The Marine Corp veteran said his plan would support unemployment, education and housing for service members transitioning out of the military.
Democratic candidate for Congress Sean Barney announced his veterans plan Thursday, and shared his personal story about fighting for his life while in combat.
On the 10-year anniversary of his “Alive Day,” Barney, a former Marine, spoke in Rodney Square in Wilmington alongside his former platoon members who helped save his life after he was shot in the neck while in combat in Iraq.
“I’m here because of what others did on the ground there, and in the care I received when I got home, and in the investment in my potential the Veterans Administration made,” he said.
“I feel strongly we need to do that for all of our veterans and I feel we’re not approaching that with the same urgency here at home that my fellow marines did saving my life on the ground in Fallujah.”
Barney is one of four Democrats currently on the ballot in Delaware’s congressional race in addition to two Republicans in the race.
He is a Marine Corp Veteran who has been honored with a Purple Heart. Following his stint in the military Barney was the president of a venture capital firm and a policy director for Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware.
He said if elected he will meet the health care needs of veterans and support unemployment, education and housing for service members transitioning out of the military.
Barney said he believes his experience in the military qualifies him for the position because he has firsthand knowledge of war and how it effects those returning home. He said he lost several friends in Fallujah, and the city now is in the hands of the terrorist group known as ISIS because the U.S. didn’t have a set plan for the aftermath of war.
“Too often we see war and think it’s a video game and don’t understand the true consequences, and we owe it to our men and women to ensure we know what we’re doing and have a clear strategy for success,” Barney said.
He said one of the top issues facing veterans is access to health care. Veterans who live downstate are currently forced to drive two or more hours to northern Delaware for routine medical appointments because there aren’t enough health care options in their area, Barney said.
He said he would work to build veteran’s medical centers in remote areas, and help veterans who need specialists find private or non-profit health providers outside the VA hospital system.
“When people are really struggling with serious health issues to ask they get themselves two hours each way for a relatively short appointment is just wrong,” Barney said. “We need to invest in the resources in those communities to make sure the care is there for those who need it.”
He also said the VA should ensure veterans are receiving adequate post-traumatic stress disorder care. Barney said he pledges to address the issue of suicide among veterans, ensuring there are services to those struggling with depression and those who have attempted suicide.
“Of the 22 veterans who commit suicide today 17 of them are not in connection with the VA. They’re not receiving the treatment they need,” he said. “That’s the responsibility of the VA and the government to reach out to those veterans at greatest risk of the invisible wounds of war.”
Juan Angel Ocampos, one of the veterans who helped save Barney’s life, said he lost one of his best friends to suicide. He said he believes it could have been prevented if there was better access to care.
“We’ve got the big suicide rate, it’s an epidemic and that needs to be handled now as opposed to keep letting it happen day by day,” Ocampos said. “I don’t want to lose another one of my brothers because he felt he didn’t have the right care or felt there was nobody there for them.”
Barney also said he wants to expand educational programs so soldiers can participate in them earlier, giving them an opportunity to get a head start on their career. He also pledges to support the GI Bill, and urges Congress to close the “90/10 loophole” that he said allows schools to exclude GI bill funds from the cap on federal payments as a share of revenues.
“If we can help veterans contribute when they come home they’re likely to transition successfully, they’re likely to feel they have a place here and their value is recognized, and historically that’s been a focus of the GI bill,” Barney said.
“But I’m concerned we’re already talking about cutting some of those benefits because the wars have been removed from the front pages. But these wars have long tails, the consequences, the human costs of war, are going to be with us for decades to come.”
Lino Torres, another former member of Barney’s platoon in attendance Thursday, said he remembers when Barney was shot he moved himself out of harm’s way so the other soldiers would not risk their lives when trying to save him. He said he believes qualities like that make him the best candidate for Congress.
“He cares about people, he obviously cares about his country, and he puts others before himself and you don’t see that too often,” Torres said.
“He knows what we go through and he knows the things we see and he knows how it feels when we come back.”