Throughout our nation’s history, we have failed to honor and support our veterans in the ways that they need and deserve. Despite these shortcomings, I continue to work with my colleagues to reverse these injustices. In particular, the care, benefits, and opportunities they receive upon reentry to civilian life are severely lacking. Many of our veterans are in dire need of health services, both mental and physical, and yet the Veterans Administration is poorly serving their needs. Many veterans also find themselves without employment opportunities in a rapidly changing economic landscape.
The number one problem our veterans face is a VA that can’t adequately meet their needs. After the VA scandal in 2014, when it was revealed that veterans were being subjected to horrendous and unacceptable wait times.  I voted for the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act to reform and improve the system. Since then, delays in treatment have declined, and the disability claims backlog has shrunk. There are still unacceptable  wait times for care, but my colleagues and I are continuing our work to reduce that number. I was also proud to cosponsor the Women Veterans Access to Quality Care Act, which required full time OB/GYN doctors at all VA medical centers in order to improve the health care of the more than 2 million women veterans.
A very important bill I supported was the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. This measure creates a peer support and community outreach program to help veterans in accessing VA mental health care services. Of the more than 2 million Americans who served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is estimated that one-third, over 600,000, suffer from traumatic brain injury, PTSD, or depression. Suicide is an epidemic affecting the veteran population. Every day, twenty-two veterans take their own lives, when even one is too many. Hopefully, this law can jump start our efforts to greatly reduce that number.
Additionally, there is still an incredible shortage of VA doctors, nurses, and other health care providers, which needs to be addressed.
But, health care is only one part of the problem. Like many others, in a continuously changing society and economy, many veterans find themselves struggling to find employment.  We as a people have a responsibility to help those who fought and sacrificed for us find good, well-paying jobs. To this end, I cosponsored and helped pass the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act. This legislation provides job training and opportunities for veterans while expanding workplace protections for veterans with disabilities. I also helped to pass the Reducing Barriers for Veterans Education Act. This measure allows veterans to use their 9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for application and other school fees, in addition to their tuition. Together, these bills will help veterans obtain the education and valuable skills they need to find employment in today’s economy.