As the 2016 election draws ever nearer, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are trading jabs over everything from immigration issues to health care reform to foreign policy. These two candidates are polar opposites in terms of views, tactics, and personalities, so their campaign rhetoric clashes more often than not. And when it comes to the issues affecting American veterans, Trump and Clinton hold many opposing views … but do they agree on anything when it comes to the brave men and women of our armed forces?
Here's a breakdown and summary of each candidate's reported stance on top veterans' issues:
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—a bureau that provides financial and medical support to returned service-people—looms large in the lives of veterans both wounded and retired, young and old. But this large and complex governmental department frequently comes under fire for various perceived shortcomings and has been steeped in recent scandals.
TRUMP ON THE VA:
Donald Trump has expressed impatience and frustration with the VA, which he describes as “a permanent stain on our government.” He has pledged to enact massive reforms in how the VA is run and expand medical coverage for veterans if elected. On his campaign website, you'll find the statement, “The VA health care program is a disaster.”
CLINTON ON THE VA:
Hillary Clinton has not been as outspoken about VA issues in her campaign speeches, although when it comes to possible fixes for the agency's issues she has said, “I'm absolutely against privatizing the V.A.” Her campaign promises include overhauling VA leadership, reforming and revising veterans' health care benefits, and strengthening support for military families.
CARING FOR RETURNED VETERANS
All armed forces veterans—including our wounded warriors—are entitled to certain benefits and support from the VA, but both candidates agree our support of this population should go well beyond health care and pensions.
TRUMP ON VETERANS CARE:
Although much of Trump's service-centric rhetoric revolves around the VA, he has pledged to “support the whole veteran” by increasing funding to post-traumatic stress-related therapies, creating incentives for companies to hire veteran workers, hiring more veterans to care for their fellow veterans, and embedding satellite VA clinics in rural and other underserved areas. He emphasizes facilitating “a seamless transition from service into civilian life,” something many veterans struggle to do on their own.
CLINTON ON VETERANS CARE:
Clinton has some parallel goals, including expanding tax credits for veterans' employment, creating a standing council on service members and veterans, and ensuring that timely and robust health care is available to all who have served. She also has outlined a plan to support military families, which includes expanding spousal employment support and training initiatives, ensuring military children receive a high-quality education, and revising the rules around family leave and access to child care to help families juggle the demands of military service and parenthood.
oth candidates have donated to veterans' groups before and during their campaigns, but donation amounts have been contentious. In the spring, Trump maintained that he had raised $6 million for veterans groups, but various news sources disputed this claim after being unable to trace how the sum was dispersed. In June, the Clinton campaign released a statement saying that between 2006 and 2012 the Clinton family donated $105,000 to various veterans organizations. This amount is a tiny fraction of Trump's possible donations, but all of it can be traced via publicly available tax returns.
So where do these diametrically opposed candidates hold overlapping opinions when it comes to veterans? Both clearly want the support and votes of our returned service-people, and both agree that anyone who has risked their life to defend our country deserves both respect and tangible, government-regulated benefits. But how each candidate will win the vets vote or deliver on campaign promises is yet to be seen.
Are you more convinced by Trump's veterans support platform, or Clinton's? Who do you think it most likely to truly champion veterans' rights if elected?