As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Claire has closely monitored the U.S. military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to scrutinizing our strategy for victory in both countries, looking out for the interests of our combat troops and their families has become a centerpiece of Claire's work, whether it be by advocating for improved support and care for wounded warriors or always voting to provide the funding needed to give our troops the best equipment possible and all of the other tools they need to achieve victory. As a former state auditor, Claire is uniquely able to advocate not only for changes that are needed in our nation's policy regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to closely follow the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been mismanaged in the region and identify ways to hold officials accountable for these abuses.
In June 2007, Claire led one of the first Senate delegation trips to Iraq that had the sole purpose of focusing on the management of our defense funds. In addition, in meetings with the top military leaders serving in Iraq, as well as Iraq's prime minister and government officials, Claire stated that the Iraqi government is failing to take the necessary steps to govern itself, and the U.S. is not holding the government responsible for this lack of action. Claire also met with almost 100 Missouri troops serving in Iraq and heard firsthand the impact that extended tours of duty are having on them and their families in Missouri.
Recently, Claire has supported increases in resources for troops in Afghanistan at President Barack Obama's behest in order to fight resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and continues to closely monitoring the issue to ensure our troops and commanders on the ground have the tools they need for success. She is also closely scrutinizing the draw down of our forces in Iraq in order to ensure our troops safety and security is ensured and that the billions of dollars in American equipment in Iraq is not lost to fraud, waste and abuse.
Helping Troops and their Families:
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have yielded tens of thousands of injured service members, many of whom suffer from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorders, mental illness and substance abuse. In fact, more than 100 Missouri troops have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many more have been injured. Their sacrifice is a call to action to honor their memory through positive legislation that helps troops, their families, and consequently, America.
Unfortunately, suicide rates among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and in the general troop population have reached alarming highs in recent years. Claire is committed to ensuring that these men and women who fought under the toughest combat conditions don't have to fight a new battle when they return home, regardless if they are active duty, National Guard or Reserve members. Claire has been one of the most active champions of wounded warriors and their families, as well as an outspoken advocate of improved mental health services.
Media reports have focused on the plight of injured active-duty soldiers who come home from Iraq, Afghanistan and other deployments worldwide only to face a maze of paperwork, lengthy delays and lack of guidance in the military's complex health care and disability compensation system. Claire, along with then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) quickly responded to an incident exposing problems like these at Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington, D.C., with the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act legislation, which seeks to remove these obstacles. In 2007, the Senate passed a landmark measure that contains many of the provisions of the McCaskill-Obama bill.
Claire also is a proud co-sponsor of the Family Caregiver Program Act (S.801), which would provide family members of severely injured wounded warriors with the training, certification, and ongoing support needed to provide quality care for the warrior. She also supports legislation relating to the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Repeal offset. Among other things, the legislation would ensure that benefits paid through the SBP to the surviving spouses of former military personnel are calculated in a fair and equitable manner.
As part of a meaningful transition back to civilian life for our troops, Claire also believes America should make good on its promise to provide veterans with an education to honor their service and sacrifice. She was an outspoken supporter and co-sponsor of the Post 9/11 Veteran's Education Assistance Act of 2008 (S.22), which has recently been implemented by the Veteran's Administration (VA). This legislation provides the greatest boost to veterans' higher education benefits since World War II. The bill entitles veterans who served three years of active duty after September 11, 2001, to full tuition assistance and a living stipend for attending college. As the VA struggles to manage the increasing demand for tuition assistance, Claire is also committed to making sure the proper government watchdogs keep an eye on problems that arise and how benefits are distributed.