SUPPORTING OUR MILITARY
The last century has taught us about the futility of war, about its inability to solve problems, about its utter inhumanity. Ever mindful of this lesson, future initiatives and policies should be carefully analyzed, and evaluated on their ability only to provide security for the United States and its interests.
Democrats Abroad fully supports all members of our armed forces; their service and dedication deserve our deepest respect and gratitude as do the contributions and sacrifices of their families. Because our military must continue to be best prepared to defend our nation, congress should increase pay and benefits for veterans as well as for active and retired military. The needs of our disabled veterans, in particular, require more attention.
Armed conflict inevitably involves civilian casualties, which in turn jeopardize the very relations essential to achieving our goals. Therefore, diplomatic efforts must always be favored in resolving international crises. Military force must only be used as a last resort, and the United States must never again be the first to use a nuclear weapon. It should also invite the other major powers to join in signing the Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines.
Our armed forces must become more equitable and so we demand that leadership at the most senior level more accurately reflect the gender as well as the ethnic and religious composition of our society. We call for restoring the right of transgender people to serve in the US Armed Forces. Finally, universal military conscription should be reestablished, concomitant with a national service option.
When a convicted war criminal receives a presidential pardon it countermands good discipline and jeopardizes our system of military justice, and this action deserves our condemnation.
The utility of the worldwide network of US bases needs to be re-assesed bearing in mind the impact that any base closure will have on the needs of US veterans residing nearby. Military facilities neither at home nor abroad may present burdens on the environment.
While wasteful unlimited military spending cannot continue, any overall budget decrease should not adversely impact our military members or their families. Additional funding must be allocated for outreach, recruitment, and training of young people for our Armed Forces and for their retention.
We call for curtailing the outsourcing of critical security and military functions to private contractors. Their actions must be subjected to strong oversight, and strict adherence to International Traffic in Arms Regulations issued by the US Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls must be observed.
Using unmanned aerial vehicles as attack platforms often brings disastrous, unintended consequences both for the civilian populations in target areas and for the operators in remote locations. This practice must be re-evaluated on moral and ethical grounds.
SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS
In the modern world there is no place for endless war. Instead, our military will conduct peacekeeping missions, anti-terrorist operations, and emergency humanitarian actions. They must receive the training and resources needed to meet these challenges. Wasteful military spending must be eliminated.
Gender-equality initiatives such as those opening the Army Infantry, Armor, and Special Operations Units to women and mandating gender-neutral uniforms enhance unity and support our task readiness. The continued prevalence of sexual assault in the military affects men and women alike. We support the initiatives being taken by the Department of Defense to address this and, in particular, we call for better protection of military sexual assault survivors and for transferring sexual assault cases to a contiguous civilian jurisdiction for prosecution.
We salute the widely available treatment for military sexual trauma (MST) for all genders. We call for curtailing the heightened documentation threshold currently necessary to determine eligibility for disability compensation for post-traumatic stress (PTS) based on MST. Denial of compensation for MST constitutes a denial of rightful veteran benefits.
We favor awarding the Purple Heart, along with relevant additional care and benefits, to all military personnel and veterans suffering from properly verified mental injury incurred during military service, notably post-traumatic stress. Mental and physical injuries must receive appropriate recognition, honor, and compensation.
HONORING OUR VETERANS AND TROOPS
Service in defense of the homeland requires sacrifice not only by the women and men in uniform, but by their domestic partners, and their children as well. Those who have served, veterans and retired military, should also receive these benefits whether at home or abroad. Any costs incurred by receiving emergency care outside the United States must most certainly be reimbursed.
The Department of Defense has been charged with the responsibility for providing military dependents with an education while stationed abroad. This must be of the highest caliber in order to facilitate a change of duty station, and to assure access to institutions of higher learning on a par with that of their stateside counterparts.
We salute the continued success of efforts to extend educational benefits to an increasing number of veterans and active military and to their spouses and family members, including access to support for career advancement. Disbursement of these funds must never again be interrupted. The predatory abuses on the part of some profit-oriented colleges and universities, however, calls into question the recognition and continued funding of their undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Individuals from foreign countries who were promised citizenship following an honorable discharge from service in the U.S. military must now have that promise fulfilled. The deportation of these individuals has brought dishonor to our nation, and this must certainly be rectified.
People of color, most notably African-Americans, who served in World War II have been denied the benefits their service earned them. These veterans or their dependents must now be compensated.
Finally, we need to recognize every veteran’s right to an appropriate military funeral, and to take appropriate steps to ensure it.
GOVERNMENT POLICY AFFECTING VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES
Serving those who have served is our guiding principle. Placing our young people in harm's way, to use a euphemism, obligates our nation to look after them upon their return to civilian life. That is why there need to be statutory guarantees of funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and efforts to privatize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) must be adamantly opposed, For planning purposes, VHA medical requirements must reflect the contingency planning of US military combat commands.
VHA funding needs to be expanded to strengthen its network of medical centers, state-supported nursing homes, and national cemeteries. Increased VHA funding should include focusing on reducing wait times for veterans seeking medical attention. Delayed health care constitutes a denial of health care. Proper management of the VA helps in the prevention of suicide.
Mental health care for returning soldiers requires increased VHA funding and resources, and any veteran suffering from cancer due to military-service-related radiation exposure deserves quality health care and compensation, Using medical marijuana instead of opiates in the treatment of post-traumatic stress has shown promise and further research should be authorized.
Increased funding and resources are needed to address overall veteran homelessness, focusing especially on improving the plight of those veterans who disproportionately experience homelessness: African Americans, Hispanics, and women. This effort is strengthened by collaboration between the VHA and the community-based, nonprofit groups which provide transitional housing.
The transition from military to civilian life can be especially challenging and difficult Unemployment among returning soldiers must certainly be met with increased VHA funding and resources, and we applaud measures and institutions which encourage veteran employment.
Military construction often includes sorely needed repairs to housing and schools. We adamantly denounce diverting funds thus appropriated by Congress to satisfy political exigency. We also call for immediate passage and enactment of legislation to exempt dependents from taxes on their survivor benefits. Citizenship rights must never be denied to dependents of US personnel deployed overseas.
Collective bargaining agreements must always be respected and adhered to by the VA and employees must be able to report mismanagement, employee abuses, and any other abuse without rear of reprisal. Securing employee rights is important to Democrats Abroad, and so we call for the withdrawal of executive orders curtailing representational work during official time and requiring local unions to rent space.