Congresswoman Judy Chu believes that, just as the military pledges to never leave a soldier behind on the battlefield, we should never leave our veterans behind when they return home after serving our country.
That is why Rep. Chu has voted in favor of the largest increase in healthcare for veterans in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She has also worked to expedite claims processing for veterans, after hearing from her veteran constituents that sometimes getting reimbursements for the medical care they deserve is typically denied on a first attempt, and an appeal can take more than a year. So she co-sponsored the RAPID Claims Act, to speed up this process and make the VA give veterans the information they need to efficiently file their claims. And she also asked for a study examining the reasons for the delays in the VA's Los Angeles Regional Office, to look for ways to eliminate the backlog at one of the largest VA centers in the country.
Judy Chu's approach to veterans affairs shows her commitment to working for her constituents both at the national level, in Washington, and right here in our own communities. Her efforts to assist local veterans go well beyond examining the claims backlog at the Los Angeles VA office. She also co-sponsored the first ever Veterans Stand Down in the San Gabriel Valley, helping bring unemployment assistance, food, clothing, counseling services, and other resources to one of the largest homeless veterans populations in the Southland. The Stand Down was so successful, serving hundreds of local homeless and needy veterans, that plans are already in the works for a second event this year. These local efforts, combined with her votes in favor of the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act to provide schooling and vocational job training through the GI Bill for our thousands of troops returning from the Middle East, are proof that Congresswoman Chu is committed to repaying the sacrifices that our Service Men and Women have made for our country's safety and security.
Protecting our men and women in uniform means not only ensuring that they are not forgotten once they return home from duty, but that they are also taken care of while they are performing their active duty overseas. That is why Judy Chu is also a leading voice in Congress against military hazing.
On April 3, 2011, Rep. Chu's nephew, Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, was hazed by his fellow Marines while stationed in Afghanistan. After three hours and 20 minutes of torture that included physical exercise in full armor, kicking and punching, digging a fox hole and having the entire contents of a sandbag poured onto his face, Harry had been demeaned to the point of suicide. He took his own life little more than 20 minutes after the torture stopped.
Congresswoman Chu soon learned that her family's loss was not an isolated incident. In Harry's unit alone, there were 6 cases of hazing in the year before his death, and over the past two years, a number of hazing incidents throughout the armed services resulted in suicide, including the cases of Danny Chen in Afghanistan and Hamson McPherson, Jr. in Okinawa.
Congresswoman Judy Chu immediately called for Congressional hearings on hazing in the military. On March 22, 2012, because of her dedication to the issue, the House Armed Services held the first hearing on military abuse since 1979. She is also pushing for legislation to make hazing a crime under the United States Code of Military Justice. Already 44 states have anti-hazing laws and 31 states define hazing as a crime in their criminal codes. She believes it is time for the military to follow suit to better protect their service members from hazing and abuse.
Rep. Chu understands the need for strong military traditions and allowing officers to maintain discipline in their ranks. But she believes that just as in civilian life, there must be safeguards in place to protect individuals in cases where disciplinary measures cross the line into outright abuse and assault.