Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders announced a $62 billion plan Monday to expand and modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sanders said his goal is to ensure all military veterans have access to full healthcare services. His plan would expand access to mental health and suicide prevention services and increase support for widows and children. Veterans with certain disabilities would also get increased care.
As former chair and a longtime member of the Senate veterans affairs committee, Sanders has spearheaded bipartisan initiatives to improve conditions at the department -- including co-authoring a bill with late Sen. John McCain that authorized 27 new medical facilities and $5 billion for staff.
"As a nation, we have a moral obligation to provide the best quality care to those who put their lives on the line to defend us," Sanders says in his plan, titled "Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans."
"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 said doesn't want to privatize the VA Department, noting that private providers are "unprepared and often uninterested in caring for the unique needs of veterans."
The Vermont senator says lawmakers and President Donald Trump have broken promises to veterans.
"We have a political process that rewards large defense contractors with wealthy CEOs and high-paid lobbyists, leaving hard-working patriotic veterans and service members to fight for their benefits long after they finished fighting for our country," Sanders said.
Sanders said he plans to fill nearly 50,000 vacancies at VA facilities nationwide, including more physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.