In a new plan for policies around veterans’ issues, California Sen. Kamala Harris said she wants to help more veterans and military families get more help from the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration—including veterans who did not leave the military with an honorable discharge.
Harris announced the plan Saturday morning before the New Hampshire Democratic Party's state convention in Manchester.
“There is no more solemn duty for a commander-in-chief than taking care of service members, veterans, and their families, and as president, I will commit to expanding access to these benefits to half a million more veterans who don’t have it today.” said Harris.
Harris wants to let people who left the military with “other-than-honorable” discharges—about 13 percent of all military discharges since 2001—access VA health care and housing assistance. Her campaign argues that veterans with other-than-honorable discharges face the same challenges of leaving the military as veterans with honorable discharges—including injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“This isn’t just a matter of what’s right, it’s a matter of public health,” read a statement from the campaign.
Other-than-honorable discharges happen for all kinds of reasons, Harris argues—she wants the VA to presume those veterans are eligible for services.
Harris also said she wants more scrutiny of the discharge system, and if elected, she would direct the Department of Defense to make sure soldiers did not receive other-than-honorable discharges because of bias, PTSD, brain injuries, or retaliation for reporting sexual assault and harassment
Harris said she would direct the VA and Department of Defense to modernize record-keeping, and work through claims backlogs.
To deal with high rates of homelessness among veterans, Harris said she would create a federal grant for local programs that work with homeless veterans.
Harris said she would reverse two of President Donald Trump’s polices around military service: she would allow transgender people to serve in the military and re-start a program to grant citizenship to immigrants with in-demand skills who enlist in the military. She said she would make sure the each veteran’s citizenship application gets due process.
For military families, Harris said she would push for spouses’ professional licenses to transfer from state to state when they move to a new base. Those active-duty spouses unable to find work near a new base could get money to help pay for new training. Harris said she would policies to expand federal hiring preferences to spouses of veterans.
Harris pledged to focus on scammers who target veterans, from housing contractors to deceptive for-profit colleges, and highlighted her prosecution of for-profit Corinthian Colleges for their deceptive marketing that targeted veterans.