Taking Better Care of Our Veterans

As the war in Iraq has dragged on, it has become increasingly difficult for the White House to recruit our young men and women for military service. Why should they take up such a dangerous profession when we offer so little incentive for them to do so? The Bush Administration has relied on the ghastly stop-loss policy to keep a minimum number of troops in the field. Funding for the VA health care system has been dramatically cut just as that system has to care for a new wave of veterans. Our mental health services for those suffering from serious injuries or PTSD are disgracefully underfunded. We're doing less and less for Americans on the front lines, and it needs to stop.

We must offer those who are willing to defend their country the absolute best – it's the very least we can do. I will support the passage of Senator Webb's 21st Century GI Bill and the Veterans Health Care Improvement Act to increase the health coverage and educational opportunities they will receive. I will also vote for the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act to benefit those who have volunteered for the struggle against global terrorism. I am proud to have Jim Webb's endorsement in this race, and will be happy to help him get our military personnel the treatment they deserve.

The families of veterans and active duty military personnel cannot be overlooked. We need to help ease the burdens of longer deployments and caring for our wounded warriors. I will work to pass credit counseling programs for active duty personnel and vets, allowing them to more easily earn home loans on military salaries. I intend to fight to fund the mental health services available to those caring for the injured. Finally, I will look to expand the Vet Centers that provide those personnel and their families with the resources they need. Putting these programs and the GI Bill in place will go a long way towards making life easier for those on the home front.

I have received numerous recognitions and awards from military and veterans groups, but one I hold dear is the George "Buck" Gillespie BAVF Congressional Award from the Blind American Veterans Foundation for my work in protecting and broadening services for blind and disabled veterans. We must remember our obligation to the men and women who have served us so well.

No More Iraqs

Sending our troops to foreign lands should be the most difficult choice that any politician can make, and one they make as an absolute last resort. That has not been the case under the Bush Administration, which has dragged us down the road to war for far too long. The White House has undermined the Constitution to further its own agenda in Iraq. They've hidden the true cost of the war by budgeting "off the books" and have undercut Congress with the unprecedented use of signing statements. We must restore Congress' rightful role to provide needed oversight, including committee hearings in Congress, and I will work for the passage of the Presidential Signing Statements Act to ban the courts from deferring to the White House when determining the intent of legislation.

The administration's failures in Iraq have been compounded by the Bush Administration's reliance on unethical contractors more interested in posting a profit than in protecting our people. I support the War Profiteering Prevention Act, which bans profiteering and fraud involving a contract or the provision of goods or services in connection with our government's missions overseas.

These ideas are all endorsed by the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. I was among the earliest signatories of that proposal, which describes a number of strategies that I called for even before we invaded and which is now supported by more than 50 other congressional candidates. Read the full plan for yourself at http://www.responsibleplan.com. If you believe, as I do, that it provides a path to peace and to keeping our promises to our own people, I encourage you to join me in signing and supporting the plan.