI is not a new condition. However, medical advancements and body armor mean that servicemembers are surviving catastrophic injuries that would have been deadly in previous wars. While it is a triumph of American innovation that servicemembers with such injuries often survive, we must continue to learn how to care for the sustained injuries TBI leaves behind. It is critical that both veterans and the public know that seeking care is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of great personal courage. It is essential for employers to understand that TBI does not make veterans unemployable. Key Statistics 11-20% of Afghanistan/Iraq Veterans, 10% of Gulf War Veterans, and 30% of Vietnam Veterans are believed to suffer from PTS (Department of Veterans Affairs). In 2013, VA hired an additional 1,669 mental health providers and established 24 pilot programs in nine states to improve access to mental health care million veterans received specialized mental health treatment from the VA in 2013, which is up from 1.39 million in The VA Home Telehealth Service delivered 603,532 veterans (20% expansion) mental health services in The Obama Administration has made investing in mental health care a top priority by increasing the VA mental health budget to $7.2 billion. 15

16 PLATFORM RECOMMENDATIONS Continue to fund and expand VA s efforts to treat those suffering from PTS and TBI, as well as revise, simplify, and reduce the paperwork and bureaucracy needed to receive treatment and compensation. Support the continued expansion of VA s Telehealth programs, which provide veterans with mental health conditions mobile treatment so they can live independently in their own homes and local communities. Support and expand upon the 70 Mobile Vet Centers providing essential care to veterans in rural areas around the country. These centers provide counseling and information to veterans across the country. Continue to expand funding for VA s medical research centers, which lead the way in developing cutting- edge treatment for TBI. Develop public private partnerships to educate employers on the effects of PTS/TBI. 16

17 Suicide Prevention Helping our Heroes THE ESSENTIALS 22 veterans take their own lives each day, at a rate nearly twice that of the civilian population. The suicide rate is higher among older veterans for the same reasons that other older civilians kill themselves: depression and other mental health problems coupled with difficult life circumstances. DoD and the VA have taken measures to reduce veteran and servicemember suicides, including increasing time between deployments, adding more mental health professionals, creating a suicide prevention hotline, and implementing screenings for at- risk veterans. The DoD, VA, and Congress have an obligation to continue taking every measure possible to improve the care available to those who protect our country. VA access statistically leads to lower suicide rates, and the DoD and VA have taken measures to reduce veteran suicides. Key Statistics 69% of all veterans who commit suicide are aged 50 or older. Following the VA s 2009 Suicide Assessment and Follow Up Engagement: Veteran Emergency Treatment (SAFE VET) initiative, designed to identify and treat veterans at risk of suicide by providing care coordination for outpatient mental health services and community- based support. Since it s implementation, SAFE VET has increased the number of outpatient mental health visits per patient from an average of 4.9 to

18 PLATFORM RECOMMENDATIONS Bring attention to the excellent work the VA and other veteran organizations have done in outreach and exposure for suicide hotlines. Support initiatives from local VA medical facilities and veteran service organizations to ensure veterans are tied to their communities through support groups and other social events. Support organizations like Give An Hour, which provide pro- bono counseling to veterans. Place the VA Veterans Crisis Line ( ) on your campaign website and/or official website. Appoint a Veterans and Military Families Leaders Council to advise you on issues veterans are facing within your community. 18

19 ENDING HOMELESSNESS Honoring our Commitment THE ESSENTIALS Veteran homelessness has continually decreased, but the battle to end veteran homelessness by 2015 cannot be won by those in Congress alone. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), veterans are 25% more likely to be homeless than nonveterans. All Americans have a duty to ensure that our veterans are taken care of, which is why establishing partnerships between veteran- focused organizations and federal, state, county, and local governments to develop programs to assist homeless veterans is key. PLATFORM RECOMMENDATIONS Support the Obama Administration s goal of ending veteran homelessness by Source: The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development Protect, defend, and advocate for expanding the interagency Housing and Urban Development and VA s Stable Housing 19

20 Program (HUD- VASH) that helps homeless veterans find and retain stable independent housing. Support the Helping Homeless Veterans Act, which would expand eligibility and access to key programs for our homeless veterans and their families. Support and expand the Department of Labor s Homeless Veterans Reintegration and the Homeless Female Veteran Grant Programs, which provides homeless veterans with occupational, classroom, and on the job training, as well as job search and placement assistance. Expand the VA Stand Down Program, which organizes events in different cities across the country that provide services to homeless veterans such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services. Expand the Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program, a VA- sponsored effort to provide health care, daily living, personal financial planning, transportation, childcare, and housing counseling services for homeless and at- risk veteran families. Key Statistics The annual cost to taxpayers for a homeless individual to stay homeless is $40,000 annually (Department of Housing and Urban Development). Roughly 58,000 veterans are on the streets on any given night. (HUD) Since 2010, 45,153 veterans have been given permanent housing through the HUD- VASH program, which has led to a 24% decrease in homeless veteran population. Homeless veterans account for over 12% of homeless adults. In 2013, there were 23,140 homeless veterans in America. By the end of 2012, Supportive Service Veterans Family Program has served over 21,500 veterans and 8,826 military children. 20

21 Questions? Contact. Walter Bishop Political Assistant Office: x2333 Cell:

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