Missouri's Fourth Congressional District is proud to be one of our nation's most military-intensive congressional districts and home to tens of thousands of veterans who have served our country with distinction and honor. The countless sacrifices of our servicemen and women have given us the freedom, prosperity, and way of life that makes our country the greatest in the world. Our district is blessed to have them as a part of our community.
George Washington once said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." How we treat our veterans influences the willingness of individuals to join our national defense.
Currently, over 1.5 million active and reserve servicemen and women are defending our nation. Additionally, over 20 million military retirees and veterans are living in this nation, many who dedicated their entire professional and personal lives to protect our freedoms.
In my work on the House Armed Services Committee, I have been a constant advocate for our troops and veterans. I remain steadfast in fighting for better pay and full funding for our troops so that they can receive elite training and equipment. That includes:
Uncompromised Care: The Department of Veterans Administration (VA) operates the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, and should be one of America's greatest priorities. It is imperative that we use this resource to maximize care for those who have given so much. We should oppose increased costs for veterans' healthcare and prohibit any healthcare reform that would endanger TRICARE and VA healthcare benefits.
Timely, Quality Care: Our veterans should have excellence in hospital care. Our hospitals fall far short of this standard. It is imperative that we provide adequate oversight and stable budgeting to improve hospital care for our veterans. I have heard your concerns over the backlog of veteran's claims that have not been processed, proposed increases in health benefits, and lag time in receiving proper benefits due those men and women who have fought bravely on our behalf. To those ends, I have sent a letter asking Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to address the backlog of benefit claims made by America's veterans. I have offered to work with him to solve the claims crisis. During a tour of Missouri's 4thCongressional District, I heard from many of our veterans who voiced concerns regarding the backlog in processing medical and other claims. It was particularly sad to hear from our Vietnam veterans who are still awaiting resolution of their Agent Orange-connected disability claims. It is unacceptable that these brave heroes who fought for our freedoms are still awaiting decisions on their claims. I urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to make clearing up this backlog a priority, particularly claims related to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.
Fair Pay for Service: I have proudly co-sponsored H.R.181, the National Guardsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act, which would backdate to September 11, 2001 the period of active duty, in support of a contingency operations for which members of the National Guard and Reserve components of the armed forces shall receive credit in determining eligibility for receipt of retired pay.
Honoring Service: I proudly introduced the Hallowed Grounds Act to safeguard the integrity of the final resting place of our nation's war heroes. During a recent town hall I held in my district, a constituent relayed a heart wrenching story of her sexual abuse at the hands of her father. This man was a veteran who went on to be buried in a national cemetery with full honors. This is unacceptable. Following the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, Congress passed and President Clinton signed S.923 on November 21, 1997 which prohibits veterans convicted of a capital crime, such as murder and treason, from receiving military honors.While veterans guilty of capital crimes have justly been denied the right to rest among our national heroes under S.923, veterans convicted of sexual abuse of children have remained entitled to these honors. Victims of sexual abuse deserve better The Hallowed Grounds Act will ensure no Tier III sex offender, as determined by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, shall be buried at a veterans or national cemetery and only the honorable have this privilege.
Additionally, I am a proud cosponsor of H.R.1775, the Stolen Valor Act of 2011. This legislation will strengthen current law by punishing those who misrepresent their military service with the intention of obtaining anything of value. Adding provisions that define an individual's purpose and intent to misrepresent their service will ensure that our First Amendment rights are protected, while preserving the honor and valor of brave men and women in uniform.
Access for All: I am a proud co-sponsor of the Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act (H.R.1154) that would allow veterans who use Department of Veterans Affairs properties, such as VA hospitals, to use their service dog. It is inexcusable that veterans have been asked to leave their service dogs outdoors when they go for treatment at a VA hospital.
Promoting Patriotism: Our flag must be respected and revered for the enduring symbol of freedom that it is. I have co-sponsored H.J.Res.13, which proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States giving Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.
Jobs When They Come Home: Veterans need to know they have a job when they come home. Not only do I support employers hiring veterans but I am also taking steps to promote job development. We need to get people back to work by lowering taxes, reducing regulation, and creating more certainty. I have co-sponsored several bills to create jobs so our troops will have work when they get home.
Protecting 2ndAmendment Rights: I am a cosponsor of H.R.420, the Veterans' Heritage Firearms Act of 2011. This bill would provide a 90-day amnesty period during which veterans and their family members could register firearms acquired overseas between June 26, 1934 and October 31, 1968 without fear of prosecution. This legislation corrects a law that unfairly treats WWII and Korean War veterans like criminals for not registering war relic firearms with the federal government. After everything that our veterans have done for this country they should be able to keep the firearms they acquired overseas without fear of prosecution.
Rest assured, I will continue my work to increase the quality of veteran and active duty military care to Missourians. Veterans put their lives on the line to preserve our nation's freedom, and we owe them an immeasurable debt of gratitude.
Updated July 21, 2011