Honoring & Serving Our Veterans
I want to begin this week’s column by continuing to send my thoughts and prayers to the people of Belgium after the senseless attacks in Brussels this week. Make no mistake, the Western world is at war with ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism. The United States must stand with our allies and work together to eliminate this evil from the world, and I will continue to press the administration for a concrete and strategic plan to defeat ISIS.
On Tuesday, I participated in a House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee hearing examining the Choice Program and how the VA can leverage provider networks to increase veterans’ access to health services. In this hearing we heard from the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care and the Deputy Chief Business Officer for Purchased Care at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) who assured the subcommittee that the VA is working directly with patient care providers to make sure they are included in the VA’s network so they can be compensated for seeing veteran patients. I’ve heard from veterans across East Tennessee about the problems they’ve had receiving care through the Choice program, and I believe it’s imperative we continue pressing VA officials to explain how we can make this program simpler and more effective for veterans. Rest assured I won’t be satisfied until veterans have a smooth and seamless process to be seen by a doctor outside the VA when long wait times prevent timely access to care within the VA system.
On Friday, I’m honored to be speaking at the Welcome Home Ceremony at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home. This special event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and finally give the men and women who served their country during the U.S. involvement in Vietnam the recognition and honor they deserve. Roughly nine million Americans, more than seven million of whom are still living, served their country during the 20-year period the U.S. was involved with the conflict in Vietnam.
Unfortunately, many of those brave men and women were treated poorly when they returned home to the United States. This abysmal treatment of our returning heroes must never happen again, and as long as I serve in Congress I will fight to ensure returning veterans and active duty servicemembers receive the heroes’ welcome they deserve. I’m glad the VA is holding these important ceremonies around the country, and I look forward to honoring these special veterans.
I am a Vietnam-era veteran who served at the DMZ. About four years ago I had the opportunity to return to South Korea and visit the DMZ. When I left the country, South Korea was economically-distressed and war-torn, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we made a difference. I know too often many veterans from my generation ask themselves if their sacrifice was worth it – if it benefited the countries where we were stationed. When I returned to South Korea I was proud to see a thriving economy made possible because of America’s stand against communism. What touched me most was to see crosses on hillsides and to learn that there is a thriving Christian community in South Korea – a community that can only exist because of hard-fought freedom. Seeing the work the United States was able to do in South Korea really opened my eyes to see that the work our generation did abroad is still helping these countries build a better life for themselves and for future generations. I was lucky to get that perspective that many of my fellow veterans won’t have the opportunity to get, and even luckier to return home to my family after my service ended.
I’m thankful each and every day for our veterans and active duty servicemembers, and I know it is my duty in Congress to honor their service and sacrifice by ensuring these brave men and women have everything they need while they serve and after they return home. I’ll never stand for our veterans to be treated the way our Vietnam veterans were treated, and I’m glad the VA is giving these veterans the long overdue recognition they deserve.Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.