Happy Veterans Day! This important holiday is a time to honor and celebrate our brave veterans for their commitment and service to our nation. We honor the heroic men and women of the United States military who have put themselves in harm’s way and displayed unparalleled dedication to our freedom. As we remember our veterans, let us also keep in our thoughts and prayers the men and women who are currently serving.
During a recent telephone town hall, I had the privilege of speaking with one of our retired soldiers, a World War II veteran from Monroe. This veteran asked that I never neglect my duty of taking care of our retired war fighters. I told him that taking care of our retired service members and those who have been injured in the line of duty is one of my most sacred responsibilities. Too often in Washington, lawmakers get bogged down with partisan politics and lose sight of one of our most important responsibilities — to take care of those in uniform. I have thought often about this WWII veteran’s request, and I have stood by my promise to protect our veterans.
Last week, I voted for three bills that will ensure our soldiers are cared for once they leave the front line:
· The Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 1742) guarantees our severely disabled veterans have access to affordable housing while maintaining the in-home medical care and assistance that they deserve. This legislation is crucial to reverse a harmful Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy that threatens our severely disabled veterans who have little to no income.
· The Veterans Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 2481) establishes the Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration through the VA, which will administer programs that provide our war heroes educational, job training, job placement and economic assistance. It will help our veterans transition back into civilian life and allows those currently utilizing education programs under the original G.I. Bill to access post 9/11 G.I. benefits without losing eligibility for the original programs.
· The Department of Veterans Affairs Improving Disability Claims bill (H.R. 2189) establishes a specific task force to examine and repair the backlog that currently plagues the Department of Veterans Affairs while modifying several programs to better serve our veterans. I was eager to support and help pass this bill which will improve the processing of disability claims by the VA. News that the department missed its fiscal year 2013 processing goal by nearly 100,000 claims only spurred the need for this important legislation. This is an issue which the VA has allowed to fester for too long, and I am glad to see we are finally making progress on it.
I am proud that the House passed these bills, and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to swiftly pass these needed reforms. It is our duty to care for those who courageously served in our military, and that includes ensuring our veterans can seamlessly transition back into civilian life by providing counseling for trauma, advice on returning to the daily routine of family life, and support in finding meaningful employment outside of the Armed Forces.
Americans everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans, those currently serving, and families of these military men and women for the sacrifices they have made for our country. Each and every day, our soldiers risk their lives, devoting themselves fully to defending the United States in the face of enemy forces. May we always remember and commemorate their valiant sacrifices. I will always fight for our American patriots who dedicate their lives to defend our freedom, secure our homeland, and protect our democracy.