Taking care of our veterans starts with making sure they receive the benefits they have earned and the respect they deserve. My Grandfather, a B-17 pilot and a German POW for 18 months during World War II, spent over five years having to prove to the VA that he had been a POW and was wounded in battle – despite the fact that he was awarded five air medals and a Purple Heart. Stories like this are too common and completely unacceptable. We have too many veterans still waiting for care, too many VA employees are not being held accountable, and the VA cannot get a handle on its budget. The VA should work for you, not against you.
The House of Representatives is working hard to correct these issues and inject additional reforms and oversight into the VA. In the 116th Congress, the House has passed and President Trump signed into law several bills aimed at improving services and care for our veterans including:
- The Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 & The Disabled Veterans Education Relief Act (H.R. 6322) – protects GI bill users' benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, preserves the work study program by allowing the Secretary to continue to pay student veterans, safeguards vocational rehabilitation and employment, and further protects GI Bill benefits for students during emergency situations. This bill also ensures that students whose schools close and cannot transition to an online curriculum will be able to use and maintain their GI Bill eligibility next semester at a different college or university.
- The Vet Center Eligibility Expansion Act (H.R. 1812) – expands eligibility for counseling and care at Vet Centers to those who served in the Reserve, National Guard or Coast Guard who never deployed but served during emergency situations in the wake of disaster, civil disorder or in support of dangerous drug interdiction operations.
Additionally, this Congress, I have been pushing two bills to better serve our veterans:
- Purple Heart Freedom to Work Act (H.R. 2655) – would raise the current monthly disability benefit threshold for disabled veterans to ensure they do not lose their SSDI benefits when earned income exceeds the current unacceptably low threshold. Lean more by clicking here.
- ABLE Accounts for Veterans Act (H.R. 2656) – would open up Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts to service-connected disabled veterans to provide more flexible care and treatment options and encourage career advancement without fear of losing benefits.
Congress has also been committed to addressing and treating the invisible scars of war by providing more resources for mental health services, suicide and substance abuse. If you or someone you know is in need of immediate assistance, the Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource available 24/7. You can chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net, by calling 1-800-273-8255, or by texting 838255.
I also want to take a moment to highlight some of the things my office can do to help veterans and their families. Our staff can assist veterans with compensation and medical benefits, survivor benefits, vocational rehabilitation, military medals, and education benefits, among other things. You can reach my Tifton District Office at (229) 396-5175 or my Warner Robins Office at (478) 971-1776. You can also send me an email through my website by clicking here.
As we work through the 117th Congress, you can rest assured that I will continue to fight for commonsense changes at the VA to better assist our veterans and their families. You have served our country honorably, and we owe you a lifetime of gratitude.