Veterans have already fought for our country. They should not have to fight with the VA.
Taking care of veterans should be the first priority of our defense budgets and military plans. These men and women have already fought for our country. They should not have to fight with the VA or Congress to receive their benefits, but unfortunately, all too often, they must. Veterans’ issues are especially important to people in predominately rural areas like Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. Twenty percent of Americans live in rural areas, yet these areas provide over forty percent of our military personnel.
The still uncompleted VA hospital in Aurora is a metaphor for the unfulfilled promises Congress has made to our Veterans.
Veterans deserve an insurance plan to cover any doctor, hospital, or other healthcare provider. As your Congressman, I would work for legislation that would allow veterans to use local healthcare providers, which would lower the overall cost of care, and reduce patient wait times. It would also provide better patient service. Many Veterans in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District have to drive hundreds of miles to receive the medical care they need, and they often have to stay in hotels or make other costly accommodations.
Unfortunately, expanded insurance coverage alone would not be enough. Many Veterans face spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and other extreme complications that require the special attention of a VA hospital.
PTSD and Mental Healthcare
Not every injury is visible. It is estimated that 25% of veterans come home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or other complications that are directly related to their military service. Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide.
We must do a better job of identifying mental health issues and helping our heroes. The sooner a veteran can start the transition from military to civilian life, the more successful that transition will be.
Family Support and Social Services
The Veteran’s family and significant personal relationships can be the foundation for a successful transition when they are included in the transition plan. Maintaining these relationships can conceivably reduce the Veteran’s need for government services.
Veterans make up about 7% of the overall population; however, they comprise up to an estimated 33% of the homeless population in the United States. They become homeless for a variety of reasons, including mental health issues and poverty brought on by unemployment. Regardless of the reason, it is our job to see that that these men and women have a place they can call home.
Veterans could benefit from better transition services, including job training, education, and ongoing counseling. Unfortunately, many Veterans, particularly those in rural areas like Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, may not have access to these services. We need to ensure that all veterans have access to all services to which they are entitled, regardless of where they live.
Citizenship for Veterans
Currently, military personnel who are not American citizens may be eligible for naturalization through their military service under Section 328 or 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). These acts, however, do not ensure citizenship for the families of veterans. We need to honor the service of immigrants by creating a clear path to citizenship for them and their families.