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Harris releases plan to give VA benefits to veterans with less-than-honorable discharges and reverse military transgender ban

Sen. Kamala Harris

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris released a new plan Saturday that aims to expand Veteran Affairs health care and housing assistance for some veterans and reverse the Trump administration’s ban on transgender recruits joining the military, ahead of a vereran forum Saturday in New Hampshire.

Harris’ proposal to expand heath care and housing assistance, posted to Medium Saturday, would apply to more than 500,000 veterans who have received other-than-honorable discharges for misconduct that was linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

“There is no more solemn duty for a commander-in-chief than taking care of servicemembers, veterans, and their families, and as president, I will commit to expanding access to these benefits to half a million more veterans who don’t have it today,” Harris said in statement Saturday.

Harris’ plan would direct the Department of Defense to review all other-than-honorable discharges for “possible bias.”

Harris pointed to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report that found that 62% of service members who were separated for misconduct over a four-year period had been diagnosed two years prior to their separation with PTSD, TBI or other conditions — and about a quarter of them received less-than-honorable discharges, making them possibly ineligible for VA benefits.

The review would also include checking for service members who are sexual assault survivors and aim to ensure that these veterans aren’t being “inadvertently discharged with bad paper that relates to being a victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment in the ranks.”

Her proposal would create a grant that would provide communities with resources to help get veterans, with VA benefits or not, placed in transitional housing.

Another prong of her plan is to expand access to enlisting in the military by rescinding the Trump administration’s policy banning transgender recruits from joining the military and relaunching a program aimed at recruiting immigrants, including refugees and undocumented immigrants who received Obama-era protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

Drawing on her time as California attorney general, Harris also promises to make sure veterans and their families are “less vulnerable to scams.”

Her plan would devote more resources to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Justice to target scammers, fight for-profit schools and colleges, and direct the Justice Department to create an interagency task force to enforce consumer protection.

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