Words alone cannot fulfill our deep moral obligation to support our American veterans. It's an obligation I feel every time I speak to the men and women who have served and the families of those deployed overseas. It's an obligation I will always meet.
Improving Care for Veterans
I fully support efforts to properly fund every aspect our veterans' health care system. We must ensure that our veterans -- those recently home from Iraq and Afghanistan, those who served in wars past, and those who secured the peace -- get the timely care and benefits they have earned.
During my first 100 days in Congress, I joined several of my colleagues and sent a letter to President Obama. We urged the Administration not to move forward with a proposal that would have required veterans to use private insurance to pay for the treatment of service-related injuries. It was unacceptable for the Veterans Administration (VA) to ask our veterans to pay for the treatment of injuries received while serving our nation in uniform. After receiving our letter, White House officials announced that they would not pursue the policy.
Since then, I have supported legislation to improve the care that our veterans receive from the VA. New laws have allowed the VA to hire more doctors and nurses and to establish new clinics and health service centers for veterans across the country. We now provide post-traumatic stress and mental health screening to every returning soldier. And we've vastly expanded VA health care services for our 1.8 million women veterans.
Improving Mental Health Care
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken an extraordinary toll on the mental health of our combat veterans. In particular, the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the rate of suicide among our nation's veterans warrant our full attention and every resource we can muster to make sure our veterans and their families are not suffering in silence.
I have worked on legislation designed to address the mental health needs of veterans, including the Veterans Mental Health Screening and Assessment Act and the Sergeant Coleman S. Bean Reserve Component Suicide Prevention Act. These make sure service members participate in confidential screenings with licensed mental health professionals to reduce the growing rate of suicide while fighting the debilitating stigma of PTSD.
Jobs for Vets
To help veterans access training and place them directly in the work force I helped pass the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act in my first term. I also voted for bonus payments to disabled veterans and funding to renovate, repair and upgrade VA hospitals nationwide through the Recovery Act.
To provide veterans with quality job training, credentialing and job placement, I helped pass the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act. This bipartisan effort, which was signed into law by the President, also provides tax breaks for businesses that hire veterans. As it was making its way through the House, I also co-sponsored a separate bill that contained additional incentives for small businesses to hire veterans. And I helped secure an additional grant for a Bridgeport-based initiative to help homeless Connecticut veterans find stable housing and enter the workforce.
Unemployment among American veterans is too high and I will continue to support targeted initiatives to help vets enter the private job market and utilize the skills they developed in the service of our nation.
The Library of Congress has undertaken the Veterans History Project, an effort to collect the first-hand accounts of American veterans and preserve them for future generations. I have had the privilege of interviewing many Connecticut veterans, including those who serrved in World War II and the Vietnam War, and helping them submit their personal histories to this invaluable national project.