America's servicemembers should be able to count on the full and unwavering support of their government. We have about 20 million service members living across our country, with more than 1.5 million here in Florida – the 3rd highest in the country, including more than 25,000 veterans in my own Congressional district. It is our duty as Americans to ensure that these veterans have easy access to the benefits and services they so rightly deserve, including comprehensive health services, employment and educational opportunities, and support for their families.
As the Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I am working every day to secure funding and support for our veterans.
We owe our veterans nothing less than the highest quality health care, delivered in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, there are too many disturbing cases of substandard care at VA nursing homes, and the rate of veteran suicide reveals that the VA’s efforts on mental health are inadequate. I am working to ensure the leadership of Veterans Affairs addresses these key issues for our veterans’ health and wellbeing. I am also deeply opposed to efforts to privatize VA care, and, as Chair of the Subcommittee, continue to hold VA leadership accountable on their stated commitment not to privatize these critical services.
To protect the ability of veterans to access all the benefits they deserve, I support legislation aimed at making it easier for veterans to verify their service and qualify for educational assistance, as well as policies to increase veteran Cost of Living Adjustments and retirement and disability pay. Benefits that allow our veterans to pursue continued education, retire with financial security, and support physical and mental health are sacred and I will continue to fight for them.
Women and men serve with equal commitment in the military, and we need parity when it comes to access and gender-specific care options at the VA. Funding for gender-specific healthcare for women has remained stagnant at around $500 million over the past few years, yet women are the fastest-growing veteran group – they make up about 9 percent of the current veteran population, and are estimated to make up 15 percent by 2035.
More resources need to be invested to increase women veterans’ access to care. Women should be able to walk into any VA facility and receive a basic standard of care. Every single VA facility should be equipped to allow women veterans to receive care from women doctors or access gender-specific care programs for women.
In addition to providing VA benefits, we must also support our veterans’ successful integration back into the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports veteran unemployment and homelessness are dropping, partially due to strong initiatives led by the Obama Administration to address these issues, but we know that one unemployed veteran is too many.
I believe we have a duty to protect and provide for every American who serves, and I pledge to always honor their service, sacrifices and their dedication to our nation.
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