As Americans, we should honor and respect all veterans of our military services. Our nation is at war with hundreds of thousands of troops serving on the front lines to keep us safe. We must keep our commitments to these veterans not just because they deserve it and it is the right thing to do, but also because it directly affects our national defense. As a wise general once said, "Our ability to recruit soldiers to fight our next war is directly dependent upon how we take care of our veterans of previous wars."
As a member of the Senate, my commitment to our veterans has remained firm. I have supported fiscally responsible efforts to increase spending on veterans health care. I offered an amendment to a recently Senate passed bill (S.1963) that would have expanded assistance for caregivers of all wounded veterans, not just those injured after September 11, 2001 and reduced a fraction of funding to the United Nations in order to pay for it. Unfortunately, the Senate rejected this amendment and chose to discriminate against some veterans and maintain wasted funding to the United Nations. Similarly, the Senate rejected another amendment I offered to the Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for 2010 to redirect money for congressional earmarks toward caregivers of wounded veterans. While a member of the House of Representatives, I consistently voted to protect and increase funding for veterans health programs. In fact, I offered an amendment that increased veteran's health care funding more than $300 million by shifting resources away from bureaucracy to direct patient care. Time and again, I voted to expand funding for medical care, long-term care, and extended care programs for our nation's veterans.
It is important we remember the sacrifices these brave men and women have made to protect our freedom. Veterans have made a commitment to our nation and our nation must keep its commitment to those who sacrificed to keep us free. However, spending more money is far from a cure-all solution. Only by addressing the structural challenges in our health care system will we improve health care for veterans and all Americans.
As a practicing physician, I have personally cared for hundreds of Oklahoma veterans. When I speak with them on what they are looking for in veterans care, they ask for what they have fought for overseas -- freedom. Our soldiers and veterans should be empowered to make choices, not forced to navigate a rigid health care bureaucracy that makes decisions for them. If you are a veteran and need assistance, I encourage you to contact Pat Guinn in my Tulsa office at (918) 581-7651. Pat is a veteran of the Army National Guard who is exclusively dedicated to assisting veterans and current military personnel with problems they might have.