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A Fundamental Commitment to Our Veterans

November 13, 2017
Weekly Columns
For nearly a century, our nation has dedicated the eleventh day of the eleventh month as the day to honor and appreciate our veterans. What began as “Armistice Day,” in 1919 to commemorate the soldiers that fought in World War I, has evolved to reflect the multiple battles and wars over the course of American history. But we should give gratitude to our veterans every day. As a nation, we are fortunate to have the world’s strongest and most capable military forces. It is imperative that we remain committed to caring for our men and women in uniform years after their service. However, it is no secret that in recent years, many veterans have experienced hardships and challenges when trying to receive the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice.
Fixing the issues that veterans face begins with Congress. It is a fundamental responsibility for Congress to address the problems that plague the Veterans' Administration and to take swift legislative action. From keeping our Veterans' Affairs hospitals accountable, to protecting whistleblowers, as well as ensuring the education and health benefits are afforded to those who need it, the House has passed over fifty pieces of legislation directed towards veterans this year alone. Some have become law. Others await action in the Senate.
In this year’s Veterans' Affairs Appropriations measure, the House Appropriations Committee worked to ensure that full funding was allotted to the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA). We were able to fulfill that promise by funding the VA at the President’s full request of $73.8 billion, which is a $5 billion increase from the previous fiscal year. That money will support medical care for seven million VA patients. It funds services like mental health care, suicide prevention, traumatic brain injury treatment, homeless veteran programs and more. Certainly, supporting our veterans is a bipartisan, bicameral effort, which has been key to passing such comprehensive and successful legislation.
Congress is fortunate to have a supportive, working relationship with President Trump’s Administration when it comes to improving the lives of our veterans. President Trump campaigned on the promise to rebuild our military and to put our veterans first. He has kept these promises. The President has recognized the challenges that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has faced and is committed to making critical reforms to the healthcare and administrative systems. And the President has already signed into law numerous pieces of legislation to expand opportunities for veterans that include programs like the post-9/11 GI Bill which provides educational assistance for veterans and their families. Previously, it was a benefit that could only be used for 15 years. Now, it can be used for life. I envision that under the Trump Administration, the federal government will be very successful in reforming the VA system and in improving the lives of our veterans and their families.
America’s military has grown over the past century, and has adapted to numerous changes as missions evolved. When we look at our military today, it is a strong and robust force that has been engaged in war for almost two decades. But what remains the same for each generation of soldiers is the oath that they voluntarily take – to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. For their selfless sacrifices and service, we are eternally grateful. And it is our solemn obligation to fulfill the commitments our country made in return for their service.