- Honoring our Veterans
Honoring our Veterans
Our veterans have served the 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 whole when they return home.
Senator Merkley has been a leader in Oregon to expand educational opportunities and improve medical services for our veterans and 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.
Veterans Health Care
It’s important to Senator Merkley that veterans receive the best medical care available when they return home from duty.
Senator Merkley has 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.
Senator Merkley supports fully funding the VA health care system while increasing funding for mental health treatment and traumatic brain injury screenings. In February of 2009, Senator Merkley fought for the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included $1.2 billion for VA hospital and medical facility construction and improvements, long-term care facilities for veterans, and improvements at VA national cemeteries.
Access to Benefits
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 consistence in claim decisions so veterans can receive the benefits they have earned in a timely and effective manner.
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, Senator Merkley 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.
Revising Deployment Guidelines
Many Oregon service members are not given much time to spend at home with their families in between tours of duty. Senator Merkley supports revising deployment guidelines so service members are given the same amount of time at home with their families as they spend on each tour of duty. He also supports President Obama’s effort to cut back extended tours of duty that keep our soldiers overseas beyond their enlistment dates.
The National Guard not only assists our citizens in emergency situations and natural disasters here at home; they also protect our country abroad. Senator Merkley supports extending the full VA benefits received by our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines to members of the National Guard.
Senator Merkley 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.
Opportunities for Education
Veterans should have the resources to enroll in higher education after their service and pave the way for a successful career. Senator Merkley supports expanding education benefits for military families as well as job assistance to help ease the transition to civilian life. Merkley 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, Merkley championed legislation to provide college tuition for family members of fallen soldiers. Senator Merkley supports similar legislation at the national level to ensure that family members of those who have made the greatest sacrifice are taken care of.
In 2009, Senator Merkley co-sponsored two bills to help provide housing assistance for veterans. The Homes for Heroes Act and the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act would provide 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. In addition, Senator Merkley co-sponsored S.1366 to allow taxpayers to designate a portion of their income tax payment for the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund.