Trump Keeps His Promises to Veterans
When President Donald Trump was running for office, he made countless claims that he would care for the veterans of this country and do something about the neglect previous administrations have shown for their well-being. As of now, he seems to be living up to his promises.
Trump's 10-Point Plan to Reform the V.A.
Candidates for this country's highest office make lots of promises during campaign seasons and election cycles. In fact, they make so many that it's often hard to keep track of what they say and hold them accountable once they take the helm of the White House. But it would take an awful lot of amnesia to erase Donald Trump's promises to reform the Department of Veterans' Affairs (V.A.) from our collective memories.
Trump didn't just make vague promises – he outlined a 10-point plan for how he would reform the V.A. and bring dignity back to the lives of veterans all over the country. It was an integral component of his campaign to Make America Great Again. Among other goals, the plan touched on issues like:
- Appointing a V.A. secretary whose sole objective is to serve veterans.
- Using the powers of the presidency to remove and discipline federal employees who violate the public's trust and fail to carry out their duties as they relate to caring for veterans.
- Create a commission to investigate all fraud and wrongdoing that has taken place in the V.A. and present these findings to Congress.
- Launch a private 24-7-365 White House hotline with real people answering veteran complaints so that no issue, regardless of how small, falls through the cracks.
- Increase the number of mental health care professionals in the V.A.
- Ensure that every veteran has the choice to seek care at the V.A. or a private service-provider of his choice.
Ultimately, the goal of Trump's V.A. reform initiative has been and continues to be to ensure that veterans get comprehensive care – not just physical care – that allows them to live happy, healthy, and successful lives.
While Trump hasn't been able to address all ten of his primary objectives yet, his administration is certainly making progress. Within the first eleven months of being in office, he was able to:
- Sign an executive order ensuring that veterans have the resources they need as they transition back to civilian life.
- Work with the V.A. to expand and modernize care through expansion of the "Anywhere to Anywhere" health care plan, which allows V.A. providers to use telemedicine to treat veterans remotely (regardless of location).
- Sign the V.A. Choice and Quality Employment Act, which authorizes $2.1 billion in additional funds for the Veterans Choice Program. This gives eligible veterans their choice of private care if they meet certain stipulations.
- Launch the first White House V.A. Hotline, serving thousands of veterans every single month.
When you consider the snail's pace at which Washington, D.C. typically operates, the Trump administration has made good progress.
One of the most exciting developments wasn't even originally included in the ten-point plan. It has to do with debt relief for injured veterans.
Debt Relief for Injured Veterans
If you've paid any attention at all to the personal finance habits of Americans over the last couple of decades, then you know we have a serious debt problem. More than 38 percent of households currently have credit card debt, which means that more than one in three families is actively looking for debt relief. But there's another type of debt that's equally pressing: student loans.
According to data curated by Student Loan Hero, Americans owe more than $1.48 trillion in student loan debt – an amount that's spread out among 44 million borrowers. The student loan delinquency rate is 11.2 percent, with the median monthly payment for borrowers aged 20 to 30 years old at $203. The average student loan debt for the Class of 2017 graduates was $39,400, a six-percent year-over-year increase.
While student loans are a choice, it's difficult to ignore the enormous amount of pressure they place on individuals. A fit and able-bodied individual can work to pay these loans off. An injured veteran can't always do the same.
In April of this year, the Trump administration announced a new initiative to help injured and disabled veterans with their student loans. This initiative will be made possible through a partnership between the Department of Education and the V.A.
"Our nation's veterans have sacrificed much for our country. It is important that, in return, we do all we can to give them the support and care they deserve," secretary of education Betsy DeVos said in a press release from the Department of Education. "Simplifying the loan forgiveness process and proactively identifying veterans with federal student loans who may be eligible for a discharge is a small but critical way we can show our gratitude for veterans' service."
Under the new initiative, the Department of Education will use the V.A. database and National Student Loan Data System to identify veterans who (a) have student loans and (b) have a documented injury or disability on file. It will then send out personalized letters to these veterans explaining total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge, eligibility criteria, and an application for discharge.
Under new TPD discharge guidelines, the government will forgive the remaining balance of federal student loans to veterans who can prove they are totally and permanently disabled. There are three specific ways veterans can do this:
- Submit documentation from the V.A. showing they are unemployable because of a service-related injury.
- Submit a notice of benefits as it relates to Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.
- Have a physician submit a certification of permanent disability (and an inability to work because of the physical or mental impairment.)
Currently, only federal student loans are eligible for TPD discharge. Disabled veterans with private student loans won't qualify at this time.
Giving Veterans the Attention They Deserve
When you look at all of the protected classes in the United States, veterans consistently rank near the top of the list in terms of neglect and abuse. What's so appalling about this is that they've put their lives on the line to serve the American people, yet the American government can't so much as provide them with proper programs to keep them happy, healthy, and successful.
Year after year, administration after administration, promises are made to fix the V.A. – yet it seems as if things only get worse. While there's still significant progress to be made, it's encouraging to see a president put his money where his mouth is. Dignity is returning to the veterans of this country – one promise and act at a time.