The men and women who have selflessly served our great nation deserve the utmost support and respect. While every Veterans Day we pay special respect and honor to our nation’s finest by visiting gravesites, attending memorial services, and participating in parades, let us also remember that veterans deserve the best every day. That is why one of my top priorities in Congress is ensuring our veterans receive the service and support they earned every day.
This year, we have done a lot for our veterans. First, Congress passed the biggest budget in history for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), particularly when it comes to health care. That includes $8.6 billion for mental health care services, $400 million for opioid abuse prevention, $206 million for suicide prevention outreach, and $270 million specifically for rural veterans’ health initiatives. A strong VA budget is especially important with the launch of the VA MISSION Act.
The VA MISSION Act, which I cosponsored, was signed into law by President Trump last year. This past June, the community care program, an aspect of the law, launched. This gives veterans increased access to timely, quality care by allowing them to seek care in the community and by establishing a more permanent network of doctors to partner with VA and see veterans close to where they live. The community care program is essential for veterans living in rural areas, like much of our district, because the nearest VA may be hours away.
Another huge win our veterans received this year came when the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 was signed into law. This law ensures that Vietnam Navy veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam receive the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic chemical used during the Vietnam era. Many veterans exposed to the chemical found that it resulted in medical issues such as colon cancer.
In addition to providing necessary compensation to our veterans, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act included a provision I coauthored that ensures veterans in rural Oregon no longer face needless delays when seeking to buy a home using the benefits they earned through their service. I have heard several horror stories from veterans about delays getting an appraisal for their VA-backed loan. Some waited up to nine weeks to even have an appraiser assigned to their case, making them far less competitive as prospective buyers in the housing market — one veteran even lost his prospective home when his interest rate lock expired as he waited for an appraisal. That’s unacceptable. Now, veterans living in rural America will get a fair chance to have their appraisals completed in a timely manner.
In June, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the GI Bill, which has allowed our nation’s veterans and their families to return home to pursue further education. I worked to help improve this benefit by supporting the passage of the Forever GI Bill, which made the benefits last a lifetime.
While we have already achieved a significant amount for our veterans this year, we still have much more ahead of us. I will continue to work to improve the benefits and services that veterans receive and help veterans in my district with any issues they may face with VA. If you are a veteran in the 2nd District of Oregon, and you’re having problems with VA, please give my office a call at 800-533-3303. My team and I are ready to assist you with problems you are having with VA. We will do everything in our power to get results for you.
God bless all our veterans and their families, and thank you for your service.