Today, on Veterans Day, it is particularly important to send a special thank you to those who have risked their lives or died heroically serving in the United States Armed Forces. Join me and your fellow Missourians in saying thank you to America's veterans – you can share your family's thanks at facebook.com/senatormccaskill.
But I know words of thanks are not always enough. Part of my job as a United States Senator is working to make sure Congress also expresses the nation's gratitude to veterans and their families by delivering the benefits they earned and need.
Earlier this year I had the privilege of once again traveling across Missouri to hear to the concerns of veterans. At VFW halls around the state, I am always reminded of the Greatest Generation – the women and men (including my own dad) who protected this country's freedom during World War II.
But like you, I have also seen first-hand a new great generation of heroic warriors coming home from repeated deployments with new injuries, both physical and psychological. This year marked the end of combat troop deployment in Iraq, but conflict continues in Afghanistan and our forces continue to serve in Iraq in a new role. I worry about the dramatic increase in post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and suicide among our men and women in uniform, including our brave Guard and Reserve members. Unfortunately, the mental health and substance abuse services available to veterans have not kept pace with the overwhelming need.
During my time in the Senate, I've fought passionately for better health benefits for veterans. The HERO Act, which I co-sponsored, is now a law helping to evaluate the needs and improve the physical and mental health resources for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. After a whistleblower at Fort Leonard Wood revealed that the substance abuse programs in our Armed Forces were not sufficient to meet the growing needs of our service members who are seeking counseling, I introduced legislation to overhaul the Defense Department's substance abuse programs and provide a path for treatment to remain confidential so those who seek help are not disciplined for getting the care they need.
I'm also proud to have helped this new generation of veterans pay for their education. I was a cosponsor of and outspoken advocate for the Post-9/11 GI bill, which provides unprecedented educational benefits to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. Thousands of Missouri veterans are now taking advantage of this great program, just like my dad did with the original G.I. Bill when he returned from World War II.
Despite these improvements, there's still a lot of work to do to help veterans.
I've been working with my Senate colleagues to pass legislation that would expand access to mental health counselors covered by TRICARE and embed mental health professionals in National Guard units during stateside training. And young men and women coming home also need to be able to provide for their families: we need to look at better ways to incentivize employers to hire returning veterans and help veterans get their own businesses off the ground.
Following World War II, Missouri's own President Harry S. Truman said, "Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices."
65 years later, President Truman's words still ring true.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
McCaskill offers a special thank you to veterans
In her latest newsletter, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. offers a special thank you to veterans: