There is no match for the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. In Congress, we must do everything in our power to honor the service of our veterans by upholding a solemn promise: just as the military pledges to leave no soldier behind on the battlefield, we will leave no veteran behind when they return home.
Under a Democratic Congress, we were proud to pass the largest increases in veterans funding in history – making historic investments in our veterans’ access to health care, education, and economic opportunities. We have bolstered our investments in the VA to serve the two million veterans that have transitioned in the last five years and the many more that will transition in the coming years as service members continue to come home. But we know there is much work left to be done: we cannot rest until no veteran is forced to sleep on the street, until veterans claims are settled in a manner that is expedient and transparent, and until no veteran in need of care is ever turned away from a VA medical facility.
Our service members have done everything asked of them – and done so with courage and excellence. It is our duty as elected officials to show our men and women in uniform, their families, and caregivers the same measure of devotion that they have shown our country. Let us always be certain, then, that we are serving our veterans as well as they have served us.
What Democrats Are Doing
Under the Democratic Majorities, Congress acted to:
- Pass the largest increase in veterans funding in history;
- Enact the Post 9/11 GI Bill – restoring the promise of a full, four-year scholarship for our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and we made it transferable to their spouses and children;
- Pass, in the House, a bill to end the Disabled Veterans Tax;
- Quadruple the travel reimbursement for veterans traveling to receive care.
Looking forward, we know that more must be done to deliver upon our promises to our men and women in uniform. Their courage and excellence deserve our unyielding dedication, and that’s why House Democrats have championed efforts to:
- Eliminate the VA claims backlog with modern solutions: The claims backlog has been reduced by 50% over the last year, but we have much more work to do to ensure every veteran gets the care they deserve as soon as possible. No veteran should have to wait days on end just to see a physician.
- Demand greater accountability and improve access to high quality care:
- The Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act—introduced by Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick—mirrors the bipartisan legislation passed in the Senate that will expand veterans’ access to care, hold VA officials accountable, and increase medical personnel and facilities.
- The Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act—introduced by Congressman Tim Walz—allows doctors to conduct disability medical examinations for veterans and helps to cut back on the backlog.
- The Underserved Veterans Access to Health Care Act—authored by Congressmembers Dina Titus, Mark Takano, and Beto O’Rourke—immediately increases the access to care for veterans in areas that are hard hit by physician shortages.
- The Comprehensive Department of Veterans Affairs Performance Management and Accountability Reform Act—authored by the House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mike Michaud—would implement substantive management reforms within the VA that tie performance objectives and outcome for senior executives to performance reviews.
- See more of the legislation that House Democrats are championing on behalf of our nation’s veterans.
- Improve care and benefits for PTSD, TBI, and mental health issues:
- In striving to meet the mental health needs of our veterans, Democrats and President Obama have expanded access to mental health services with longer clinic hours, telemental health services, and better standards to ensure quick access to services.
- The Strengthening Mental Health in our Communities Act—introduced by Congressman Ron Barber—will maximize access for people with mental illness to community-based services that focus on prevention, early intervention, and advancing mental illness research.
- Provide support to veterans caregivers: Veterans caregivers are vital to the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans and military families. The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act, introduced by Congressmembers Jim Langevin and Elizabeth Esty, expands and improves support services that are available to family caregivers.
- Combat homelessness among veterans: House Democrats are working with the Obama Administration to meet the goal of ending veterans homelessness by 2015. We will continue to invest, expand, and strengthen initiatives that work with state and local providers to give veterans all the tools they need to find shelter and break the cycle of homelessness.
- Support women veterans: Women are the fastest growing group within the veteran populations, and House Democrats are working with the Administration to ensure we meet their needs, from investing in clinics that specifically address their health care needs to training health care providers to effectively treat rural and minority women veterans as well as victims of sexual assault.
- Renew unemployment insurance for veterans: We must restore this vital economic lifeline to hundreds of thousands of veterans who were cut off after House Republicans failed to act.
- Incentivize businesses to give priority to hiring veterans.
These efforts are only a part of our drive to repay the massive debt we owe to our nation’s veterans. It is our obligation to keep our promises to all who wear the uniform and to their families.