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  • Just Before Vets Day, O’Malley Issues VA Reform Plan

    Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley released a plan Monday to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs in advance of Veterans’ Day, with ending veteran unemployment by 2020 as one of the central goals.

    O’Malley’s plan doesn’t just reflect on his own campaign but also comes at a time when Democrats like Hillary Clinton are in hot water for comments minimizing problems at the VA. Compared to Republicans, vets’ issues have played a relatively minor role in Democratic campaigns up to this point.

    When it is mentioned, as in the case of Clinton, veterans have erupted at the suggestion that problems at the VA are not systemic and can mostly be understood as Republicans attempting to forward an ideological agenda. (RELATED: Clinton: VA Problems Overblown. VA Whistleblower: Let Me Give You A Facility Tour Then)

    Clinton will release her own VA reform plan Tuesday at noon.

    The new plan offered by O’Malley’s campaign, much more exhaustive than the one provided by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, is an attempt to rehabilitate the Democratic reputation.

    “Governor O’Malley believes America must uphold its sacred trust with our veterans. Our government and our fellow citizens, however, have not always lived up to this responsibility,” the policy paper states. “Veterans have not escaped Washington’s dysfunction. Dozens of bills designed to help veterans are languishing – and even worse, Congress allowed the 2011 budget sequester to take effect, slashing programs that veterans and military families depend upon.”

    For O’Malley, the progress at the VA isn’t good enough. The department requires serious reform to avoid repeating scandals of data manipulation and secret waitlists. But that reform doesn’t mean the department should be scrapped, the plan notes.

    “It’s extreme to say the VA should be eliminated, but it’s also wrong to say the agency’s problems are not widespread. The problem goes beyond reforming an unwieldy bureaucracy.”

    O’Malley intends to give more authority to the inspector general, so as to increase the number of on-the-ground inspections. The idea is to nip crises in the bud, and the plan vaguely alludes to a proposal to increase accountability among senior VA officials.

    Not mentioned is any suggestion of reforming unions or expanding firing authority.

    As part of the reform effort, he wants to personally tour facilities during his first month of office.

    The platform is distinctly Democratic, focusing on LGBT veterans. O’Malley will push to restore the service records of LGBT servicemembers who were discharged solely for their sexual orientation. With legislation, these service records will receive an upgrade. Also included in the plan is a proposal to crackdown on sexual assault.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

     

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