Veterans

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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.

JOBS & EDUCATION

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 2015. 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 passed in the House with widespread support in both the 114th and 115th Congresses. In June 2019, the BRAVE Act (H.R. 2109) was passed in the House for the 116th Congress. Kathleen is working to have it taken up in the Senate and sent to the President for his signature.

In August 2017, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 3218), also known as the Forever GI Bill, was signed into law. Kathleen was an original cosponsor of this bill, which improved and expanded GI Bill benefits granted to veterans, their surviving spouses and dependents. In the 116th Congress, Kathleen is working to expand educational and job training benefits to ensure that veterans have the tools they need to effectively transition to civilian life.

HEALTH CARE

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. The Department of Veterans Affairs must be prepared to meet the needs of today’s diverse population of veterans. 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. Effective implementation and oversight of VA’s new Veterans Community Care Program will remain a top priority for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs in this Congress. Enacted in June 2018, the VA MISSION Act (S. 2372) consolidated the VA Choice Program with the Department’s other private-sector care programs into a single, comprehensive community care system that will provide eligible veterans access to private health care networks.

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act: On June 25, 2019, the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act (H.R. 299) was signed into law. Kathleen was an original cosponsor of H.R. 299, which created a presumption of herbicide exposure, including Agent Orange, to allow disability compensation for veterans who served aboard naval vessels offshore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This historic law was the culmination of a decades-long bipartisan effort in Congress to properly recognize these veterans’ claims and grant them the justice they deserved.

WOMEN VETERANS

Women represent the fastest-growing cohort of today’s military and veteran populations. Over 345,000 women service members have deployed since 9/11, and the population of women veterans is expected to increase over the next decades. Today, there are over 2 million women veterans who have bravely served our country.

Kathleen is working to address the unique challenges servicewomen and women veterans face. 

In the 116th Congress, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs launched a new bipartisan Women Veterans Task Force. As a member of this task force, Kathleen is supporting efforts to promote inclusivity and equitable access to resources, benefits, and healthcare for women veterans. Kathleen is also a member of the Servicewomen & Women Veterans Congressional Caucus, a new caucus launched in the 116th Congress specifically geared toward addressing issues facing America’s servicewomen and women veterans.

In May 2019, Kathleen introduced the Honoring All Veterans Act (H.R. 3010), a bipartisan bill that would update the VA motto to be more inclusive of women veterans and today’s veteran population. The current motto was adopted by VA 60 years ago and is a quotation from President Lincoln that reads: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” The Honoring All Veterans Act replaces the outdated motto with a modernized version of the original wording, which reads: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.” Updating the VA motto would signify an important acknowledgment of today’s veteran population and mark a powerful commitment to promoting a culture at VA that respects all veterans.

HOMELESSNESS

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 March 2019, Kathleen led a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services to request robust funding in support of the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) for FY 2020. The appropriations bill (H.R. 2740) passed in June included $60 million for HVRP, an increase of $10 million above the 2019 enacted level and the President’s budget request. Additionally, the Department of Labor announced that two organizations serving homeless veterans on Long Island were awarded federal funding through HVRP grants for 2019.

 

VA REFORM

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.

 

 

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