Political divisions have created a distrust between veterans and elected officials

Political divisions have created a distrust between veterans and elected officials
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Extreme partisanship has hit an all-time high in today’s political arena, to the degree that even veterans are being harmed due to the state of political life in Washington, D.C.

It seems that we as a democratic society are either so right or so left that we can’t “agree to disagree” and nothing gets done. It is easier for people to vote along party lines without the merits or faults of a piece of legislation being debated.

This has set the mold for our current struggle. It is directly affecting our veterans and VA Hospitals where reform is needed to create ease of access to proper and timely health care.


Divisions along party lines, ignoring vital issues and personal beefs between the legislative and executive branch has created a distrust between veterans and our elected officials. The recent nomination — which he has now withdrawn from — of Admiral Ronny Jackson should have focused on his abilities to run and manage the VA, after 20 years of helping veterans as a doctor including a tour in Iraq and serving the health needs of three presidents.

Instead, political and media organizations redirected the conversation with accusations that didn’t pertain to the Jackson’s stability to be an effective leader in the VA. Those involved, intentionally pursued a coordinated campaign not to determine qualifications but instead to deny a “political win” by either party or either branch. Philosophy and practicality are blurred together when an issue is brought in to the political arena. Innovative ideas and leadership is needed now.   

Congress and the White House need to look no further than the American citizenship that has stepped up to fill the void created by inaction in Washington, D.C. A good example is the organization With Honor.  

This group was formed by and is administered by veterans with the mission of getting fellow veterans elected to public office across the land. One of the conditions these veteran candidates must commit to — prior to receiving advisory and financial support — is to work with all political parties by meeting with someone from across the aisle at least once a month and co-author with opposite party on at least one major piece of legislation every year.

Veterans serving in Congress is at an all-time low of 19 percent (in the 1970’s, veterans comprised 70-80 percent of the 435 members of the House of Representatives).

Perhaps by increasing this number again we will also increase the quality of our VA Healthcare system and overall benefit needed benefits. This criteria and practical experience will equip these leaders with the experience, political negotiation skills and diplomatic acumen to change this dynamic.

We need veterans to run for local, state and federal office. The only way to change the conversation is to get veterans into leadership positions and bring their experience to the table. In the meantime, we call on elected officials and policy makers in Washington to ask themselves: “Is their daily task list designed to improve lives for our veterans, or make their own personal political situation better?”

Veterans should more actively attempt to run for elected office and the public should support them to that end.

Jason E. Johns is a Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq with the U.S. Army. He is the president of N.M.L.B. Veterans Advocacy Group and practices veterans’ disability and compensation appeals law in front of the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals and U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Christopher Neiweem is an Iraq War veteran and former U.S. Army Military Police Sergeant, media analyst and CEO of the Neiweem Group. Dustin Tinsley served with the U.S. Army in Iraq and is a a veteran legislative advocate and research analyst at N.M.L.B. Veterans Advocacy Group.