Senator Klobuchar believes that when we ask our young men and women to serve in defense of our country, we make a promise to provide them the full resources they need to do their jobs and to take care of them when they return home. In the past, veterans like Senator Klobuchar’s dad have been able to count on our government to honor the commitment to support those who have sacrificed for our country. In the wake of World War II, the GI Bill provided returning veterans health, housing, and educational benefits. Senator Klobuchar believes that just as we did then, we must make sure our veterans have good jobs and receive the full benefits and the health care they and their families deserve.
During her time in the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has been a champion for our servicemembers and our veterans. She supported landmark legislation like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, and the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (VACAA). She has pushed for greater accountability and worked to ensure that allegations of improper practices at VA facilities are fully investigated. She has also successfully supported legislation to increase funding available for the VA to hire medical professionals and expand flexibility for veterans to seek care at non-VA facilities and pushed to make VACAA more effective by ensuring that veterans who live more than 40 miles driving distance from a VA facility can receive care from a non-VA provider.
Senator Klobuchar has also led efforts to connect veterans to jobs, including passing her bills to allow veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for job training and apprenticeship programs, encourage law enforcement agencies to hire veterans, and help veterans with emergency medical experience earn paramedic professional certification. She also passed legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits by establishing a center of excellence focused on the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits.
As a member of the National Guard Caucus, Senator Klobuchar has been a strong supporter of our National Guard members. She helped pass the National Guard Empowerment Act, creating a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the National Guard and Reserves and has worked to ensure equitable GI benefits for Guard members and Reservists. She has also helped secure billions of dollars for upgrades of National Guard equipment and facilities. In 2012, after leave benefits were unexpectedly cut for some National Guard servicemembers during their deployment to Kuwait, Senator Klobuchar passed legislation restoring the full leave benefits these men and women had been promised. Senator Klobuchar also expanded Minnesota’s pioneering Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program to the national level, providing Guard members and their families support both throughout deployment and when they return home.
Building on her strong record in the Senate, Senator Klobuchar will take immediate action as President to uphold the federal government’s responsibility to those who have served and provide them and their families the health care, full benefits, and education and economic opportunities they deserve.
Improve Health Care
Strengthen the Veterans Health Administration. As President, Senator Klobuchar will provide the Veterans Health Administration the full resources it needs to provide the highest level of care to our veterans and address staffing shortages. She will consult with our veterans and expand Congressional oversight on the implementation of the MISSION Act to make sure our veterans are receiving the best possible care.
- Cut red tape to reduce wait times at the Veterans Health Administration. Senator Klobuchar believes we must cut down on excessively long wait times and backlogs for veterans’ health services. Building on a successful pilot program established by bipartisan legislation Senator Klobuchar passed in the Senate, she will launch a nationwide program as President to expand the option for veterans to schedule their medical appointments online without unnecessary red tape and delays. She will also direct the Department of Defense and the VA to report on additional steps they are taking to reduce the backlog of disability evaluations and make it easier to appeal wrong decisions to ensure our veterans are receiving the care they need and deserve.
- Ensure accountability at the VA. Senator Klobuchar has been a champion for increasing accountability at the VA. As President, she will strengthen the authority of the Inspector General, increase transparency, launch an independent review of financial processes, and expand Congressional oversight of the VA.
- Stand up to efforts to privatize the VA. Senator Klobuchar opposes efforts to privatize the VA. She believes that expanding access to private care cannot come at the expense of fully funding and expanding the current Veterans Health Administration (VHA) infrastructure. Senator Klobuchar will direct the VHA to use data on private care usage only as a means to help guide investments in its own growth, not as a way to further privatize its core functions.
- Expand community-based options and telehealth services, particularly in rural areas. Senator Klobuchar believes that people who want to stay in their homes and communities should be able to do so. She will expand in-home and community-based VA services to help chronically ill, elderly, or disabled veterans remain in their homes and communities and will promote telehealth services to reduce delays and expand access to care, particularly for veterans in rural areas.
- Attract the best medical workforce to the VA. Senator Klobuchar has led efforts to attract a skilled medical workforce to the VA. As President, Senator Klobuchar will improve the VA’s ability to hire mental health professionals, doctors, dentists, and nurses, particularly in rural areas, including by expanding the Education Debt Reduction Program and passing her legislation to automatically designate VA health facilities as health professional shortage areas. Senator Klobuchar will also create new loan forgiveness programs for in-demand occupations, which includes loan forgiveness for health care workers at the VA.
Support veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins. Senator Klobuchar has led efforts in the Senate to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, including passing legislation in 2018 to create a center of excellence focused on the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits. As President, she will direct the Department of Defense to identify whether servicemembers were based near an open burn pit and will require the VA to evaluate members of the Armed Forces for toxic airborne chemicals during routine health exams. This proposal is modeled after bipartisan legislation Senator Klobuchar has introduced in the Senate. As President, Senator Klobuchar will also accelerate the cleanup of perfluorinated compounds at military bases.
Expand mental health and addiction services and combat suicide. Too many veterans dealing with mental health and addiction don’t have access to the services they need and deserve. Senator Klobuchar’s plan to combat addiction and prioritize mental health focuses on veterans and specifically addresses the high rates of suicide among veterans. As President, she will also expand the VA’s family caregiver program to place a greater emphasis on mental health as well as invest in the mental health workforce at the VA, increase counseling services, and expand resources to help the tens of thousands of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health needs.
Invest in research into diseases impacting veterans. Senator Klobuchar will increase funding for research for chronic diseases and direct the VA to coordinate across government and partner with universities to expand research into diseases that disproportionately impact veterans such as Alzheimer’s, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and ALS. She will also make a major investment into research and development of pain alternatives to opioids.
Improve health benefits and services for women veterans. Senator Klobuchar will push to pass legislation eliminating barriers to care and services for women veterans, including by expanding VA health benefits for women veterans and their babies, as well as expanding the availability of contraception and improving reproductive assistance for injured veterans.
Expand Access to Education and Training
Ensure education benefits work for our veterans. Senator Klobuchar has been a champion for expanding and modernizing education benefits for our servicemembers. As President, she will push to reduce the burden of student debt on servicemembers by lowering or eliminating the accrual of interest on student loans during their service.
- Extend GI Bill benefits to foster children and legal wards. Currently, servicemembers can transfer unused education benefits to a spouse or child but not to wards and foster children. Senator Klobuchar will extend these education benefits to foster children and legal wards.
Give National Guard and Reserve Members the education benefits they deserve. Senator Klobuchar will ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserve receive the same GI Bill education benefits as their counterparts in active duty and adjust tuition assistance for members of the National Guard and Reserve to keep the tuition assistance competitive. And to support veterans on college campuses and expand career counseling, Senator Klobuchar will launch and implement a grant program to invest in college veteran education centers.
Expand job training and apprenticeship opportunities for veterans. Senator Klobuchar passed legislation enabling veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for job training and apprenticeship programs to help them obtain the skills they need to succeed in the civilian workforce. As President, she is committed to doubling the number of apprenticeships in our country with a strong focus on supporting our veterans, including allowing military training to apply towards apprenticeship requirement credits. She will also create a tax credit to support veterans who establish small businesses in underserved communities.
Connect Those Who Served Our Country to Jobs and Economic Opportunity
Connect veterans to jobs. Senator Klobuchar believes we should be helping our veterans find good jobs. In the Senate, she has successfully passed bills to accelerate licensing procedures for commercial driver’s licenses, promote the hiring of veterans as law enforcement officers, and make it easier for veterans who want to work in the emergency medical field to get college and certification credits for the training they received in the military. As President, she will continue to expand and invest in programs that connect veterans to jobs, and work in partnership with states to streamline certification and licensing requirements for military spouses and veterans who have already gained relevant skills during their service.
- Support veterans in STEM fields and other in-demand occupations. Many of our veterans have gained valuable skills in science and technology fields that prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. Senator Klobuchar will promote efforts and expand programs that connect our veterans to careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Senator Klobuchar will also expand support for veterans transitioning to careers in education and other in-demand occupations.
Continue to expand the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program. Senator Klobuchar helped turn Minnesota’s innovative Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program into a national program providing Guard members and their families support both throughout deployment and when they return home. As President, Senator Klobuchar will continue to expand this program to deliver for our servicemembers and help them make the transition from military to civilian life.
Connect our veterans to affordable housing and combat homelessness. All Americans deserve a safe and affordable home, especially the men and women who served our country and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. During her time in the Senate, Senator Klobuchar authored a bill that was signed into law that improved a VA housing program so that it better served rural homeless veterans, helping them receive the housing vouchers, counseling services and job training assistance they needed right where they lived rather than in large city centers. Building on her record combating homelessness among veterans, Senator Klobuchar will launch a nationwide effort to support veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, particularly in rural areas. That means partnering with public and private sector organizations to provide legal services to homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness, expanding services for homeless veterans, extending supportive services for low-income veteran families in permanent housing, and initiating a review of ways to improve existing VA programs.
- Combatting housing discrimination and expanding resources for food pantries and assistance programs. Senator Klobuchar will stop the stigmatization of people who have been to court over eviction or discrimination on the basis of their veterans status. Senator Klobuchar will also expand resources for food pantries, soup kitchens, and other food assistance programs to support our veterans.
Standing up for our veterans, servicemembers and national guard and reserve members
Provide full retirement pay and disability benefits to our veterans and their families. Senator Klobuchar has consistently pushed to ensure our veterans and their families receive the benefits they are due in a timely manner. As President, she will end the unfair offset of retirement and disability benefits under current law. She will also protect veterans from unfair VA benefit practices by preventing the VA from withholding from veterans’ monthly disability benefits to pay for its own accounting errors. Additionally, she will eliminate the so-called “Widow’s Tax” that reduces benefit payments to roughly 65,000 surviving military spouses.
Stand up for victims of sexual assault. More than 20,000 servicemembers were sexually assaulted in 2018, according to the Department of Defense. Senator Klobuchar believes we must do more to protect servicemembers and provide survivors with a path to justice. In the Senate, she has been a leader in the fight against sexual assault in the military, and as President she will continue to work to strengthen prosecution of perpetrators and expand access to counseling, including by reducing the burden of proof necessary to be eligible for care to support those who may not have felt comfortable reporting the assault during their time in service.
Support LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans and review less than honorable discharges. Research shows that less than honorable discharges — or so called “bad paper” discharges that restrict access to VA benefits — can lead to higher rates of unemployment, homelessness and suicide. Senator Klobuchar will make it easier for veterans to appeal less than honorable discharges that may have mitigating factors and expand mental health services and outreach. She will also expedite the process for servicemembers who were discharged for no other reason than their sexual orientation to correct negative discharges in order to reflect their honorable service and ensure they have access to the full benefits and services. And during her first 100 days as President she will direct the Department of Defense to lift the ban on military service by transgender people. Additionally, Senator Klobuchar will expand the scope of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include members of the LBGTQ community.
Reduce travel costs for National Guard members and Reservists and expand support for the children of National Guard and Reserve members. Senator Klobuchar will push to pass her legislation to reduce costs for National Guard members and reservists traveling for training by lowering the minimum mileage that can be claimed for tax deductions from 100 miles to 50 miles. Additionally, as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states must identify students from military families to ensure they receive the support they need in schools. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to pass her legislation to extend this requirement to children of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers.
Combat fraud targeting our veterans. Senator Klobuchar will establish a new senior fraud prevention office which would focus on efforts including addressing scams and fraud targeting our veterans. The office will educate consumers, expedite the handling of complaints, and coordinate prevention efforts with the VA to tackle scams that target our veterans.
Senator Klobuchar has laid out a plan for her first 100 days as President that includes executive actions she can take immediately to support our veterans:
Invest in the Veterans Health Administration. Expanding access to private care cannot come at the expense of fully funding and even expanding the current Veterans Health Administration (VHA) infrastructure. Senator Klobuchar will direct the VHA to use data on private care usage only as a means to help guide investments in its own growth, not as a way to further privatize its core functions.
Expand VA health benefits for women veterans and their babies. The Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2008 gave the VA the authority to provide care for newborn babies born to women veterans, but a narrow interpretation of the law is preventing access to care. Senator Klobuchar will direct the VA to expand covering the costs of medically-necessary emergency services for newborn babies of veterans.
Expand investments in veterans telehealth services. Senator Klobuchar will further expand investments in VA telehealth to ensure rural veterans have access to medical professionals, especially for mental health services.
Direct the Department of Defense and VA to track servicemembers and veterans exposed to toxic chemicals. Currently, servicemembers’ exposure to toxic chemicals such as mold, caustic fumes, open air burn pits, and airborne chemicals during military operations are not being properly documented and tracked by the Defense Department or VA. Senator Klobuchar would direct these agencies to record any environmental health hazard exposure in a servicemember’s records during deployment, and the record would then follow the servicemember through his or her career and into veteran status.