Our nation’s military veterans, having served their nation with honor and distinction, have made great sacrifices in defense of the United States and our freedoms. Their commitment to this nation is steadfast.
However, based on recent polling commissioned by Concerned Veterans for America, those same veterans are growing anxious about the direction that Washington is leading our nation. These findings should be a wake-up call to our nation’s leaders.
From March 8 to March 16, the Tarrance Group surveyed veterans on the leading issues of the day. The most arresting revelation is that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of veterans say the United States is “on the wrong track.” That’s significantly higher than other polls; a recent CBS News poll, for instance, found 61 percent of Americans think the nation is on the wrong track.
Likewise, veterans have lost confidence in President Obama’s leadership: 66 percent said they disapprove of his handling of his job. That may in part reflect veterans’ strong concern about the $17.5 trillion national debt, which has grown rapidly under the current administration. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of our poll respondents agreed that the debt is now the top threat to our nation’s security.
Digging more deeply into specific issues, we found that veterans are increasingly troubled by aspects of the president’s management of domestic affairs. Interestingly, only 2 percent of today’s veterans ranked foreign affairs as a top priority, suggesting a dramatic shift from just a few years ago.
On health care, for example, 63 percent of veterans disapprove of the Obama administration’s controversial health care law, with 46 percent thinking it will lead to worse health care than what is currently offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Not all veterans receive their health care through the VA, of course, but large numbers are aware of the department’s subpar performance in recent years. Two-thirds of poll respondents (66 percent) said they were aware of the long backlog of disability and compensation claims at the VA, which still stands at more than 403,000 claims.
A solid majority (60 percent) of those veterans who had personally experienced the backlog reported waiting at least seven months for processing, with more than a third waiting more than a year. These veterans see the long wait times, lack of choice and unreliable care from VA facilities, and no doubt imagine that to be the future of Obamacare.
Overall, the poll findings point toward a veterans population that is increasingly losing confidence in Washington’s ability to govern. The question is, with closely watched midterm elections a little more than six months away, are the two major political parties speaking to these concerns? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Republicans appear to be running on an “anything but Obama” platform. Meanwhile, the president and his fellow Democrats are opting for a barrage of substance-free, divisive, slash-and-burn political ploys, with the singular goal of protecting their Senate majority.
Unsurprisingly, neither of these cynical approaches reflects a clear governing agenda, and neither speaks to the real concerns that veterans and other voters have about the direction of our country.
The overall thrust of the poll findings is that veterans are experiencing a collapse of confidence in the nation’s leadership. As a military veteran myself, I find that to be a troubling trend because I suspect these veterans could be the leading edge of public opinion.
It’s incumbent upon our leaders in Washington to restore public confidence in their ability to govern wisely and effectively. Listening to what our veterans have to say about the state of our nation today would be a good place to start.
Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom. He is an infantry officer in the Army National Guard and has served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.