By Tim Hannigan
Editor, Fairfax Free Citizen
Republican vice-presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mike Pence vowed on Tuesday that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will bring a “depth of commitment to veterans.”
Speaking to a small “roundtable” of veterans in the wardroom aboard the now-retired battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk harbor, Governor Pence referred to the detailed 10-step plan for strengthening and reforming veterans support that Donald Trump first articulated in a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Charlotte, NC, on July 26, 2016.
He then emphasized in opening remarks and responses to questions some key points about that plan, including:
- Veterans care is NOT an entitlement handed out to citizens and non-citizens in need of help. Rather, it is an “earned benefit”—earned by veterans through service to their country.
- A Trump Administration is committed to fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the services it provides to veterans, not just privatizing the care of veterans.
- If the VA cannot provide timely care to a veteran, then the Trump plan calls for veterans to get their care from the private medical sector. The Trump Administration will not allow veterans to die from prolonged waits for medical care.
- The Trump Administration will expand mental health services for veterans, targeting suicide prevention through better mental health screening and care.
- The mission of the Trump VA will be to rehabilitate veterans, bringing them all the way back to good health. Governor Pence voiced an interest in supporting private rehabilitation organizations that help veterans.
Governor Pence stressed that changes to the VA’s executive leadership will be critical to reform of the department. Donald Trump is a seasoned executive who knows that an organization is as effective as the quality of the people that make it up. True to his reputation on his TV show, he will not hesitate to “fire” non-performers in the VA.
Not only did Governor Pence speak authoritatively and confidently about medical care for veterans, he also pointed out Indiana has significantly improved support for veterans during his watch. For example, the veteran unemployment rate in the Hoosier state was the 31st worst in the nation when his administration started. In response to such new state government policies as state recognition of military accreditations, the state now has the second best veteran unemployment rate.
As one might expect, Governor Pence did not confine his remarks to veterans medical care only. Of special interest to the veterans in attendance—and all veterans—he expressed his dismay at the shocking terrorist attacks over the past weekend. The Trump view is “weakness arouses evil,” and weak Obama policies and actions have emboldened ISIS.
Donald Trump will rebuild the military, giving it the resources to protect the nation. And he’s not going to tell the enemy what he will or will not do. Comments by Hillary Clinton that Donald Trump’s rhetoric gives comfort to our adversaries are nonsense.
On the question of whether a Trump Administration will continue transgender and other social experiments in the military, Governor Pence stressed that the military’s mission of fielding the most effective fighting force to defend the interests of the United States should drive military policies and practices. Common sense should prevail.
On other subjects, Governor Pence pressed full-throated support for the Second Amendment, stating guns in the hands of citizens make us more safe, not less safe. He pointed out it was an armed off-duty guard who saved a lot of lives in the Minnesota stabbing attacks this past weekend.
He also reiterated Donald Trump’s intention to lower taxes, reduce regulations, and repeal Obamacare in quest of Making America Great Again.
Certainly, Governor Mike Pence articulates the Trump platform smoothly, including the plans for reforming veterans’ care. But more than that, he delivers his views and promises with the resolution and sincerity of a true believer. Veterans seated at the roundtable could not help but walk away from the discussion fully convinced that Donald Trump, firmly buttressed by Mike Pence, will finally “fix” the VA and ensure veterans receive the care they have earned.
And one also could not help but walk away from the roundtable with the optimistic thought that if Mike Pence is the standard for Donald Trump’s selections for senior executives, then the prospects are strong for a Trump Administration to right our listing ship of state.