Kamala’s Promise to America’s Veterans and Military Families

Kamala Harris
8 min readSep 7, 2019

Honoring their service and sacrifice through respect, empowerment, and support

Our country has been at war for the past 18 years; we have deployed more than 3 million service members since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Our military families are as tough as their loved ones and have also carried a tremendous burden. We must serve them — service members, veterans, their families, and their caregivers — as well as they have served us.

The Trump administration is failing them all by allowing the rate of veterans suicide to remain shockingly high, tapping military personnel funds for his unpopular and controversial border wall, targeting military service members with predatory immigration policies, and allowing the American opioid crisis to disproportionately claim veteran victims. To make matters worse, they have been systematically neglecting DoD and V.A. programs, letting quality and wait times get worse, and outsourcing care to a few large corporations.

Kamala believes that our veterans deserve so much more. That’s why as Attorney General, she went after companies who preyed on our veterans, such as Corinthian Colleges, which used fraudulent marketing tactics to take advantage of veterans looking to further their education. In the Senate, she has introduced legislation to ensure military housing is held to high health and safety standards and championed efforts to make sure that veterans can take full advantage of GI Bill benefits to make sure that foster children and legal wards are also eligible for unused benefits their parent may have.

It’s time to honor the service and sacrifice of our warfighters, veterans, and their families. As commander-in-chief, Kamala will work to provide them the support they have earned.

By the end of Kamala’s first term, the VA will expand access to health care and housing assistance available to veterans with “other-than-honorable” discharges.

Kamala will end the bureaucratic games we make our veterans who are seeking VA services endure and will instead establish a presumption of eligibility for these veterans who seek VA healthcare and housing.

She’ll extend that same presumption of eligibility to homeless veterans seeking VA housing services.

Through this change, she’ll make access to VA healthcare and housing assistance available to the more than 500,000 veterans with other-than-honorable discharges (sometimes known as “bad paper”) who currently have difficulty getting these VA services.

According to the Government Accountability Office, 62 percent of veterans separated for misconduct from the military between 2011 and 2015 have been diagnosed within the 2 years prior to separation with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or certain other conditions that could be associated with misconduct.

  • Since 2001, about 13% of all service members have been forced out of the military with less-than-honorable discharges, sometimes for reasons of administrative convenience at the expense of service members’ due process rights, or as retaliation for reporting military sexual trauma (MST).
  • Veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, and certain other conditions are often at the highest risk for continued health challenges when they come home, which further jeopardizes their successful transition from military service.
  • Furthermore, homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are more likely to suffer from PTSD than veterans of older wars. And high rates of veterans homelessness and suicide are national tragedies that are correlated.

The bottom line is that if we are to get serious about addressing the veterans homelessness and suicide crises, getting at-risk veterans the healthcare and housing services they need is critical. This isn’t just a matter of what’s right, it’s a matter of public health.

And, to make sure we are addressing possible abuse of the bad paper discharge system, Kamala will also direct the DoD to review all bad paper discharges for possible bias and other mitigating factors including PTSD and TBI diagnoses.

  • In particular, she will make sure that this review includes looking for service members who are survivors of sexual assault from their time in the services. As part of tackling the crisis of sexual assault in the military, we need to make sure that veterans aren’t getting inadvertently discharged with bad paper that relates to being a victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment in the ranks.
  • And in cases where there is a PTSD or TBI diagnosis, the “presumption of regularity” will go away, with DoD having to show by a preponderance of evidence that the discharge was justified and unrelated to the PTSD or TBI.

Kamala will further reform the VA to ensure the nation’s second-largest agency does better at delivering timely, accurate benefits (from health to education to disability to burial) to our nation’s 20 million veterans.

She’ll focus DoD and VA on treating the invisible wounds of service — PTSD and TBI — and give these agencies the resources they need for research and treatment.

Critically, she’ll direct the VA and DoD to complete the integration of their commercial health records systems. She’ll set a goal of completing that integration by the end of her first term.

The current split between the systems has resulted in frustrations and delays to critical benefits. While work has been done on this integration, Kamala believes it’s time for us to step up and set an ambitious goal to finally make this system work for the military community.

So Kamala will act right away to integrate these systems, and then she’ll fight to get more resources to ensure that there is a seamless transition for servicemembers between the military and civilian life.

She will also ensure that the claims backlog is resolved quickly and fairly, with the focus on getting more veterans claims approved in a timely manner.

The backlog has led to a dynamic where veterans feel like they have to fight to prove that they deserve their benefits.

The VA and veterans shouldn’t be on different sides of an argument — there should be a streamlined system that delivers veterans the benefits they deserve.

She’ll give the VA the full resources it needs and stop the wasteful outsourcing of services that only benefit a handful of companies and Trump’s cronies.

And Kamala will fight for resources needed to ensure no veteran sleeps on the streets in this country.

She’ll work with Congress to create a Veterans Transitional Housing Block Grant that will give communities resources to help get any veteran who needs it — VA eligible or not — into transitional housing.

The grant program will be flexible and allow localities to tailor solutions to what they know works best for their communities.

This transitional housing grant program will be designed to house all veterans who need it, including those with families or special needs.

Kamala will ensure that as we support all members of the military community, we are including reservists and their families. This is particularly important before and after a deployment.

When a member of our armed forces deploys, it impacts entire families, not just one individual. We need to do more to prepare entire families for the challenges they may encounter when their loved one returns.

And military reservists and their families often don’t live on a military base, and as a result, may lack access to a built-in support system.

So she’ll direct her Secretary of Defense to conduct a review of all existing pre-deployment and post-deployment training for service members and reservists and look for opportunities to provide more support to family members, including related to PTSD and TBI.

We should also fully resource models like the Family Readiness Groups (FRG) that are part of today’s military, and look for successful components of these family-support programs that can do more to support the families of those in harm’s way.

Kamala will fight for equal treatment of all who serve. Military service should be open to all qualified Americans — service is about what you can do, not who you are or how you identify.

She’ll immediately rescind Trump’s discriminatory transgender ban.

She’ll reinstitute the Military Accessions for Vital National Interest (MAVNI) program, and other programs that enable and encourage immigrants and first-generation Americans to bring their talents into the service.

She’ll direct the Secretary of Defense and military leaders to combat the scourges of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks, working with judge advocates to provide fair outcomes for victims and due process for the accused.

She’ll bring health equity to the VA so that all veterans, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, receive timely access to quality health care.

And she’ll direct the VA to take appropriate steps to fully include women veterans and adequately serve them — they are the fastest-growing segment of the veterans population.

Kamala will ensure service members and their families are supported in all parts of their service, including by providing more and better economic opportunities when they transition from service.

Among the most important support services provided to military families in active service are quality housing services.

As president, Kamala will direct DoD to fix military housing and crackdown on-base housing contractors who fail military families.

She’ll fight to allow professional licenses that military spouses hold to transfer from state to state. This will allow military spouses to continue in the same profession when they move with their loved ones without facing the financial and administrative burdens created by having to obtain a new professional license with every move.

And, under Kamala’s legislation, the 21st Century SKILLS Act, spouses of active duty military members will be eligible for up to $8000 in workforce-training accounts if they (1) lose their job as a result of relocation or (2) are unemployed or underemployed and experiencing difficulty in obtaining or upgrading employment.

When service members come home and transition from service, she’ll make sure they have education and economic opportunities.

  • She’ll create new economic opportunity for military families by fighting to expand and institutionalize hiring and government contracting preferences for veterans and military families.
  • She’ll preserve and protect the GI Bill and expand it to include veteran entrepreneurs and other classes of education designed to prepare for the 21st Century.
  • Kamala will also pursue policies to expand federal hiring preferences to veteran spouses, continuing to support these family members after service.

And she’ll make sure that veterans and current military families are less vulnerable to scams.

Kamala will make sure that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Justice Department each have the resources they need to go after scammers or anyone seeking to defraud or otherwise take advantage of military families.

  • The Trump Justice Department has failed to enforce laws designed to protect veterans and service members; the Trump Education Department has protected for-profit schools as they prey on service members, veterans and their families. That will end on Kamala’s watch.
  • As president, Kamala will direct the Justice Department to create an interagency task force to enforce consumer protection and employment protection statutes in support of our service members, veterans, and their families.
  • Kamala will fight for-profit schools that unfairly target service members, veterans, and their families for their DoD and VA educational benefits, and rescind the harmful policies of the Trump administration that have benefitted for-profit schools at the expense of veterans and military families

Finally, as president, Kamala will support service members, veterans, and their families in the immigration process.

Upon taking office, Kamala will immediately reinstate the DACA program and extend eligibility to apply for deferred action to the families of DACA recipients and other non-citizen service members.

And she’ll make sure that veterans are able to fully take advantage of the naturalization process and that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services gives each application due process.



Kamala Harris

Vice President of the United States. Senator, Wife, Momala, Auntie. Fighting for the people. She/her.