We have all heard about the problem veterans have in getting adequate health care. It was certainly the grist of the last presidential election. West Point graduate General Shinseki, himself a disabled Vietnam veteran, failed in his efforts to reform the problem during President Obama’s first term, and Bob McDonald, another West Point graduate, former chairman of Proctor and Gamble, turned out to be equally ineffective during Obama’s 2nd term. Knowledge of the military seemed to be far less important than the ability to wade through the bureaucratic morass of the Veterans Administration and arcane rules governing hiring and firing of federal employees. President Trump has appointed David Shulkin, an Obama VA Under Secretary, and himself a psychiatrist, as the new Veterans Administrator. Under his leadership some changes are apparently underway, but we have heard that promise before. What he is actually able to accomplish is yet to be seen.
There is, however, another dirty little secret regarding our veterans, that no one is willing to talk about. Last year is the best data we have, and as of then, we had 49,933 homeless veterans in this country—men and women who answered the call to service, putting their lives at risk and careers and family lives on hold to protect us. Within that group, 91% are male and 98% of them are single, and over 800,000 are unemployed. Those who suffer from some kind of mental or physical disability comprise 54%. While 11% of veterans are African American, those who are homeless are over represented at 39%. This is a national disgrace.
I believe that no veteran should be without a place to call home. If I am right, what can we do?
You probably see the ads on TV or hear them on the radio as you drive around our state, asking for donations to various private veteran support groups. There are currently over 100 different organizations that exist to support our veterans: The American Legion, Wounded Warriors Foundation, Military Order of the Purple Heart, The Veteran’s Voice, The Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Baton USA, Am Vets, the VFW, Rolling Thunder, and dozens more. Why is that? Why do so many private organizations have to spring into existence to support those whom our government sent off to fight for us? They exist to fill the void that our representatives have allowed to exist and fester. It is a national disgrace.
If elected as your Republican nominee for senator, I will immediately launch an initiative to gather together representatives from every one of these organizations in Indianapolis for a national conference to uncover all the major issues our veterans face, develop innovative private and public sector ways to meet those needs, and uncover any overlaps in care currently provided. While we should applaud all of their individual initiatives to help our vets, we need to coordinate efforts at the state and national levels to ensure the best use of their time, money, and services. The idea is not to interfere with such initiatives but to unearth ways to enable them to become even more effective. This is a problem that can be solved and should be solved—let’s get to work and truly help our veterans.