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Press Release - Edwards Proposes 'Sacred Contract' With America's Veterans And Military Families

May 25, 2007

Fort Madison Iowa – During a community meeting in Fort Madison, Iowa today, Senator John Edwards unveiled his plan to repair our country's sacred contract to honor and support our veterans and military families. During the past weeks, Edwards has been discussing the need for our country to support our troops. He recently launched an initiative to support our troops by encouraging Americans to take action and urge our government to end the war in Iraq. In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations this week, Edwards discussed how we can rebuild our military for this new century, starting by clarifying its mission and making sure the men and women in our armed forces have all the resources they need to meet it.

"We can never fully repay our debt to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who are serving bravely. The scandals at Walter Reed were a shocking example of how we aren't even trying. We've neglected them, and we have a lot more work to do beyond fixing a hospital," said Edwards. "We need a new sacred contract with the members and veterans of our Armed Services. We can and should give them quality health care, support their families, and open doors for them when they return. Actually, we owe them no less."

In recognition of their bravery and sacrifice, Edwards believes we must guarantee quality health care for service men and women and every generation of veterans, provide families with the support necessary to withstand the strain of separations, and ensure returning troops have access to the education and opportunities to succeed in civilian life.

Many veterans today are not getting the health care they need. The Bush Administration has consistently underfunded the VA and his budget cuts veterans' health in future years, while shifting burdens to beneficiaries. Additionally, nearly one out of every three veterans coming home are diagnosed with mental health issues. As president, Edwards would guarantee quality health care by:

  • Fully funding veterans' health care.
  • Ordering a review of military hospitals to ensure that our service members are getting the excellent care they deserve and rejecting the Bush Administration's ideological drive to outsource federal jobs.
  • Requiring that all service members returning to the U.S. or leaving the military be provided with a new "Plan for Coming Home" including thorough post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) screenings, benefits information and seamless transfer of medical records.
  • Increasing the research and treatment of traumatic brain injuries, the "signature wound of this war," and the conditions that follow from them.
  • Creating a new national "Chain of Care" to ensure that no veteran again falls through the cracks. The chain will coordinate treatment and benefits in outreach centers and clinics in every county where a veteran resides, both within and outside the VA network. Edwards will also improve training for health personnel to recognize and treat PTSD, and establish uniform standards for mental health care.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have put our military and their families under incredible pressure through frequent extended tours and an unsustainable operations tempo. Edwards believes we need to do more to support our military families. As president, Edwards will:

  • Close the gap between military and civilian pay.
  • Create a Military Families Advisory Board within the Department of Defense to give family members a voice in considering how to adjust family policies.

Edwards also believes we need to do more to ensure that returning troops have access to the educational and economic opportunities to succeed in civilian life. The original GI Bill put 13 million returning American service members through college after World War II and helped build the middle class. Today, our armed forces are smaller, but the need for higher education to succeed in civilian life is even greater. While service men and women gain valuable training while serving, their experience often goes unrecognized when they go look for a job. To restore our country's sacred contract, Edwards will:

  • Enact a new Total Force GI Bill that would give members of the Guards and Reserve benefits proportionate to the service they perform, and expand benefits for college or technical school tuition and fees.
  • Provide student loan relief for mobilized Guard and Reserves troops.
  • Restore vocational training for disabled and occupationally challenged veterans.

For more details on Edwards' plan, please click here for the fact sheet.

John Edwards, Press Release - Edwards Proposes 'Sacred Contract' With America's Veterans And Military Families Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/293579

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