Saturday, April 22, 2017
Billy Long: I will work to address veterans' needs
Just because we can never repay the debt we owe to our veterans and their family doesn’t mean we shouldn't try. This point was driven home to me once again on April 19 as I presented a Congressional Record during a luncheon held at College of the Ozarks to honor Missouri Gold Star Families. Gold Star families are families that have lost an immediate family member in the line of duty.
A mother of five at my table lost her husband at the hands of an Afghan soldier whom he was training and tragically had grown to trust. She proudly told me four of their five Children are currently serving in the U. S. Military and when their dad was killed each of them had an option to leave the military, but none left.
One of my top priorities this legislative session is making sure that our veterans and their families are taken care of and receive the respect they deserve. So far in the 115th Congress the House of Representatives has passed several bills that will help ensure that outcome.
The first is the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, which passed the House and Senate and was recently signed into law by President Trump. This legislation permanently extends the Veterans Choice Program, which was established in 2014, to allow veterans who are unable to receive care from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities to continue to go to non-VA facilities for their health care needs.
When the VA waitlist scandal came to light in 2014 I was infuriated. Our veterans, some of which died waiting for care, should not have to deal with bureaucratic red tape to get basic care. This bill holds VA employees accountable for their actions by giving the VA Secretary more authority to remove employees for misconduct.
The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, which passed the House, ensures that the men and women who have risked their lives for our country are not denied the same rights they defend and fight for us to have. Under the existing VA policy, veterans with appointed fiduciaries to manage their benefits are automatically labeled mentally incompetent and denied their second amendment rights. This bill makes sure veterans are given due process by requiring a judicial authority to make such an important determination instead of a VA bureaucrat.
Addressing veterans’ issues is a top priority, but it is also important to recognize the sacrifices their loved ones make. Though it’s vital that our veterans get the care and respect they deserve, it’s easy to forget the family members that are also impacted by their heroic actions. A new memorial was unveiled during the Gold Star luncheon at College of the Ozarks. It is the first-ever in Missouri to honor Gold Star Families.
I will continue to meet with veterans and their families to address their needs. Whether that is through legislation or working with a governmental agency, I am ready to work on their behalf. After everything they and their families have done, it is the least I can do.