Military, veterans issues in spotlight with State of the Union looming
American security and security for our veterans are two priorities highlighted by the Trump administration throughout its first year in the White House. President Trump has promised he will rebuild our military and improve services for veterans. Coming up on his first State of the Union Address, how well has he kept these promises?
“We must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need,” President Trump told a joint session of Congress last February.
He pledged the largest military spending increase in history. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), a veteran, helped pass a $700 billion bill to fund the military.
“I think it costs a whole lot less to have a military that deters our adversaries, that is strong enough to do that, than to try to catch up and actually have to go to war,” said Wenstrup.
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says constant budget fights in Congress put service members in states of uncertainty.
“A real challenge for our military right now is budget unpredictability driven by a White House and two Republican Houses that can’t get on the same page,” said Kaine.
The president has also pledged support to those who've left the service. Nearly a year into his post, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says strides are being made for veterans.
“That means modern equipment, modern facilities, modern management practices,” said Shulkin.
Shulkin concedes there is a lot of work to do to bring VA services up to snuff, but says he’s encouraged by improvements in telemedicine and allowing vets to go to private practices. Veteran Carlos Fuentes says he is pleased with Shulkin’s efforts, but thinks veterans still encounter long wait times and unqualified VA personnel.
“Nothing will change in terms of perception until veterans on the ground feel it,” said Fuentes.
The president is expected to highlight his priorities on military and veterans issues during his State of the Union address January 30.