November 10, 2015 | Commentary

Washington, D.C. politicians have failed the men & women of America’s Armed Forces

The men and women of our country’s Armed Forces, past and present, merit the deepest of gratitude for keeping the United States safe and protecting our freedom.

In return, America’s active duty military and veterans deserve national leaders who will wage war in the legislative arena to protect them and their families. Sadly, Washington, D.C. politicians and bureaucrats have failed, and miserably so, in critical areas.

In the sense that both Republican and Democrat leaders are at fault, this is not a partisan issue. Fact is, America’s veterans and military personnel are worse off today than when the current crop of national politicians were first elected (and that includes my opponent, Rep. Tim Walz, who has been in Congress since 2007).

To properly support the men and women of our military, active duty and retired, we must defeat the status quo. If elected to Congress, I will champion five bold solutions that have been overlooked or blocked by my opponent and the Washington establishment.

Give Veterans Complete Medical Care Choice –

A recent Veterans Affairs Inspector General report concluded that 307,000 veterans may have died waiting for medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Meanwhile, VA mismanagement has created a backlog of 900,000 veterans who are being forced to wait 6-12 months to receive claims adjudication and benefits.

Think about that, since World War II our own government has likely contributed to the deaths of more veterans than the enemy. Without question, the VA has become increasingly bloated, dysfunctional and unmanageable. The current plight of America’s veterans is a national disgrace.

I support legislation to empower veterans to choose their own doctors and receive medical and psychological care whenever and wherever they see fit. This solution can be delivered through a combination of vouchers, tax credits, Health Savings Accounts and by opening the Federal Employees Health Insurance Program to veterans and their families. At the very least, veterans deserve the same level of timely, quality medical care as members of Congress. It’s that simple.

Hold VA and Federal Employees Accountable –

The VA has been plagued with numerous scandals involving rogue employees who illegally denied veterans medical care and workers who simply performed incompetently. Tragically, many veterans have died waiting for VA appointments and treatments; yet, few, if any, government workers have been fired or demoted.

I strongly support legislation to reform the federal personnel system to facilitate the swift demotion or termination of public sector workers who abuse veterans, grossly waste taxpayer dollars or fail to cooperate with federal and congressional investigators. Veterans, along with all Americans, deserve accountability from elected officials and federal agencies.

Reform the Pentagon and Protect Military Pay and Benefits –

Defending our nation is the most important responsibility of the U.S. government. Unfortunately, the Department of Defense is wasting tens of billions of dollars every year – taxpayer money that should be spent more productively or used to reduce the skyrocketing national debt.

I support top-to-bottom reform of all federal agencies, starting with the Department of Defense. We can reduce annual Pentagon expenditures by at least $50 billion, while protecting the pay and benefits of our soldiers and maintaining critical weapons systems and investments in technology.

Changing the spending culture in Washington, D.C. requires hard work, perseverance and courage; but, as someone who reformed and down-sized a federal agency, I can attest that creating efficiencies and cutting spending is possible with strong leadership.

Relax Restrictive Rules of Engagement –

It’s time to end the practice of ordering U.S. soldiers into battle with, effectively, one arm tied behind their backs. The Rules of Engagement stipulated by the Bush and Obama administrations are absurd, and have led to unnecessary deaths and serious injuries.

Excessively restrictive Rules of Engagement force troops to hesitate when engaging the enemy, mostly due to fear of prosecution for making a mistake. As one U.S. soldier forcefully explained:

The last thing a war fighter should ever be forced to experience is unnecessary fear. Fear creates hesitation. Hesitation creates flag-draped caskets. Flag-draped caskets create fatherless children and widowed spouses. Our heroes deserve the right to fight with swift hands, clear minds, and confident hearts.

Here, here! From this point forward, whenever our government sends U.S. forces into combat we must give our warriors every chance to achieve swift and clear victory and return home safe.

End Gun-Free Zones on U.S. Military Bases and Recruiting Centers

Over the past decade scores of military and civilian personnel have been murdered and wounded on U.S. military installations that prohibited active duty soldiers from carrying firearms in so called Gun-Free Zones. In spite of these devastating attacks, the Washington politicians have failed to address the problem.

I support congressional action to prohibit the Pentagon from designating U.S. military installations, recruiting centers and other offices as Gun-Free Zones. It is ridiculous that highly-trained and responsible military men and women are prohibited from exercising their 2nd Amendment Right to defend themselves with a firearm.

These five reforms will go a long way in honoring America’s veterans and supporting our active duty military. Let us never forget their sacrifice and valor and vow to boldly support our military heroes and their families.

The author is a Republican candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s First Congressional District.