The American Legion hosted a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and representatives from more than 30 other veterans service organizations (VSOs) today to address concerns and lay out top priorities leading into the new administration.
The veteran-focused meeting was the first of its kind held between Trump’s team and any outside organization. American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones affirmed the commitment of veteran service organizations to advocate for those who have “borne the battle” – veterans from all eras.
The American Legion co-authored a three-point position paper along with executive leadership of the Big Six Congressionally chartered service organizations, supporting the Trump administration’s efforts to strengthen, reform and sustain the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) heath care system, remove budget constraints that negatively impact veteran-centered programs, and reform the VA’s claims and appeals process.
“The American Legion would like the Trump administration to know that we value our Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Jones. “Dollar-for-dollar, there is no better care or value available anywhere in the United States – period. While we will always support strong and expeditious accountability measures for bad actors, the institution of the department that was designed to care for those who have borne the battle is sacrosanct, and it belongs to the more than 22 million veterans who risked their lives in defense of this country, many of whom left significant pieces of themselves on the battlefield.”
Additionally, The American Legion initiated a call-to-action on fairly new Legion priorities – support of research related to the impacts of medical marijuana and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s reclassification of cannabis from a Schedule I drug to Schedule III. Reclassification of the drug would allow easier access to pure strains of the substance to cultivate quantifiable research and statistics regarding marijuana’s medical benefits.
Each VSO in attendance had the opportunity to address the transition team and briefly lay out their main concerns. Other issues addressed during the meeting included:
• The delivery of high quality, accessible, comprehensive and veteran-centric health care
• A properly funded 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs
• Sustainment and strengthening of specialized and integrative services for veterans seeking spinal cord injury/disease care, treatment for blindness and poly-trauma care
• Timely and accurate delivery of all earned benefits to veterans and their eligible dependents and survivors, including disability compensation, pensions, education, housing assistance and other necessary support.
Although the 114th Congress focused a great deal of attention on reforming key elements of the delivery of veterans health care and benefits, VSOs urged the Trump administration and the 115th Congress to consider recommendations outlined in their three-point letter to:
• Take the necessary steps to end sequestration;
• Sufficiently appropriate funds to increase physician and nurse staffing within the VA, especially for amputee care, mental health care and other specialized services; and
• Provide adequate resources to adequately expand VA infrastructure.
Thomas J. Snee, national executive director of the Fleet Reserve Association echoed the sentiments of fellow VSO representatives while they addressed transition team members as a united front. Snee stated that he was encouraged and hopeful about President-elect Trump’s 10-point plan (to reform VA), and looks forward to future conversations with the president-elect’s team.
The transition team stated their willingness to keep the lines of communication open with VSOs and committed to continue to advocate for all veterans.
“The American Legion greatly appreciates the priority and focus the transition team has shown by making this their first stop in a critical transition process,” Jones said. “We are encouraged that the incoming administration chose veterans, and they did a great job of setting the tone for a very productive meeting.”