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The men and women who wore our nation’s uniform are a courageous group of individuals who followed the path of a higher calling. They elected to employ their talents for the greater good. It is these same men and women who epitomize what it means to serve.
Veterans Day is a special time to remember and honor the sacrifice of these patriotic Americans who came from all walks of life but had the same sense of purpose – to protect and defend our country and our freedoms. We can never fully repay them for their commitment and service, but we can ensure we fulfill the promises we made to them.
As the son of a World War II veteran who served more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, it is my honor to serve on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC). Members of this committee set aside party politics to do what is best for veterans and support the needs of their families. Working in a bipartisan manner, we’ve successfully expanded health care benefits and eliminated barriers to care and services for women veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. Additionally, we modernized the VA breast cancer screening policies and strengthened VA suicide prevention programs.
This year I teamed up with SVAC Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce the Not Just a Number Act. This bipartisan legislation would modernize how we reach and serve veterans who struggle to get the mental health support they need. It’s clear the VA needs to update and expand its data collection to examine the relationship between VA benefits and suicide outcomes which includes analyzing benefits that have the greatest impact on preventing suicide.
Every veteran matters and we are committed to improving policies and programs that help them and their families thrive.
The VA has an important mission, and it’s essential it has the workforce to meet its responsibilities. Last year Congress passed the PACT Act, historic legislation that delivered toxic-exposed veterans their VA health care and benefits. In anticipation of an increase in claims, we also included a number of measures to expand hiring and retention at the VA, especially in rural areas.
These modest changes laid the foundation to attract new employees, and to take it a step further, we introduced the VA CAREERS Act to help bolster VA recruitment. This legislation incentivizes employment at the VA and ensures it can retain and recruit physicians, nurses and other professionals to deliver the high-quality care veterans deserve.
The committee advanced this legislation to the full Senate for consideration, so we are one step closer to our goal.
In recent days, the Senate, with my support, approved funding to strengthen veterans’ programs and benefits. We invested in health services for women, telehealth measures and suicide-prevention initiatives.
I’m proud to fight for the heroes who bravely fought for us. While Veterans Day is celebrated on November, 11, let us demonstrate our appreciation for the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families every day of the year.