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Public Statements

Issue Position: Veterans

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

As our servicemembers return from Iraq and Afghanistan, we are faced with new challenges in providing quality health care and helping new veterans transition back to the workforce. These men and women have sacrificed so much for the sake of our country and it's important that we care for them when they return home. We also have an ongoing obligation to older veterans to ensure they receive the services they need to avoid homelessness and receive health care. That's why I am committed to strengthening veterans' benefits and expanding job training and transitional services.

My priorities for our nation's heroes include:

Helping Student Veterans Succeed
Protecting Veterans Benefits
Helping Veterans Transition Back to Work
Ending Veteran Homelessness

Helping Student Veterans Succeed

In July 2012, I introduced the Student Veterans Academic Counseling Enhancement (ACE) Act (H.R. 6101) to help students achieve academic success and go on to good civilian jobs.

Veterans face challenges to their academic success, including struggling to adjust to academic and civilian life, developing a degree plan, finding a community of support, addressing mental health concerns, and managing their benefits. Some unknowingly use up GI Bill benefits without completing a degree. Some are even more afraid of college than combat. Yet veterans receive little guidance on how to be successful students and there is no comprehensive way to identify and help those who are struggling.

The Student Veterans ACE Act helps ensure student success by providing regular, individualized academic counseling to all vets using the GI Bill, on an opt-out basis. Once per academic term students can meet with an advisor to review classes, requirements, degree progress, workload, a drop in grades, change of major, transfer options; and make sure they are maximizing their GI Bill benefits towards a meaningful education.

The Student Veterans ACE Act is comprehensive and consistent, and tracks degree progress so veterans can get a meaningful education, get back into the workforce and help rebuild our economy. This bill will also ensure taxpayer dollars used under the GI Bill are spent responsibly toward successful achievement of a degree.

Protecting Veterans Benefits

From tuition to pensions and everything in between, veterans' benefits are indispensible lifelines for our nation's heroes. These benefits provide access to a wide variety of resources to help veterans and their families cope with the many challenges of civilian life. That is why I am supporting the following efforts to protect and strengthen veterans' benefits.

* Reducing VA claims backlog in the L.A. area. In 2011, I joined my congressional colleagues in requesting that the Government Accountability Office conduct a special study to determine the reasons for delays in appointment scheduling and benefits processing within the Department of Veterans' Affairs Los Angeles Regional Office.
* Shortening the benefits claims backlog -- The Rating and Processing Individuals' Disability (RAPID) Claims Act of 2011 (H.R. 2377). This bill allows veterans to waive the claim development period on certain claims, mandates speedier communication between the VA and veterans about their claims, and expedites the VA's treatment of claims to reduce the crippling backlog in benefits. This bill also would get much needed benefits into veterans' hands faster.
* Making retirement benefits available sooner -- The National Guardsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act (H.R. 181). This bill gives service credit to Guardsmen and Reservists who were mobilized for service since September 11, 2001. Backdating the period of active duty for these service members enables them to receive their retirement benefits earlier. This is an important tool in planning for the well-being of tens of thousands of new veterans.

Helping Veterans Transition Back to Work

Some veterans struggle to find a job that meets their skills after returning home from war. Unfortunately, our tough economy is making matters even worse for veterans and current VA programs are insufficient to help veterans get through these difficult times.

That's why I voted in favor of H.R. 674 - containing key veterans' jobs provisions included in President Obama's American Jobs Act. This bill provides tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans or veterans with service-connected disabilities. It also takes steps to provide all service members the training and skills they need to find a job. This includes stronger resume writing workshops and career counseling, expanded education and training opportunities for older veterans, up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits for disabled veterans, and stronger workplace protections for members of the National Guard and Reserve. This bill is fully paid for and was signed into law on November 12, 2011.

I voted for the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act (H.R. 4155) to let veterans translate military training and skills into civilian credentials and licenses. I voted for this critical bill, which President Obama signed into law on July 23, 2012. It recognizes any relevant training a veteran received while serving in the Armed Forces if he or she applies for any federal license requiring special training or credentials. This recognizes the value of our veterans' skills in the civilian economy.

Ending Veteran Homelessness

In these challenging economic times, returning veterans are experiencing unemployment rates in the double digits. Veterans who are unable to secure employment often end up becoming homeless. I am supporting several important bills that seek to reduce veteran homelessness.

* The Homes for Heroes Act (H.R. 287) increases cooperation and coordination between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the VA to strengthen veterans' access to housing and homeless assistance programs.

* The Helping Homeless Heroes Act (H.R. 2559) reauthorizes the only nation-wide employment assistance program dedicated to homeless veterans -- the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. It also provides more of the traditional housing and community partnership housing that is reducing veteran homelessness, and expands benefits to the minor children of homeless veterans.

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