“On Veterans Day, Americans across the nation salute the brave men and women who have served this country to protect our freedom and democracy. On distant battlefields that span the globe, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have fought and died in the name of liberty, and today, our nation honors their sacrifice and remembers that the reason our country is a safe place is because of our veterans.
In the words of our first President, George Washington, ‘the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.’
When I was first elected to Congress, I requested to be a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. And today, as the Ranking Democratic Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am working hard to make sure that the VA provides the best care possible for our nation’s service members returning from overseas, and am committed to assist the VA with their critical mission of serving our veterans. VA has served the special needs of returning veterans for over 85 years and has expertise in their unique healthcare needs, including prosthetics, traumatic brain injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), and a host of other veterans’ specific injuries. My focus continues to be on ensuring that the VA retains the ultimate responsibility for the healthcare our veterans receive, regardless of the provider.
Since the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act last year, the available care that veterans receive has increased. In fact, the timeliness of care at the VA has improved so much that veterans are now making the VA their first choice for care.
The Choice Act is designed to make sure that veterans have options for care. The Program will provide Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care with a Veterans Choice Card, and allow those Veterans who are unable to schedule an appointment within 30 days of their preferred date (or the clinically appropriate date or residence basis) to elect to receive care from eligible non-VA health care entities or providers. We agree that the Veterans Health System provides the best care for our nation’s veterans and we need to continue to work to provide options for them.
One of the most pressing items for me when I took over the Ranking Member position was to address the problem of homeless veterans. As President Obama has said, ‘too many of those who once wore our nation's uniform now sleep in our nation’s streets…until we reach a day when not a single veteran sleeps on our nation’s streets, our work remains unfinished.’ And by means of federal and local stakeholders partnering together, VA has greatly increased access to permanent housing, as well as a range of health care and specialty care services for homeless and at risk for homeless veterans and their families.
As the Committee Ranking Member, I will continue to champion the rights of all veterans by working with my colleagues on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to increase funding for veterans’ health care programs, speed up claims processing, fight on behalf of women and homeless veterans, and ensure that our nation’s veterans receive the funding for college education and the necessary training to succeed after their military service ends.
On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind, and that Congress ‘Soldier Up’ and take care of our veterans. This Veterans Day and every day, let us honor their service with actions that fulfill our commitment to our troops, their families, and our veterans – and that are worthy of our grateful nation.”