PHILADELPHIA — Veterans would see more resources to end homelessness, more education benefits and job training, and a pledge to fight privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Democratic platform approved in Philadelphia this week.
"We reject attempts by Republicans to sell out the needs of veterans by privatizing the VA," the document states. "We believe that the VA must be fully resourced so that every veteran gets the care that he or she has earned and deserves, including those suffering from sexual assault, mental illness and other injuries or ailments."
Like the GOP platform approved in Cleveland last week, the Democratic platform is not a specific plan for party nominee Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election in November. Instead, the document is a general outline of party priorities, goals and promises for the next four years.
It criticizes "systemic problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs" that have largely emerged during President Barack Obama's second term, and vows to "fight for every veteran to have timely access to high-quality health care and timely processing of claims and appeals."
But platform authors say that reform doesn't mean replacing VA services with voucher programs, or outsourcing most health care to private physicians.
Both parties have sparred in recent months over those points, with prominent conservatives backing a massive expansion of care options outside the VA and top Democrats calling that a dangerous step toward shutting down department services.
The platform also promises to improve VA services for women, boost mental health programs and "expand the post-9/11 veterans caregiver program to include all veterans."
It calls those services "a sacred, moral responsibility to keep faith with all our veterans" and promises to overhaul nonhealth programs expanded as well.
"We must take care of those who have put their lives on the line to defend us," the platform states. "That is why we will push for more educational benefits and job training, end chronic homelessness and combat suicide, and protect and preserve the post-9/11 GI Bill for future generations."
Democrats also included immigration in their veterans priorities, opposing deportations any of immigrants who served in the armed forces and planning "a faster path for such veterans to citizenship."
The platform also calls for an easier path for troops discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy to upgrade their discharge records, possibly making them eligible for additional VA programs.
And party leaders call for reservists and Guard members to be "treated fairly when it comes to employment, health, education benefits, deployment, and reintegration."
The full platform is available at the Democratic party’s web site.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.