In President Biden’s State of the Union address in early March, he announced that his administration was expanding benefit eligibility for veterans suffering from lung cancer. He talked about the toxic smoke that spewed from pits used to burn waste on military bases – smoke, Biden said, that may have caused brain cancer in his son Beau, who served in the Army and died in 2015.
The President also called on Congress to pass legislation that would ensure that veterans who had been exposed to toxins during their service could get the treatment that they needed. Later in the week, the House passed a bill that does exactly this. A similar bill is being considered in the Senate.
Biden’s remarks have only underscored the importance of taking care of those who served our nation. A number of candidates across the country have strong pro-veteran stances. Some are veterans themselves but others are not.
Today, we will look at five candidates running in competitive and consequential races who have strong, pro-veteran platforms.
In the Senate, Democrat Mark Kelly from Arizona is looking to be reelected after winning in a special election in 2020 to fill the seat left empty by the passing of Republican John McCain. A graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, Kelly served as a Navy fighter pilot and NASA astronaut. Arizona is home to seven military bases and more than half a million vets. In the Senate, Kelly has been a champion for veterans, sponsoring the VA Quality Care Accountability and Transparency Act and introducing the Brandon Act, which protects service members who seek out mental health support.
Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock was one of two Democrats elected to the Senate from Georgia during the state’s fiercely contested races of 2020. Once elected, he quickly got to work on behalf of veterans. He created legislation, and successfully pushed it through, for a study on “disparities associated with race and ethnicity with respect to certain benefits administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.” The study will serve as a starting point for legislation that would address those racial disparities.
Also in Georgia, Republican incumbent Brian Kemp is seeking reelection as governor. In January, he proposed the Career Military Retirement Income Tax Exclusion Act, which would grant active and retired service members a $17,500 tax exemption. Kemp’s goal is to ultimately eliminate the state income tax on military retirement income. Additionally, he wants to open Veterans Career Transition Resource Center (VECTR) satellite services at all 22 Technical College System of Georgia campuses. He also wants to create a senior level position within the Governor’s Office focused on Georgia’s nine military installations and the communities surrounding them.
In the House, Republican challenger Zach Nunn is looking to unseat the first-term Democrat incumbent, Cynthia Axne, who represents Iowa’s 3rd District in the House. Nunn is currently a State Senator in Iowa. He was a combat aviator in the Air Force, serving three tours of duty in the Middle East. He then served on the White House’s National Security Council, focusing on cyber-attacks from abroad, and later he commanded expeditionary forces under the Trump administration. He currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Air National Guard. Nunn’s service in keeping our country safe is a key part of what he believes makes him the right person to represent the people of Iowa. He says, “In Washington, I will advocate for policies that not only adequately fund our military but prioritize our veterans, active military and families, and mental health.”
There is a lot at stake in these 2022 midterm elections. Although Democrats hold a majority in both houses of Congress, these majorities are slim. The outcomes of a handful of elections could tip the balance of power in Washington. Races are no less tight at the state level. What is clear is the importance of veterans in these races. Not only are vets voters, but candidates with pro-veteran platforms demonstrate that they understand the debt owed to those who served.
Image Credit: Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash