Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution grants Congress the powers “To provide for the common defence” and “To raise and support Armies.” Supporting our military requires that veterans receive the care and benefits earned through service to our country. Taking care of veterans is important for recruitment and retention of our service members.
Oklahoma is currently home to over 330,000 veterans who served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, other operations, and in peacetime. These individuals served selflessly to defend the United States, and it is now the duty of the United States to reciprocate their service.
During my time in Congress, I have consistently demanded improved integrity and efficiency in the Veterans Administration (VA). Many Oklahoma veterans are awaiting old claims and stuck in the VA’s endless bureaucracy. I believe that this treatment is insulting and inexcusable.
As a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, I am particularly sympathetic to the needs of those who have worn our nation’s uniform. I understand the challenges of returning from active duty, dealing with the VA, and supporting a family. Additionally, in Congress, I serve on the House Armed Services Committee, which provides me with unique oversight over military personnel and veterans’ issues.
I have two major priorities for veterans’ policy:
Improve VA medical care by giving veterans more choices and holding the VA accountable
Focus veterans benefits and services on those with service-connected disabilities
So far in the 114th Congress, I have voted in favor of, and the House of Representatives has passed multiple bills for veterans. These bills include:
H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt SAV Act (Became Public Law No. 114-2 on February 12, 2015) directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct annual evaluations of mental health care and suicide prevention programs of the VA and to require a pilot program on student loan repayment for psychiatrists who agree to serve in the Veterans Health Administration.
H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act of 2015 (Passed House of Representatives on July 29, 2015) gives the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to fire or demote certain VA officials and requires that certain new VA hires undergo a probationary period of 18 months before they are fully protected by civil service laws.
H.R. 280, To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Passed House of Representatives on March 2, 2015) authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to direct a VA employee to repay an award or bonus if determined that the repayment is appropriate and employee is afforded notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The Department’s repayment decisions are final and unreviewable by any other agency or court.
H.R. 294, Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act (Passed House of Representatives on March 2, 2015) authorizes the VA to transfer a veteran from nursing home care to medical foster home care that meets VA standards, at such veteran’s request, should the veteran agree to accept VA home health services.
I will continue to advocate for Oklahoma veterans in Congress and seek out legislation which honors their courageous service.