We owe a debt of gratitude to the Americans who served in the Armed Forces. The men and women who fought to defend our freedom have earned a place of honor and respect. Just as we must ensure service members have everything they need to complete their mission, we also must provide the care and benefits they have earned when they come home.
As a veteran with a strong military tradition in my family, I understand the importance of this promise and will work to see it fulfilled in Congress. Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan now benefit from an improved 21st century GI Bill that builds upon the successful program put into place after World War II, as well as programs to combat PTSD and TBI and to help pair the skills of returning service members with good-paying jobs here at home.
Despite great improvements in these programs in recent years, veteran homelessness and unemployment continue to outpace the national average. Clearly, returning service members face unique challenges that we have not fully addressed.
Creating an environment that fosters an easy return to civilian life will take creative thinking and bi-partisan support. To reduce the paperwork burden service members face when transitioning out of the military, I have introduced legislation to automatically enroll members of the military with the Veterans Administration when they leave the service. I have also supported legislation to help Guard and Reserve component members receive full credit for their active duty deployments, and a bill to expand Agent Orange considerations for “blue water” sailors of the Vietnam era.
On a broader scale, bureaucratic delays within the VA are out of control. While I believe the VA should have everything it needs to provide timely service to America’s veterans, it is incumbent upon them to fundamentally change the way they do business. It is my hope that Congress will take on this issue to ensure that veterans have access to the benefits they have earned in a reasonable amount of time.
I am deeply committed to ensuring those who serve are fully honored and supported for their service, and will continue working across the aisle to see that done.