Throughout American history, the government was responsible for exposing thousands of soldiers to harmful disease-causing chemical and radioactive agents. In World War II, American veterans became exposed to high levels of radiation during nuclear weapons testing. In Vietnam, thousands of veterans became exposed to cancer-causing chemicals from agent orange. In the Gulf War, veterans became exposed to cancer-causing radioactive elements on their bullets and vehicle armor. In the Iraq-Afghanistan war, thousands of veterans, and current soldiers are still exposed to cancer-causing pollutants from burn pits. Not only does Congress have a track record that disregards the health and safety of servicemen and women, but they also have a history of not providing relief to homeless veterans.
I believe that as a nation we have a responsibility to stand for those that have fought for our freedoms and paid the price to live in the Land of the Free. Right now our country is not serving our veterans in the way they have served us and I am ready to take action to ensure that we deliver on our original promise to our veterans and their families. We owe it to our soldiers to ensure that the government does not expose them to unnecessary harm, homelessness, and they aren’t turned away from the Veterans Administration for treatment. I will work to expand and fully fund the VA, while also increasing access to mental health and caregiver programs for our veterans. We must also streamline the processing of veteran’s claims and eliminate all of corporate influence and profiteering from the VA system.
- Increase Funding for Caregivers Program, and Streamline VA Processing. The VA caregivers program is one of the greatest services we provide to our veterans. Comprehensive in-house care can help veterans and their families through difficult times. It can be difficult for families with veterans that returned home from war with disabilities and other illnesses that resulted from their service. Through no fault of their own, burn-pit victims, in particular, require care that can take away from other household duties. The Caregivers program needs to be expanded to provide the care veterans, and their families deserve.
- Expand Mental Health Services Within the VA. Too many men and women come back home from serving our nation with significant mental healths needs and our current system is failing them. I will work each day to expand services, provide more family, spouse and child counseling options and eliminate the requirement that counseling services must be requested by the veteran without the option for the spouse or family to make request.
- Fight to Pass the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. The burn-pit travesty is the result of Congress not fulfilling its duty to oversee DOD contracts negotiated with private contractors. Halliburton was contracted by the DOD to manage waste removal during the war. But to cut corners, Halliburton decided not to use the incinerators for burning up waste and concluded that open burn was the cheaper option. Halliburton built burn-pits on old Iraqi air force bases used for chemical weapons testing by Saddam Hussein. Plastics, medical waste, and other chemicals were burnt and released into the air. Many soldiers became exposed to pollutants are returning home with stage 3 cancers in the lungs and throat. Halliburton was, of course, let off without having to pay compensation to our veterans because their contract took all liability off of the corporation. Veterans returning home from the Iraq-Afghanistan war are still denied treatment from the Veterans Administration for their exposure to burn pits. Congress needs to act now to deliver treatment to veterans across the United States and New Mexico who were exposed to burn pits.
- Address Veteran Homelessness. After serving the country, the last thing a veteran should worry about is a lack of social safety nets on the homefront. Too often, veterans return home without a community that can support them through the transition from soldier to civilian. Veterans need services that are coordinated around providing secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, and mental health counseling. Not every veteran needs these services, but the ones that do cannot be forgotten or shamed! No Veteran should ever feel ashamed to ask for help, because they’ve helped us so much already.