We remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.
– President Ronald W. Reagan, Veterans Day, 1988.
My pledge and promise is that my congressional office will be known for helping veterans. My first staffing will be the hiring of two veterans’ liaisons, one in Washington, DC and one here in the district. These liaisons will report directly to me and be points of first contact for any veteran struggling with the system, their task will be to work one-on-one with our veterans in seeking solutions to and redress for their concerns and problems.
From General George Washington to every other great military and political leader in America, the request and plea to treat our nation’s veterans with the respect and benefits owed them has been both heart-felt and of paramount importance. How could it be otherwise? But, sadly, for too many, it is. I can attest to not only hearing from friends who have served about their trials and tribulations with the Veterans Administration and health care facilities, but also I hear from veterans on my radio show almost weekly—seeking avenues and forums to address their needs and concerns. When we hear these stories about the difficulties obtaining the benefits owed our veterans, their health care, or difficulties with employment, it not only offends us individually, it rubs against the very grain of Americans’ best beliefs, culture, and assumptions.
How can we ask our finest men and women to sign up to defend the promise of America if the rest of America does not keep that promise to them when they return? It is both our duty and commitment that We the People (as represented by the Federal Government) do what we say we will do. Veteran benefits are no place to trim a few dollars to pay for some lobbyist’s priorities. The agreement between the citizens and those who agree to serve should be an inviolable contract. From what I hear and see week in and week out, from my listeners, callers, and friends is that veterans are not looking for a lot. Most just want help for their friends.
Thus, there is no excuse for our veterans’ health care facilities not being able to provide both timely and the highest quality of care. When it comes to healthcare, veterans should have choice, the freedom and resources to select the best health care they want and need—be it from the government or another provider. When our veterans seek to obtain and access the benefits due them, it should be seamless and without effort. And, garnering good job opportunities should be the priority of all employment efforts from the private sector to the public.
In all of this, we also need to recognize that PTSD is real and is incredibly hard to deal with. We ask our (mostly) young men and women to undertake incredibly difficult tasks in service to our country. That service often entails witnessing and participating in incredible violence. This has been an ignored issue. It can be no longer.
Finally, a serious part of our commitment is the understanding that we commit our brave young men and women to fight only as a last resort. We have lost tens of thousands of our nation’s most valuable resource without Congress declaring war. Members of Congress should be forced to take a stand with a formal declaration of war to commit our military to combat.
All of this is not just the right thing to do, this is not just a commitment to national promises, this is also a key part of our ongoing national security. After all, we cannot expect of our military to volunteer and accept what we ask only for us to forget their “devotion and gallantry” after their service is complete.