In the public imagination, the Republican Party has managed to position itself as the party of veterans. In truth, the Obama administration did plenty– something Trump attempted to take credit for and got caught in a lie.
President Trump has launched repeated attacks on members of the military. And a not insignificant number of veterans —41 percent — say they disapprove of Trump’s handling of the military, according to one recent Pew Research Poll.
Many of Texas’ almost 1.4 million veterans still aren’t getting the health care they need under Republican leadership in the White House and in Texas.
So a number of former members of the military are seeking to oust GOP opponents and offer a new vision for veteran-related policies like healthcare and national security.
In Texas, several veterans are running for Congress in 2020. Gina Ortiz Jones, an Iraq War veteran and former intelligence officer, is running to contest the San Antonio seat soon to be vacated by Republican Congressman Will Hurd.
Kim Olson, a former Air Force colonel, is also challenging an open seat formerly controlled by a Republican in Dallas.
MJ Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, is vying to replace Sen. John Cornyn.
Hegar, who ran for a congressional seat last year and has now set her sites on the Senate, told the Signal that Washington has failed Texas’ 1.4 million veterans, especially when it comes to healthcare.
“Part of the problem in DC is the overabundance of career politicians who don’t know how difficult the transition back into civilian life can be,” Hegar said in an email. “We need more people in office who’ve served in the military, served in schools, served in the health care field – and fewer career politicians like John Cornyn.”
On veterans’ issues specifically, Hegar said she would support responsible national security policies and stop any effort to privatize the VA while streamlining services for veterans.
Olson, who has out-raised her Republican opponents in the race for the Dallas area Congressional seat set to be vacated by Rep. Kenny Marchant, said the number one veteran-related policy difference between her and the GOP was her opposition against pointless and endless wars. “I think wiser heads should prevail when sending America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way,” Olson said in an interview. “We went into Iraq without the political will, without the resources, and without an end-state plan as to what victory was going look like. And now we’re in this quagmire for 16 years.”
Olson criticized Republicans for not investing enough federal dollars to take care of the needs of veterans when they got home. She gave the example of Trump diverting military retirement funds to help fund his border wall.
Ultimately, Olson said it was about having the lawmakers in Congress that would put money into veterans, which she said, only makes up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. “I think it’s one thing to have weapon systems, yes we need to invest in them– but for the love of God, the last count was $600 billion in the defense budget,” Olson said. “Does it need to be that big?”
“For too long the GOP has claimed to be the ‘party of veterans’ while also advocating for gutting the VA and doing little to solve issues veterans face every day,” Elisa Cardnell, a teacher and former Navy veteran challenging Rep. Dan Crenshaw in Houston, told the Signal. “Like so many Americans, veterans seek healthcare from an underfunded system that leaves many without sufficient treatment, especially for mental health. Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide, and yet bipartisan efforts like extreme risk protection orders (red flag laws) that would save lives are blocked by the GOP.”