Why veterans should support Marco Rubio
© Lauren Schneiderman

Veterans have already devoted part of our lives to keeping our country safe. In the days ahead, we have another crucial opportunity to protect America.

I know what it means to stand on the front line for freedom. And I also know how essential it is that we fulfill another duty: exercising our right to vote. Sadly, in the last election, the U.S. Census found that nearly one-fifth of all veterans stayed home and didn’t vote. If we want to continue to serve our country, we can’t neglect this important duty.

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What’s at stake in this election? Long-overdue reform at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the future of free speech, and our nation’s long term economic health, just to name a few.

Veterans’ health and well-being are also on the line, particularly in Florida. Of the over 1.5 million veterans living in the Sunshine State, over 40 percent depend on the VA as their primary health care provider. Yet veterans are intimately familiar with how dangerously unreliable and unaccountable the VA has been in recent years.

It seems like a new example of the VA’s failings comes to light every week. In 2014 reports revealed that nearly 300 veterans died after the VA placed patients on secret wait-lists, indefinitely deferring care for many until it was too late. That was by far the most egregious and damning example.

VA facilities in Florida have problems of their own. Thousands of appointments for health care at Florida VA hospitals and clinics come with one month-long wait times, or longer. For veterans who need immediate attention or preventive care, this is a serious health hazard.

Veterans are also affected by the spending addiction of elected officials. We are currently $19 trillion in debt — up nearly $14 trillion in only 15 years. This is our biggest national security risk, according to former high-ranking national security officials, including Secretaries of Defense and former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This crisis is already weakening our economy and our ability to fund our military and protect America. As it grows worse, it will become harder and harder to keep our country safe.

Issues like these are just a few of the reasons why veterans must be active in civic life. No matter how frustrating politics may seem, the choices we make define the trajectory of our country.

And in Florida, veterans are uniquely empowered to change the course of our future. Regardless of our political beliefs or personal preferences, all of us share the values of duty, honor, and love of country. If veterans unite and take a stand, we can be a powerful force, helping to ensure that our children’s future is brighter than our own — as has always been the American Dream.

One key election this cycle that deserves our attention is the one for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida. I believe that the leader best positioned to rein in government spending, reform the VA, and protect our national security is Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioJudd Gregg: Two ideas whose time has not come Nikki Haley: New York Times ‘knew the facts’ about curtains and still released story March For Our Lives founder leaves group, says he regrets trying to 'embarrass' Rubio MORE. He is a proven advocate for veterans. 

Sen. Rubio has been one of the most highly-engaged lawmakers when it comes to proposing solutions to reform and fix the VA.

When other politicians were denying that there were any problems at the VA at all or downplaying the need for reform, Sen. Rubio introduced and helped pass the VA Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, a piece of legislation designed to improve discipline and professionalism among the VA’s staff and which introduced more health care freedom for many veterans.

This is no small feat in this era of gridlock and divided government. Veterans can always trust Marco Rubio is fighting for us.

No matter what election it is, veterans can’t afford to stay home in November. We fought for America and everything that it stands for. Our country is still depending on us.

Echeverri is the Florida State Director for Concerned Veterans for America. A veteran of the Army, Mr. Echeverri served in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004.


 

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