Every year, November 11th is set aside as a day for Americans to remember and honor veterans of all wars who fought to protect the freedoms we all too often take for granted. This Veterans Day we must also take time to thank those servicemen and women currently protecting us and our way of life for their continued dedication to service and sacrifice.
Veterans Day should not only be a time of solemn reflection, but also a time of celebration for the victories that our nation has achieved in our struggle to preserve peace, freedom, justice, and democracy.
As we think about our nation's veterans, we must also work to ensure that the commitments promised to them are kept.
As a country, we need to do a better job of supporting our returning service members by helping them secure employment after leaving active duty. I was happy to recently support legislation that provides services to veterans such as vocational rehabilitation and employment programs, educational assistance, and housing loan programs.
Another challenge that must be addressed is making the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) more responsive to veterans' needs. While Washington state has a growing veteran population, the VA is slow to react to the need for expanded health care access in our state. Earlier this year, I joined other Representatives in sending a letter to the President asking him to take direct action in decreasing the number of disability claims pending at the VA. I also recently supported legislation to establish a task force to evaluate the backlog of claims with the VA in addition to the appeals process of claims. Our veterans deserve access to the benefits they have earned in a timely manner.
Veterans in Central Washington also need better access to health care -- they simply should not have to travel for several hours to access the care they need. The VA must provide more flexibility and be more responsive to the veterans it exists to serve. That is why I have consistently supported legislation to allow the VA to contract with local hospitals and clinics in order to allow veterans to take advantage of health care in their hometowns.
On Veterans Day, I encourage you to take time to observe this day with reverence and gratitude for those who have served in all branches of the armed forces for their tireless dedication to maintaining our safety and our freedom.
To the men and women that have answered our nation's call to duty, I say thank you for your selflessness, for defending our shores, and for protecting our freedoms. May you always be remembered as guardians of the principles and ideals embodied in our Constitution.