- Honoring our Veterans
Honoring our Veterans
Our veterans have served their country with honor and deserve the utmost respect from our nation for their sacrifice. Veterans and their families have put America’s security before their own, and we have a responsibility to ensure that our service members have the tools and training to complete their missions when they leave our shores for duty, as well as the resources they need to stay healthy and financially secure when they return home.
Jeff has been a leader in Oregon to expand educational opportunities and improve medical services for our veterans. He is dedicated to working in the U.S. Senate on behalf of brave men and women who have given so much to serve their country. They have stood up for us, and now we must stand up for them.
Veterans Health Care
It’s important to Jeff that veterans receive the best medical care available when they return home from duty.
Jeff supported legislation that became law in 2009 to improve veterans’ health services by helping family caregivers, expanding services for women veterans, assisting homeless veterans, and supporting veterans living in rural areas.
Jeff has worked to make sure that the VA listens to Oregon’s needs. For example, when the VA closed the ICU at the Roseburg VA Healthcare System (VARHS), shifting critical emergency care to a local hospital, Jeff repeatedly raised the issue with the VA and helped engage an independent review of the situation. Along with members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, he ultimately persuaded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to send the VA Chief of Staff to Roseburg to listen to local concerns. VARHS is now expanding services and renovating facilities with $50 million dedicated to improved veterans’ health care.
Jeff supports fully funding the VA health care system while increasing funding for mental health treatment and traumatic brain injury screenings.
Right now, many of our veterans are waiting months for the VA to determine their health and disability benefits. Benefits appeals can take even longer, sometimes years. We need to streamline the system and improve consistency in claim decisions so veterans can receive the benefits they have earned in a timely and effective manner. Jeff has pushed the VA to deal with their growing backlog. He has applauded Secretary Shinseki’s goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015 but pressed him to expedite the process.
Many Oregon veterans have no other choice but to travel long distances to VA facilities to receive medical care, and in some cases have to wait weeks before being reimbursed for their travel expenses. In 2010, Jeff urged the Veterans Department to allow veterans to have the option of being reimbursed for their travel expenses on the day they receive medical care, rather than be forced to wait weeks for reimbursement. The VA subsequently agreed to provide immediate reimbursement to veterans.
Jeff also supports fully reversing a provision from last December’s budget deal that unjustly cuts retirement benefits for military retirees. He voted for legislation that undid these wrongheaded cuts for disabled and current veterans, and additionally supports reversing these cuts for future retirees.
The National Guard not only assists our citizens in emergency situations and natural disasters here at home; they also protect our country abroad. Jeff supports extending the full VA benefits received by our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines to members of the National Guard.
Jeff co-sponsored the National Guard and Reserve Soft Landing Reintegration Act to help ensure that members of the National Guard have every opportunity available to succeed once they return home from service. The legislation will help ease the transition to civilian life by allowing the men and women of the National Guard to remain on active duty for up to 90 days, collect pay, and access reintegration services after returning from duty.
Opportunities for Education
Veterans and their families should have the resources to enroll in higher education after their service and pave the way for a successful career. Jeff supports expanding education benefits for military families as well as job assistance to help ease the transition to civilian life. Jeff co-sponsored the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 to expand education benefits for veterans, servicemembers, and their families. As Oregon’s House Speaker, Jeff championed legislation to provide college tuition for family members of fallen soldiers.
Jeff has also introduced the Spouses of Heroes Education Act, which would grant education benefits to military spouses who lose their partners in the line of service. Currently, spouses of fallen service members are only eligible to receive federal education benefits under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program. This program provides an allowance of up to $936 per month, but it often does not cover the full cost of tuition and fees. The Spouses of Heroes Education Act amends the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to expand the Fry Scholarship, which provides full in-state tuition and fees to children of service members who have died in the line of duty. This change would allow spouses to receive the full cost of public, in-state undergraduate tuition and fees, plus a monthly living stipend and book allowance.
Jeff supports providing additional assistance to reduce homelessness among veterans and make it easier for community and nonprofit organizations to better assist homeless veterans currently out of work.