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Despite Giving Lip Service on Holiday, Presidential Candidates Largely Ignore Veteran Concerns

by Wendy Innes, published

On Veterans Day 2015, many of the nation's veterans are looking to the large presidential field to lay out their plans for veterans programs in the U.S., something that did not happen during Tuesday's GOP debate. Continuing to ignore the nation's 21 million veterans is not going to win any candidate votes and may lose them the White House.

Veteran voters tend to support more Republican candidates than Democrats, because historically Republicans have always favored a larger, stronger military, while Democrats have been responsible for the hollowing out of the forces, a policy approach that was echoed in Tuesday's debate by all the candidates.

What was initially billed as an economic debate quickly turned into a debate about defense and foreign policy strategies. However, the candidates stopped short of discussing the devastating issues that continue to plague our nation's veterans, such as access to health care, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, and suicide.

Previous research has shown that veterans show up at the polls more than other demographics. According to

census data, in the 2012 presidential election, 70 percent of veterans cast ballots, compared with 60 percent of non-veterans. In the 2014 midterm election, 54 percent of veterans cast ballots, compared with just 41 percent of non-veterans.

In one unique community in Florida that is its own voting precinct, made up entirely of golden aged veterans, voter turnout for the 2012 presidential election was a whopping 98 percent.

Midterm elections do typically have a lower voter turnout than presidential elections, but these numbers demonstrate that veterans pay close attention to what happens during election cycles, and they vote accordingly, so candidates ignore veterans issues at their own peril.

Whoever the new president turns out to be -- Republican or Democrat -- will have to tackle some serious issues facing our nation's military and veterans, something that led the Center for New American Security (CNAS) to lay out a plan for the new president's first 100 days in office.

The CNAS "outlines a bipartisan agenda for the next administration to support the veteran and military community – to serve it as well as it has served the nation. Regardless of who takes office in January 2017, the issues facing this community will continue, and they will become the responsibility of the next president."

The report makes the case that America's security depends upon its ability to recruit, train, retain, manage and support America's best and brightest. It goes on to say that properly caring for the country's veterans sets the example for future generations of America's military, building confidence that once service members transition to veterans, they won't be forgotten. Currently, that's a very difficult product to sell.

While the CNAS report sets out general goals for the new president, some of them include:

  • More transparency and better data sharing between the Department of Defense, the VA, and other pertinent agencies.
  • Create new and more effective partnerships in the public and private sector to support veterans' needs. This includes engaging businesses and universities to help find solutions to problems facing veterans.
  • Wider public and government focus on veterans and their needs. CNAS wants the new president to use their public platform to shine a light on veterans and to bring the country together in support of their veterans.
  • Fully fund resources for health care, compensation, operations and maintenance of facilities. Continuous stop-gap measures create significant anxiety for veterans, something they don't deserve.

Unfortunately for America's veterans, it seems that the large field of presidential candidates are virtually ignoring them, even on the day set aside to honor them. The nation's leaders and those applying for the job of president should be honoring the nation's veterans every day.

The next debate will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 15, 2015.

Photo Credit: a katz /

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