As we continue to hurtle towards the 2020 presidential election, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has all but sealed the deal en route to a battlefield campaign to unseat sitting President Donald Trump. While Biden experienced success on the early campaign trail this year, uncertainty overshadows procedures now as town hall meetings, rallies, and even primary elections and caucuses have been canceled in light of the coronavirus pandemic. And so now is the perfect time to dig a little deeper into the presidential candidates as the time to cast our votes draws closer. For our country’s veterans and military service members, it’s important to consider what a Joe Biden administration may look like.
Let’s take a drive back in the history pages to paint a picture of the potential Democratic nominee. His prior voting and legislation records have raised more than a few eyebrows of veterans and their supporters — and certainly for good reason.
Painkillers and the Opioid Crisis
As a Senator, Joe Biden found himself holding the pen to paper to create legislation supposedly intended to combat drug use and related violence, but actually having the opposite effect. Biden’s name is on many key pieces of legislation that, rather than combat drug use, actually helped set the stage for overprescription of painkillers, the country’s opioid crisis, and increased drug violence. The legislation supported by Biden had ripple effects during the Obama-Biden years, wreaking havoc on our nation with an increased in drug overdoses and a lack of resources those seeking help to fight addiction,
These Biden-supported pieces of legislation, intended to set a hard line for kingpins and drug dealers, have had devastating effects on the general population. Because of these Obama-Biden policies, an individual previously incarcerated with an opioid addiction was 120 times more likely to die from overdose than the average citizen. With little to no help with addiction treatment and the rampant prescription of these drugs — and subsequent profiting of pharmaceutical companies — set the stage for a dire situation for many veterans.
Tomah VA Medical Center
Take the example of the Tomah VA Medical Center in Wisconsin. Mired in controversy and often used as an example of the failures of the Obama-Biden administration, the Tomah VA Medical Center erupted in scandal in 2014 when veterans began overdosing on prescribed medications. With reform and dedication, and with Obama and Biden out of office, Tomah has been able to turn a corner, participating in alternative therapies and helping veterans reach peace in their minds and bodies without such heavy reliance on prescription drugs and painkillers. This improvement is a solemn reminder that we don’t want to return to those Obama-Biden policies.
Biden presents himself as a staunch supporter of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he claims to be concerned about the medical care our veterans and servicemembers deserve — but this support is limited only to the VA medical centers, and especially to discredited past policies of the old VA bureaucracy.. On a laundry list of initiatives regarding veterans on his website, there is no mention of making private or community healthcare an option for veterans, many of which have sought outside care that is either more quickly available or more effective. This socialized approach to veteran healthcare is alarming — although improving the quality and accessibility of care is helpful and should absolutely be a priority for any administration — as it severely limits the ability of veterans to seek help where they can most easily access it. In addition, leaning on prescriptions for painkillers and other medications was for a long time the default of the old VA bureaucracy, especially under Obama-Biden. Will Biden’s policies on veterans issues continue the recent improvements, including more holistic, complete approaches? Only time will tell, but Biden’s record is a serious red flag.
Under the Obama-Biden administration, soldiers returning home from the Iraq war were immediately met with poor quality care, little access to outside care, and a prescription for painkillers that would wrench them into addiction. All of this has made gaining the support of the veteran vote nothing short of an uphill battle for Biden.
Doing your due diligence and research on any political candidate is important, and this year we’re faced with the always-important task of electing the best presidential leader for our nation. When voting this year, remember our veterans, remember who has done right by them, and remember who has their best future in mind.