When men and women step up and risk their lives to serve our country and protect the American people, they do so trusting that they will have our complete and unwavering support after they’ve completed their service – and ensuring that we fulfill this promise is one of Kathleen’s highest priorities.
As a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Kathleen is working to improve the services and support that we provide to our nation’s veterans and advocating for critical reforms within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to ensure that all American veterans have access to the benefits and high-quality, comprehensive health care that they need and deserve.
While we’ve seen significant progress in reducing the veteran unemployment rate, far too many veterans, particularly post-9/11 veterans, remain unemployed. That is, first and foremost, a failure to fulfill our responsibility to support veterans as they transition to civilian life – but it’s also a missed opportunity. American veterans have received the best training the world has to offer. They’re highly skilled and uniquely experienced, and they have the potential to adapt their training, skills and experience to thrive in the civilian workforce. They don’t need charity or a handout – they just need the opportunity to contribute to our economy.
Kathleen started working to tackle veteran unemployment as soon as she was sworn into Congress in January. The first bill she introduced, the Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment (BRAVE) Act, will increase veteran employment at companies that compete for VA contracts. The BRAVE Act authorizes the VA Secretary, when awarding federal contracts, to give preference to companies with high concentrations of full-time veteran employees, rewarding contractors who actively invest in veterans and creating an incentive for others to do the same. This bipartisan legislation – cosponsored by three Republicans and five Democrats – passed in the House on May 18, 2015, and Kathleen is working to have it taken up in the Senate and sent to the President for his signature.
Last year’s revelations about long waiting lists for appointments at VA medical facilities brought national attention to what many veterans and their families have known for years – that for far too many veterans, it is a constant struggle to access services to meet their comprehensive physical and mental health needs.
Kathleen is working to expand VA’s capacity to meet the rising demand for health care brought on by an aging veteran population and an influx of new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Kathleen believes we must be particularly committed to expanding access to specialized mental health care for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other combat-derived mental illnesses. Congress must make it a priority to ensure that veterans with combat-derived mental health illnesses have immediate access to the best care available.
It is disgraceful that even one American veteran should be forced to live on the streets after risking their lives to protect our country. On Long Island and all across the country, thousands of veterans are homeless on any given night, and thousands more are at high risk of becoming homeless.
Kathleen is working to ensure that every American veteran has access to affordable housing. In February, Kathleen wrote a letter to President Obama [LINK] after learning that a Long Island non-profit organization that provides housing and support to homeless veterans had been denied federal funding. After Kathleen and other New York officials intervened, the Department of Housing and Urban Development soon reversed their decision and provided the funding that this facility needed to keep providing homeless veterans on Long Island with stable housing and comprehensive support.
In June, Kathleen announced that two organizations serving homeless veterans on Long Island would be awarded nearly $300,000 in federal funds through the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP). Kathleen co-sponsored the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 474), which would fully fund HVRP for the next five years.
Kathleen is working to make crucial reforms within VA so that all American veterans receive the benefits, services and comprehensive support that they deserve. Over the first half of this year, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has been investigating several troubling allegations of mismanagement, abuse of taxpayer dollars, and a glaring lack of accountability for VA officials who commit wrongdoing. Kathleen will keep working to hold VA officials accountable for their actions, improve oversight and transparency within VA, and implement reforms so that the department works better for the veterans they serve.