11 August 2008

McCain: Honoring Our Compact with America's Veterans

8/9/08 Today, In Nevada, John McCain Will Outline His Plan To Ensure That Those Who Have Served This Country In The Armed Forces Receive The Care That They Need. We have a sacred compact with our wounded veterans to provide for their recovery when they return from the battlefield.

John McCain Will Implement a Comprehensive Plan for Providing High-Quality, Timely Health Care For Our Veterans:

John McCain Believes We Must Provide Our Veterans With World-Class Health Care. We must fully fund the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care budget in a timely and predictable manner. Those who have risked their lives in service to their fellow citizens deserve nothing less than the best medical care in the world.

When The VA Cannot Meet Our Veterans' Needs, Our Veterans Must Be Given Alternative Means Of Access To Health Care And Freedom Of Choice. Too many veterans are unable to obtain health care through the VA because of geographical constraints, unreasonably long waiting lists, or the lack of specialized facilities at local VA hospitals. John McCain will develop and enforce demanding new standards for veterans' access to health care for injuries or illness related to military service: no more than an hour's drive for care, routine care within a week, urgent care within 24 hours, and specialty care within a month.

· Veterans' Care Access Card: John McCain has proposed a Veterans' Care Access Card, which would expand access and choice for those veterans with illness or injury incurred during military service, as well as low-income veterans. This supplement to ordinary VA care -- which would not replace or privatize existing programs -- would permit those veterans unable to obtain timely and appropriate VA care under the standards set out above, to receive care at a private facility.

John McCain Has Proposed Other Reforms To Help Our Veterans Overcome 21st Century Challenges:

· Modern Warfare Injuries: John McCain co-authored the Wounded Warrior Act, which, among other things, was the first major legislative initiative to address injuries specific to the War on Terror. As President, he will build on this legislation and work to provide greatly enhanced screening and treatment and to foster greater cooperation between the Department of Defense and the VA.

· Women Veterans: The VA must respond to the specialized health care needs of women veterans, including victims of sexual assault.

· Outreach: Every veteran should receive easy-to-understand, comprehensive information about the rights and benefits he or she has earned. As President, John McCain will ensure that the promises of the Wounded Warrior Act are fulfilled -- including the establishment of a Wounded Warrior Resource Center, accessible information and clear pathways to rehabilitation, and documentation of the long-term needs of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

· Family Caregivers: Care provided by a parent, spouse, or child can be instrumental in the recovery of a wounded or ill service member. The VA and the Department of Defense must expand educational programs for family members to teach them how to properly care for their injured or ill loved ones.

John McCain Will Overhaul Our Veterans' Disability System:

Our Veterans' Disability System Is Tragically Broken. Too many of our wounded veterans come home to an administrative nightmare rather than a hero's welcome. We need a disability evaluation process for the 21st Century.

John McCain Has Proposed An 8-Point Plan For Bold Reform:

· Training. Ensure that every VA employee who assists in processing a claim for VA benefits completes a demanding and comprehensive on-going training program.

· Accountability. Guarantee that all VA employees who assist in processing claims for VA benefits are held to the highest standards of quality that our nation's heroes deserve.

· Automation. Bring the VA claims processing system into the 21st Century by converting to a paperless system in which records can be located and searched instantly and that incorporates rules-based technology to assist claims processors in developing and deciding cases expeditiously.
· Partnerships. Expand partnerships with Veterans' Service Organizations to rely more heavily on the help of trained, certified veterans' service officers in developing necessary evidence to support disability claims by veterans.

· Simplification. Simplify the Department of Defense disability retirement system -- to get benefits for service members who are medically retired immediately upon discharge from the service, based on clear, predictable, and fair standards.

· Concurrent Receipt. Enable veterans who are medically discharged to receive their entire Department of Defense annuity in addition to any VA disability compensation.

· Quality Of Life. Compensate veterans for loss of quality of life caused by their service-related disabilities, in addition to loss of earnings.

· Restorative Care. Put additional emphasis on the most fundamental mission of the VA -- to help restore veterans with disabilities to the maximum extent possible. This means providing veterans with disabilities the treatment, rehabilitation, and training that they need to return to productive, fulfilling lives.

John McCain Will Launch An Aggressive Program to Reintegrate Veterans Into Civilian Society:
When Veterans Return Home, Our Country Must Be There to Support Them. As President, John McCain will champion -- as he has throughout his career -- efforts to coordinate federal, state, and local programs to support reintegration of veterans into civilian society following their medical service.

We Must Target All Aspects Of Reintegration. Key reforms must include:

· Education. Until recently, we were long overdue for an increase in veterans' education benefits. The enactment of the "GI Bill for the 21st Century," legislation which John McCain proudly supported in its final form, dramatically increases education benefits for a broad spectrum of veterans, including members of our National Guard and Reserves. It also addresses the top concern of career service members regarding education -- the freedom to transfer their benefits to their spouses or children.

· Homelessness. As President, John McCain will make sure that we never leave behind those veterans who are homeless and those without jobs. We must increase outreach to homeless veterans through multiple federal agencies to ensure access to the health care and disability benefits that they need. We must also focus initiatives on providing permanent and transitional housing where appropriate, implementing special-needs programs for female homeless veterans, and helping homeless veterans acquire new skills so that they can regain independence in society.

· Employment. Meaningful employment opportunities, along with support for rehabilitation, mental health, and families, are the most critical factors in helping veterans reintegrate into society following their military service. John McCain will work hard to see that the U.S. Government operates as a model employer to support veteran preferences in federal hiring, and he will aggressively enforce the law when employers illegally discriminate against service members.

John McCain Will Guarantee That America Honors the Memory Of Our Fallen Heroes By Providing For Their Families.

John McCain Believes That We Must Honor Those Who Do Not Return From Combat By Providing Their Families With A Death Gratuity Benefit and Meaningful Life Insurance Coverage. During the last two major military conflicts, John McCain worked to increase death gratuity payments going so far as to cosponsor legislation to double the payment in 2003

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