With the end of the midterm elections, the 116th Congress will have 92 veterans serving in the House and Senate. About half of these served in the military after the 9/11 attacks. While the total percentage of vets in office is nowhere as high as it was in the 1970s — when it was 75% — it’s still significant. On this Veterans Day, my hope is that veteran lawmakers of both parties will come together and lead the rest of Congress to address the issues so important to us.
The Veterans Administration has been a basket case for decades. A boondoggle of waste, abuse, and inefficiency. The issues are systemic rather than policy driven, and there exists no clear strategy to fix them. Ask any veteran what the mission of the VA is and you’ll get blank stares. It is the system of care that is the problem — top-down, bureaucratic and process-driven rather than patient outcome driven. Worse than your local DMV.
The VA is also really good at patient submission through prescription. Just give them pills and send them on their way. These hard drugs end up escalating issues rather than treating them away holistically.
The problem, no clear mission, and a lack of focus. They could learn a lesson from John Doerr and his objectives and key results evangelism that spring-boarded Google to greatness.
The President recently signed a bi-partisan passed bill into law that provides more healthcare choices for veterans, outside the VA system. This is the VA MISSION: Act and direct the VA to combine a number of existing private-care programs, including the Choice program into a single streamlined system for faster, better care.
I’m a veteran entrepreneur — and veterans make great entrepreneurs. The SBA, which is doing great work right now to encourage and assist veterans, can do more. I think for those veterans leaving the military with advanced technical skills who want to start a business instead of pursuing college, some portion of their GI Bill should be available to provide seed money for a new business or more technical training and certification. Also, a zero down veteran loan program to buy or start a business would have a great impact on veterans transitioning, and stimulate the economy.
These and a host of other issues related to veterans await this next Congress; including drug abuse, homelessness, suicide, poverty, mental illness, and my favorite topic: a schizophrenic foreign policy strategy. Which has led us into 17 years in Afghanistan (don’t get me started on ISIS and Syria), and what do we have to show for it? How is 17 years of occupation furthering American diplomacy? Meanwhile, good people die for what?
It is my hope that these new and returning veteran legislators will take the lead in tackling these issues, because now we need them to most.