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Throughout my career in Congress, I have always considered our country’s veterans and their families to be one of my highest priorities. While the country has been steadfast in our support for our armed service members in combat, we must be equally resolute in our support of them as they transition back to civilian life. The stress of the transition home can be just as traumatic to a family as the initial separation. Many of our returning service members have been wounded, and not all of these wounds are physical. We must do all that we can to make sure that these veterans get the support and help they need. That is why I feel strongly that protecting veterans’ rights and benefits is the least we can do for those who have devoted years of their lives in service to our nation. We can try to repay the dedication of service members and their families, who sacrificed for their country, by providing them with the best possible resources, facilities, and benefits.

When the VA was plagued by accusations of excessive delays and substandard care, I helped pass the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act to reform and improve system. Since its passage, delays in treatment at VA medical centers have declined, the disability claims backlog has shrunk dramatically, and increased funding has allowed the VA to hire additional specialists and primary care physicians.  

To improve health care for the over 2 million women veterans, I am a cosponsor of the Women Veterans Access to Quality Care Act, which requires full-time OB/GYN doctors at all VA medical centers. And to help all of our veterans with their mental health, I cosponsored the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans law, which created new support mechanisms and expanded mental health services for veterans across the country.

But improving veterans' health is only one piece of the puzzle. I have also cosponsored and worked to pass the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act, which would provide job training and opportunities for veterans, while expanding workplace protections for veterans with disabilities. The Reducing Barriers for Veterans Education Act would allow veterans to use their 9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for application and other school fees in addition to tuition. That legislation builds on the already-passed Restoring GI Fairness Law, which stopped cuts in tuition payments for veterans.

All of these bills were designed to show a debt of gratitude to our veterans, but we will never truly be able to show just how appreciative we are to them. If you personally know someone who served in the armed forces, take time to thank them for their service, and let them know just how special they are to you and to our country.