The Trump Administration Is Making Progress on Veteran Affairs

Whether you’re on the right, left, or squarely in the middle, we can all agree that veterans aren’t treated nearly as well as they should be in this country. In fact, they’re blatantly disrespected in many ways. But how is President Trump, who made lots of campaign promises to veterans, doing on this issue after roughly a year in office?

Where Trump Found Things

When Barack Obama entered office in 2009, he found the veterans of this country in the middle of a decades-long plight, which he promised to fix many times during his campaign for the presidency.

“Caring for those who serve -- and for their families -- is a fundamental responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief,” Obama said in a 2007 campaign speech. “It is not a separate cost. It is a cost of war. It is something I've fought for as a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. And it is something I will fight for as President of the United States.”

Perhaps Obama did fight, but he certainly didn’t get any results. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is in worse shape than it’s ever been. Scandals, abuse of funds, and a toxic workplace culture are just a few of the issues plaguing the VA, and they all seemed to be exacerbated under the Obama administration.

Even something as seemingly simple as trying to locate and receive military documents that are needed in order to apply for things like VA mortgages, retirement benefits, and employment is nearly impossible to do on your own. Most veterans end up using a service like DD214 Direct to streamline the process.

This isn’t an article about Obama’s failures -- of which there are plenty -- but it’s important to understand where things stood when Trump entered office. Not to give the Trump administration excuses, but rather to show why the VA was such a big priority during the campaigning season and continues to be today.

Is Trump Making Headway?

With so much in disarray, President Trump had his work cut out for him entering office. However, he promised to make the VA a focal point, so it’s fair game to hold him accountable and see how he’s doing. And if you cut through all of the media noise and BS, you’ll see that he’s actually making some headway. Here are just a few examples of small wins and steady steps in the right direction:

  • With so much corruption in the VA, Trump signed into law legislation that paves the way for the firing of employees who engage in misconduct. It also helps protect the whistleblowers. In what Trump once called “the most corrupt agency in the United States,” these new standards have already led to the firing of a whopping 1,163 employees and suspension of an additional 387 (as of early November).
  • In May, the White House proposed a 6 percent increase to the VA budget, which included an increase of $13 billion for the “choice” program that allows veterans to opt for private healthcare coverage.
  • One of Trump’s campaign promises was a private hotline to the White House to field complaints 24/7. While it’s been a bumpy road, the administration has followed through on this promise with a soft launch.
  • In August, Trump signed legislation to give veterans an additional $3 billion for educational assistance over the next decade. Forever GI, which is actually a combination of more than a dozen different bills, allows spouses and children of service members killed on duty to qualify for scholarships (or have tuition reimbursed.

This isn’t to say Trump has fixed the VA. He hasn’t even solved some of its biggest problems yet. What his slow, steady progress does show is that he’s making the VA a priority.

There’s a long way to go. Privatization of the VA is probably the only permanent solution to the longstanding plight of veterans in the U.S., but that’s an enormous battle that would likely require a two-term presidency. If the VA is ultimately fixed, it’ll be thanks to big changes like this. But if you want to know where a president should start, just look at what Trump is doing right now. You start with small wins, build trust, and then execute more sweeping reforms.

It’s Too Early to Judge

Why is it that the Left is so quick to judge the Trump presidency as a failure when he’s completed, at a very minimum, just 25 percent of his term? Who says he has to live up to every promise within the first year? What would we have said about Obama, Clinton, and Carter if they had only been given a year to enact their policies?

History will ultimately determine whether the Trump presidency was a success or failure. It’s impossible to do so in the moment (especially when it’s only a fraction of the way complete). However, as we begin to see what sort of leadership style Trump has adopted as president, it’s clear that he’s not nearly as impulsive as most thought he would be. Sure, the tweets are still questionable (at best), but his actual decision-making is rather poised.

On the topic of veterans affairs, Trump hasn’t lived up to every promise he made during the campaign, but he has at least three years left. He has, however, made progress in some key areas and laid promising foundations in others. While the media will continue to bash him for breathing, the reality is that he’s already done more to benefit veterans than Obama accomplished in eight years.