DERRY, N.H. — When Fred Walsh brought his fiancée home after his tour of duty, his mother told her, “I wish you met him before Vietnam.”
Walsh, 68, who said he returned from Vietnam with a “bad temper,” told his emotional story Tuesday to Hillary Clinton at a presidential campaign stop at the Derry VFW Post, where the former US secretary of state proposed a new plan intended to cut down wait times for veterans to get health care services and create better accountability for those working inside the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
At Tuesday’s forum, organized by the Truman National Security Project, Clinton began her answer to a question on the US Department of Veterans Affairs by praising its secretary, Robert McDonald.
He is “doing a great job,” she said.
But then she told the more than 100 people gathered at a veterans’ roundtable that “there is a lot more that needs to be done to transform the Veterans Health Administration from just a provider of services into a truly integrated healthcare system.”
This plan resonated with Amy Sauber, 29, of Dover, who said improving the quality of care is vital, “especially in New Hampshire, because there is no VA hospital.”
Clinton noted that the Granite State is the “only state in lower 48 without a Veterans’ hospital.”
Walsh, the Vietnam veteran, also spoke of the importance of “a full medical VA hospital in New Hampshire.”
He said it’s time for action and not just words. “The Republicans say, ‘You’re a hero,’” the Londonderry resident said. “But that doesn’t mean anything.”
“Words are cheap,” Clinton responded.
She, also said she will “fight as long and hard that it takes to prevent Republicans from privatizing” veterans’ health care.
Among the highlights of Clinton’s proposal are:
• Improve medical and counseling services to veterans suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems “whenever and wherever they’re needed.”
• Continue the post-9-11 GI Bill, which Clinton cosponsored when she was a US senator from New York, for “future generations.” This bill was designed to pay for the education of service men and women who served for more than 90 days after September 10, 2001.
• Do more to help the families of those serving. “Service and sacrifice on the home front rarely gets the respect and recognition it deserves,” Clinton said. She supports extending childcare for military families and granting access for families to mental health and substance abuse services.
US Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s main opponent in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, has served as the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. In that capacity, he has had a history of compromising with some Republicans on veterans’ issues.
Sanders worked with US Senator John McCain on a law in 2014 that gave veterans a private-care option. He did this after news broke of 40 veterans in Phoenix dying after being put on a wait list to receive care.
He has also called for more reform in regards to the healthcare of veterans.
Clinton leads Sanders by 3 points, 48 to 45, according to the most recent poll by Monmouth University Polling Institute in New Jersey.
Robert Way can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.