Weekly Columns

Honoring Our Troops & Veterans

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Washington, October 12, 2011 | comments

The war in Afghanistan hit the ten-year anniversary mark on Friday, as I journeyed to Afghanistan for a healthcare-focused Congressional Delegation to visit our troops and observe the conditions at the medical facilities.  Ten years later, there is a lot of debate about the goals of this war as well as how long we should be there, but one thing is clear – we must ensure our troops are being taken care of and that they return home safely. 

Our service members who are fighting on the front lines to protect this nation deserve our utmost respect and thanks. I wholeheartedly support our troops, and I appreciate the work they’re doing around the world, especially in Afghanistan. As a veteran and a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am fully committed to ensuring those who serve in the military receive the quality care they deserve. I honor the devotion, service and legacy our service members have instilled in America.

While in Afghanistan, I was able to visit medical treatment facilities for our troops in the field, and I had the opportunity to observe how we can better serve our wounded warriors who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other traumatic brain injuries. Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country each year, twenty percent of them are acts by veterans. As co-founder of the Invisible Wounds Caucus, it is my commitment to work with the VA to ensure our wounded soldiers are provided the necessary mental health care and support system they need.

I will continue to support legislation to better the health and the well being of our service members. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will pass important legislation to spur economic growth within the veterans’ community. The bipartisan Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses veteran unemployment. 

Specifically, the VOW Act includes four important elements to care for veterans: (1) aids in the transition process when service members are discharged and seeking a job; (2) provides education and training for our veterans; (3) strengthens the protections provided by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) so those who serve in the National Guard will be reemployed upon return; (4) and works with the Department of Labor to identify roadblocks our veterans are facing while seeking to obtain employment.

Many of our veterans who suffer from a disability due to military service are still struggling to get their claims processed in a timely and efficient manner.  It is evident we need to improve the system. That is why I am pleased to support the Veterans' Benefits Training Improvement Act, which will improve processing for compensation and pension benefit claims. The bill creates an individualized training program for all employees and managers who process or supervise the processing of disability claims.  A test will also be administered to employees to determine where the greatest deficiencies are in the program or the need for improvement.  The bill is expected to pass this week with bipartisan support.  

With the recent threat of a new terrorist attack in America, we must remember the sacrifices our military makes to keep this country safe.  Whether they are currently fighting on the front lines, or a retired veteran, this country has a responsibility to care for our nation’s heroes. I will continue support our veterans through passage of important legislation that creates jobs, provides the benefits they need, and improves their quality of life.

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