Delivering on Our Promise to Support Veterans
One of the highlights of every year is spending Veterans Day at events in La Crescenta and Burbank, where I have the opportunity to personally thank our community’s veterans for their service. These events are a great chance to show our appreciation to veterans, whether they served recently or decades before. But we have a responsibility to do more than just thank them – we need to ensure veterans are supported when they return home.
Veterans face numerous challenges upon transitioning to civilian life, from preparing to enter the workforce to mental health issues to finding affordable housing. Helping them address these challenges is a top priority for me and my colleagues in the House, and I am proud that we continue to deliver on that commitment.
The House of Representatives has passed more than 20 pieces of legislation this year to address veterans’ issues, including housing insecurity, employment opportunities, VA benefits, suicide prevention and more, many of them bipartisan. Thankfully, some of these bills have been signed into law.
Most recently, Congress was finally able to fix an issue that arose out of the 2017 tax cut legislation. The Republican tax bill unintentionally caused an issue in which the families of fallen service members had to pay additional taxes on the benefits paid to children of service members who were killed in the line of duty. The funding bill passed by Congress this month corrected that error by eliminating the tax hike brought about by the 2017 tax bill.
While I am pleased Congress was able to correct this injustice and get other veterans’ bills signed into law, there are still numerous bills that await action in the Senate before they can be signed into law by the President.
One of those bills is The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act. For too many veterans, the high cost of childcare places an undue burden on their budgets and can be a barrier to seeking medical care. A Veterans Affairs (VA) study found that more than 10% of patients had to cancel or reschedule appointments because they lacked childcare. That’s why the House passed The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, which would create a permanent pilot program that provides free childcare services at VA facilities nationwide. This is especially vital for veteran parents who are undergoing intensive care at the VA, such as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another important issue, especially in Los Angeles, is veteran homelessness. More than 37,000 veterans in America experience homelessness. This statistic is simply unacceptable, and House Democrats are working to ensure that no one who has courageously served our nation is forced to sleep on the street. Currently, the VA is only authorized to provide reimbursements to community housing agencies that serve veterans directly, and cannot reimburse for the costs of minor dependents of veterans. This disincentivizes shelters from accepting veterans with young children. The Homeless Veteran Families Act would correct this error, increasing the supply of shelter options for veterans and their families.
Lastly, veterans are 1.5 times likelier to die by suicide than Americans who have not served in the military. The rate is even higher for female veterans, who are 2.2 times likelier to commit suicide than the general population. We have a solemn responsibility to ensure that veterans have access to quality mental health care and resources. The House passed the bipartisan FIGHT Veteran Suicides Act to require the VA to provide Congress with data on suicides and suicide attempts, so Congress can more effectively address this crisis.
Supporting America’s veterans has long been a bipartisan priority in Congress and every day we do our best to honor the service, dedication and sacrifice of America’s veterans. We owe our veterans a debt that can never be fully repaid, but my House colleagues and I are committed to ensuring we honor the promises made to them when they entered service. We must do everything we can for them when they come home.