Veterans Day is a chance to give thanks to all the men and women who fight tirelessly to keep us free, including the 495,800 veterans in the state of Tennessee. Veterans Day serves as a powerful reminder of how our nation’s liberty and justice has been preserved by the dedication of our armed forces. But this special day also underscores our nation’s commitment to its veterans and their families.
It is my highest duty and privilege to ensure the veterans of the First District of Tennessee are taken care of. As a fellow veteran, I honor the devotion, service and legacy our veterans have instilled on our culture, even as many often regard their own military service with modesty and humility.
Since being elected to Congress, I have worked to make sure we keep the promises we’ve made to our veterans. I’ve proudly served on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee since I was sworn in, so I know firsthand many of the issues facing the veteran community. I’ve made it my mission in Congress to ensure veterans have access to the best health care available, a cost-of-living adjustment and the support systems they need to successfully transition back into civilian life and the workforce after service.
Last October, I was pleased to see the president sign the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011. This legislation authorized major medical facility construction projects to ensure VA medical centers have the resources needed to give veterans quality health care. As you may know, Sevier County now has a new outpatient veterans clinic. This state-of-the-art facility has five exam rooms, a lab and a telehealth exam room where patients can talk with specialists off-site to assist with their unique needs. As a physician, I understand how important access to quality care is, and I am glad to see Sevier County get this clinic to better serve veterans in the First District.
Another important piece of veterans’ legislation is H.R. 4114, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012. This bill would provide a cost-of-living adjustment effective December 1, 2012. This legislation passed the House on July 9, 2012 and awaits further action in the Senate. During these tough economic times, it is imperative our veterans receive cost-of-living adjustments.
We are seeing a new generation of veterans return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), 11% to 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD. Because of this troubling problem, I joined Representative Tim Walz to cofound the Invisible Wounds Caucus, which is dedicated to promoting awareness of— and finding solutions for—the mental health challenges facing service members and their families.
While we have made great strides to give back to our veterans, let us allow this Veterans Day to serve as a reminder that there is still work to be done. Please rest assured I will continue to fight for our veterans each and every day while I am a member of Congress. I thank all our men and women, past and present, that pledged allegiance to this great nation by serving in our armed forces. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your families always, and I am truly and eternally grateful for all you sacrifice.