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Veterans Day: A Time for Reflection, Repayment


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Through the many changes during our nation's history, some things remain constant: America's dedication to democracy and the commitment of the men and women who defend it by putting their lives on the line for the ideals we hold dear.

As we reflect upon another Veterans Day, we remember those who sacrificed so much for our great country. Our military heroes left the comfort of family and friends and often put themselves into harm's way to protect and preserve our way of life.

This Veterans Day, let us remember the sacrifices of our service members and their families.

Many of our returning veterans face great challenges. Some served in the far corners of the world and even after returning to civilian life their battle isn't over. Some have sustained serious wartime injuries. Some suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And they all return to a struggling economy.

We owe it to our veterans to help ensure their health and success. As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I remain committed to passing smart, meaningful policies that help our vets. Responsibly addressing veterans' health issues must be a top priority, whether through legislation to increase awareness of healthcare needs or pushing for upgraded veterans' healthcare facilities. I was pleased to hold a Senate field hearing to highlight the need for upgrades at the Omaha VA hospital and the funding has now been allocated to begin designing it. I remain focused on ensuring the new facility becomes a reality.

PTSD and traumatic brain injury are among the top challenges many veterans face. We must strengthen a support system focused on veterans' mental health. The Post-Deployment Health Assessment Act, a bill I helped write and passed in 2010, seeks to achieve this goal. It provides all service members with mental health checkups before deployment, upon return and every six months for the following two years. More can always be done, and I will continue to seek solutions to this ongoing epidemic.

More must also be done to help the 12 percent of post-9/11 veterans looking for work. While in the service, veterans learn valuable skills that can translate into civilian jobs at home. Unfortunately, red tape often hinders efficient civilian certifications. That's why I introduced the Helping Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Return to Employment (HIRE) at Home Act with Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark). This bipartisan bill streamlines the certification processes by requiring information sharing among certain state licensing agencies and the Department of Defense. This way, DoD can train service members to ensure they are not only skilled for the battlefield, but also meet the certification requirements for similar civilian jobs.

Nothing we can do in Congress will ever fully return the favor to those who have given so much for America. But we must do all we can to honor them. All Americans share in the responsibility of caring for our veterans who have defended our freedom. Fewer causes are so imperative or so noble. This Veterans Day, we remember the service of our brave men and women in uniform. We thank them for their sacrifice and for their service.

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