But when it comes to the lives of our troops, Mitch McConnell has sadly done the opposite. When it became clear that Russia had placed bounties on troops in Afghanistan, he was all but silent about the danger they were in and the executive branch’s handling of the bounties. He helped send our forces overseas almost 20 years ago, and when their lives were being directly threatened by an enemy, he turned his back on them.
Now, it appears our commander-in-chief called our troops who were wounded or died in battle “suckers and losers.” Our troops deserve better from their leader. As a Kentuckian and a former Marine, I’m disappointed to see that McConnell hasn’t spoken up to say, “This is wrong.” He never deployed overseas himself, and he is too afraid of political consequences to speak up for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
I won’t be that kind of senator for our troops (or for Americans). I’ll stand up to any commander-in-chief, no matter their party, because I know the consequences of failing to do so.
It’s not just that Mitch hasn’t spoken up for our troops and veterans. Dishearteningly, he has turned his back on them legislatively, too.
During his time in Washington, Mitch McConnell has voted to allow health care fees to triple for more than 3 million veterans and has voted against at least $510 million in additional funding for veterans’ mental health care.
He blocked “the most comprehensive veterans legislation,” introduced in decades to expand health care, education and job training benefits for veterans and their families. He introduced legislation that would have discontinued tax credits critical to keeping many veterans’ families above the poverty line. And he voted at least four times against pay raises for our troops, while voting for at least six pay raises for himself. I’m saddened that Mitch has chosen to use his 36 years in the Senate to erode away at the benefits and respect our veterans have earned.
We owe it to the men and women who currently serve in uniform, as well as our veterans, to keep our promises to them and repay them for their sacrifices. They deserve our respect and appreciation, in both our words and our actions, for defending our freedoms and keeping us safe from harm.
Strengthen the VA
I will make sure the VA delivers the health care and education benefits that veterans have earned through their service. I’m an avid proponent of initiatives like the Post-9/11 GI Bill (I used it!) and the VA home loan (I used that, too!)—programs that help veterans transition from the military into productive civilian lives and careers. The skills and talents that veterans develop during their service are incredibly valuable. We must celebrate those skills and ensure that veterans are able to smoothly transition and use those skills to the benefit of their families and communities.
Prevent the Privatization of the VA
I will make sure the VA remains the best place for veterans to receive care for their injuries. America should not outsource its responsibility to our veterans so that private insurance companies can profit from our injured and ill veterans. We must fully fund the VA so that veterans receive the quality health care they deserve—for life.
Invest in Preventing Veteran Suicide
I will do more to combat suicide in our veteran community where, every day, around 20 veterans commit suicide. I am acutely aware of how veterans struggle with purpose and meaning in their lives, having struggled with it myself after my first couple combat tours. That requires, in part, fully funding the VA.
Legalize Medical Marijuana to improve health care outcomes
Many veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD report improved health outcomes from medical cannabis. I stand with the American Legion in calling for the removal of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug and permit its use to treat ailments that veterans, and others, face. It may also alleviate dependence on opioids for pain relief and that alone is a meaningful reason to consider moving in that direction. Our government should permit research on the issue of full legalization.
Protect Active Duty members and Veterans
I will stand up for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coasties, and Marines. I will make sure Congress doesn’t change the law (or make the law unenforceable) that stops payday lenders from fleecing our enlisted personnel right outside the gates of military bases. I will push back against for-profit “colleges” that target veterans, leading to high student loans. And I will work to take down scammers that exploit former military personnel.