We have an obligation to honor and help our veterans. The men and women who serve in our military make a special sacrifice for the nation and for our freedom and prosperity. I am humbled by their service.
Like so many in the 1st District, my family has been touched by service: My Uncle Ed died in the waning days of World War II and my brother-in-law flew for the South Carolina Air National Guard in Operation Enduring Freedom. I have close friends with children who are fighting in Afghanistan right now. Service is part of our families and communities.
South Carolina is home to 413,000 veterans with almost 70,000 receiving disability compensation or pension payments and close to 2,000 veterans receiving vocational rehabilitation. Many of them are here in the 1st District.
If elected, I will dedicate a staff person in my office to work on behalf of veterans in the 1st District and the entire nation, and I will recruit a veteran to that position. I will commit as much of my time and effort as it takes to get results for our veterans.
We will work with veterans and support services in the District, like the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and clinics and offices throughout the Lowcountry and the state.
Now that combat operations in Iraq are over and our mission in Afghanistan is nearly complete, our commitment to these men and women does not end when they return home.
The post-9/11 GI Bill has given thousands of service members and their children the opportunity to pursue higher education. Congress passed a comprehensive veterans' benefits package in 2010, and legislation in 2011 expands education and training opportunities for veterans, and provides tax credits for employers who hire disabled veterans.
But we need to do more. With advances in battlefield medicine and body armor, our soldiers are surviving serious injuries during their service, and many face a long and difficult recovery. Others are returning home with post-traumatic stress that requires specialized mental health counseling, too often in short supply.
The VA is over-extended and unprepared for this huge influx of veterans. I support increasing funding for and access to veterans' health care and benefits and will demand accountability from the VA. With the growing number of women serving in the Armed Forces, many with dependent children, I will pay close attention to unique issues faced by female veterans.
Nearly 900,000 veterans' claims are stuck in a VA backlog, with some veterans waiting months or even years to see the benefits they are entitled to receive. These delays take a huge toll on our veterans and their families. I will do everything I can to fix the claims system and reduce wait times for pending claims.
Homelessness among our Veteran population remains a serious concern: Every year, anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 veterans experience homelessness--with veterans of the Vietnam era disproportionately represented. I will support initiatives to end homelessness for our veterans.
While we have made great strides in expanding educational opportunities and employment assistance, one in ten post-9/11-era veterans are unemployed. I support current legislation that would provide training and employment services and offer grants for police and fire departments to train and hire veterans as first responders. I also support tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors.
After more than a decade of war, our military families have proven to be strong and resourceful, and I will continue to support the programs and benefits critical to their wellbeing: quality, accessible health care; career opportunities; good schools for military children; quality, affordable child care; and steadfast commitment to those widowed or orphaned.
I am an unequivocal supporter of our service-members, military families and veterans, and as your Congresswoman will fight to better honor them for their service to us.