America’s veterans and wounded warriors deserve the absolute highest quality medical care and benefits for their service in defense of the nation. Health care and benefit programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are unrivaled, but they are becoming strained and must adapt to meet the new demands for the 21st Century veteran.
In 2010, I was proud to support the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. This expansive legislation improved and expanded many important VA services. It provides assistance for caregivers and family members who provide at-home care for veterans; transportation assistance for rural veterans to reach doctor and other medical appointments; a two-year pilot program that uses community organizations and local and state governments to increase access to health care services; expanded access to care, treatment, and services through non-VA facilities; and created a three-year pilot program on providing dental insurance to veterans and their survivors and dependents.
I was also pleased to support a new law that provides 2-year advance appropriations cycles for VA health care programs. This new authority gives the VA more flexibility to better plan for and provide services to returning veterans.
For rural veterans, like those in the 4th District, the most important thing is access to care close to home. To help Mid Michigan veterans, I also worked to get a new Community Based Outpatient Center in Clare to provide primary care close to home.
Equally important as medical care, we must ensure that veterans have the education and support to seamlessly reintegrate back into society and return to their civilian occupations. I was proud to support the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act in 2008, as well as improvements made to the program in 2010, to provide veterans tuition assistance for a college education, covering not only the cost of college but also housing and books.
More recently in November, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Veterans’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2011, with my support. The bill directs the VA Secretary to increase the rate of veterans’ disability compensation and other benefits payments by 3.6 percent. This COLA increase will come as welcome news to our nation’s veterans and their families who, because of the low rate of inflation, did not receive an increase in benefit payments in 2009 or 2010.
Additionally in November, Congress enacted a new law with my support titled the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. This legislation is aimed at lowering the rate of unemployment among our nation’s veterans. The Act establishes a number of new jobs training programs and tax incentives for employers to hire members of the Armed Forces following their service.
Our veterans have served and defended America with honor and courage. During my time in Congress, one of my greatest privileges has been supporting policies that begin to pay back these brave men and women and their families for their service and sacrifice. I will continue to support legislation that provides our nation’s veterans the benefits they have so bravely earned.