Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is proposing to institute a wartime tax to help pay for veterans’ health care under a plan he unveiled on Monday.
The plan to improve health care and other services for military veterans also calls for ending the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and using about $200 billion in savings from ending those wars. for veterans’ health services and to help homeless veterans.
He also wants to fill vacant clinical positions in the US Veterans Health Administration system, which he estimates at around 40,000 positions, with a priority on positions dealing with veterans’ mental health, according to the plan.
“Eighteen years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, and nearly three decades after our first engagement in Iraq, the best way to honor the service of our veterans is to cancel the blank check for a war without end – and to reinvest the savings to ensure that every American can prosper on their return home,” O’Rourke said in a statement.
“We must be prepared to pay any price and bear any burden to provide every care, support and resource to every veteran who has served every one of us,” O’Rourke said. .
O’Rourke, the former U.S. congressman who represented El Paso, touted the plan Monday during a roundtable with military veterans and others in Tampa, Florida.
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He is campaigning in Florida ahead of Wednesday’s first Democratic presidential debate in Miami. O’Rourke will be in the first debate with nine other candidates. A second debate with 10 other candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, will take place on Thursday.
O’Rourke often touts his work to help improve health care for veterans in El Paso, particularly mental health services during his six years in Congress. He was a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.
O’Rourke proposes creating a trust fund to help pay for veterans’ health care related to each new war the United States is involved in. The trust funds would be partially funded by a tax on households with no military or veterans.
“This modest tax would be implemented on a phased basis, with taxpayers earning more than $200,000 a year (adjusted gross income) paying $1,000 in new tax for each war,” O’Rourke’s plan says.
The plan also calls on Congress to double funding for research into Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias at the National Institutes of Health to $5 billion to help veterans with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2020, nearly 420,000 veterans are expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to O’Rourke.
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The plan also calls on the Department of Defense to create “reverse boot camps” to help those leaving the military prepare for civilian life.
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