Buttigieg Promises to Appoint First Female VA Secretary If Elected

Steve Marcus/Reuters

2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled a plan Monday that would look to appoint a woman the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the first time if he were elected president.

In his comprehensive veterans plan shared on Monday, Buttigieg said he wants to change the “approach for how we provide veteran health services” by being “laser-focused on the needs of veterans and their families.” In doing so, he’d make sure that the VA “is transparent, innovative, responsive, and easy to access.”

Part of the actions he would take include choosing a woman to be the next VA secretary, as The Associated Press reported.

“I think leadership plays a huge role so absolutely I’d seek to name a woman to lead VA,” Buttigieg told AP, adding, “The president has let veterans down.”

Additionally, Buttigieg wants to name the first woman to be the Department of Defense secretary, if elected president. He says it’s because of the neglect faced by women who are service members or veterans, “including on concerns about sexual harassment and women’s health,” as AP reported.

“The American military represents the best of who we are and what we can be,” Buttigieg wrote on his campaign website.

Buttigieg — who was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve —also wants to ensure universal health care for veterans, as well as take steps in the prevention of veteran suicides through increased spending in veteran suicide prevention and promoting gun safety, according to his plan.

“[I] will confront the high rate of suicide among veterans by addressing unique needs and risk factors: social isolation, limited health care options, and high rates of opioid addiction,” Buttigieg wrote on his campaign website.

Buttigieg wasn’t the only 2020 Democrat unveiling a plan on Veterans Day, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also made promises to those who have served if he is elected president.

On Monday, Sanders — the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman from 2013 to 2015 — vowed in his “Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans” plan to fill 50,000 VA positions, such as doctors, nurses, and medical professionals, in the first year. He would also provide $62 billion in infrastructure funds at the VA.

Like Buttigieg’s plan in addressing veteran suicide, Sanders’ plan includes ending the mental health stigma, as well as expanding VA suicide prevention and mental health services.

“Just as planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, so is taking care of the men and women who we sent off to fight the wars,” Sanders wrote on his campaign website.

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