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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Protecting Those Who Have Protected Us

November 10, 2016
Weekly Columns

One of our most sacred, if not the most sacred American holiday is Veteran’s Day – the day we honor those who have served to protect our nation, and especially those who have paid the ultimate price to defend and preserve our freedoms. Veteran's Day began as “Armistice Day” in 1919. For decades it has drawn crowds to the many military memorials scattered across our nation. In a time of division and acrimony in our nation’s political discourse, I believe that there is one unifying sentiment that will always endure – the determination to honor and support our the men and women who have fought to defend our country and protect our liberty.

Our nation has experienced danger and threats throughout its history. Many wars have been fought, and sadly, many lives have been lost in the defense of freedom. In recent years Americans have witnessed a challenging security environment. At the same time, the federal government has fallen short in keeping its commitments to many of our twenty five million veterans. With growing threats around the world, reductions in our defense budget, and detrimental problems with our Veterans Affairs agency, Congress and the next administration face the task of repairing the broken parts of our military establishment and our veteran's services.

I consider it a privilege and an honor to have two important military bases in my district. Fort Sill Army Post is home to the United States Army Field Artillery School, and Tinker Air Force Base is the most important maintenance and repair air depot in the world. Meeting with many leaders and members of these military installations has given me an in-depth perspective and insight on the issues and needs our military face. Providing substantial assistance to our men and women in uniform, both retired and currently serving, is the highest priority in my daily work.

Congress has made substantial strides in ensuring that our veterans are well taken care of, and that any pressing concerns are swiftly fixed. We have introduced many pieces of legislation that will help ease the accessibility for veterans to obtain care, and have just recently passed full funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs for Fiscal Year 2017. Even more, House Leadership has introduced H.R. 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, authored by Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This legislation both ensures employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs can be fired or demoted for misconduct or poor performance and also modernizes the disability appeals process to reduce the unacceptable backlog of claims. It awaits consideration on the House floor, but in the midst of partisan times in our politics, surely we can all agree that everyone can support putting our veterans first. Just as our soldiers never leave their colleagues behind, we in our government can never leave them behind either. It is our duty to protect those who protect us.

The men and women who have taken the oath to serve and protect our nation are the heroes of the American people. They’re never forgotten, nor are they neglected. We can never thank our veterans enough for what they have done to keep the United States the greatest and freest country on this Earth. They deserve our full gratitude each and every day.