As the son of an Air Force Master Sergeant, I learned about the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, as well as the unique challenges military families face, at an early age. I brought these values with me to Washington where I am committed to promoting policies and crafting legislation that will enhance the quality of life for both our veterans and their families.
Having served for ten years on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am continuing my work on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to ensure our nation does not forget the very men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms.
Our veterans—whether an aging World War II hero or a soldier fresh from the front in Afghanistan—have earned the best medical services available. We are working to ensure the VA healthcare services they receive are among the best in the world.
Because of advances in medicine, service members who may not have been expected to survive catastrophic attacks in previous conflicts are returning home today from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with severe and complex injuries of an unprecedented nature. Modernization of VA healthcare has helped these veterans and we need to continue providing top of the line medical services that adapt to their needs. That’s why the first bill I introduced in the U.S. Senate was The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services’ Improvements Act of 2011. The bill seeks to clarify the definition of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) rehabilitation so veterans will receive care that adequately addresses their physical and mental health needs, as well as quality of life and prospects for long-term recovery and success.
Along with TBI, our nation has seen a large increase in eye-related injuries afflicting veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a particular area where I felt I could use my medical background to work for the benefit of our veterans and authored language to create a Vision Center of Excellence to provide acute eye care for our troops during my tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives. I will continue to look for avenues to use my experiences in the medical field to help our veterans.
While we address the treatment and care for those returning home from the front, we must remember that all of our nation’s veterans’ health care needs must be addressed. Arkansans are proud that so many World War II, Korea, Vietnam and first Gulf War-era veterans call our state home. The VA facilities we have in the Natural State are some of the best in the nation, but we must constantly strive to improve their offerings and reach across the state. We must ensure they receive funding essential to providing the best care possible for our veterans. In addition, our aging veterans have unique needs, which is why we fought hard to get a VA Long Term Care center in Fayetteville and will seek ways to improve services for this particular segment of the veterans’ population.
Fighting for our veterans doesn’t just start and end with their healthcare needs. In this particularly difficult economy, I remain committed to making sure veterans have all the economic opportunities they deserve. These brave men and women have sacrificed greatly for our freedoms and we must ensure they assume their rightful role as an indispensable part of America’s work force. For this reason, I voted for legislation that enhances job training and counseling programs for veterans, creates new tax credits for employers who hire veterans who have been job hunting for six months or more, and increases an existing tax credit for companies that hire disabled veterans who have been jobless for six or more months. The bipartisan, bicameral bill—now Public Law 112-56—was signed into law by the President on November 21, 2011.
During my tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, my colleagues and I worked hard to pass the Post 9/11 GI Benefit. This landmark law is the largest single increase in veterans’ education benefits since World War II. It provides veterans with upfront tuition payments directly to the school, a monthly living allowance and a book stipend of $1,000 per year. We must continue to work to enhance the education benefits provided to our nation’s veterans so that they have an opportunity to better their lives after sacrificing so much for our freedoms.
The power of this office allows us to help Americans with issues they are facing. For our veterans who return home, a Senate office can be a huge resource. That’s what helped my grandfather when he returned home at the end of WWI. After surviving being gassed, his lungs didn’t function properly and he reached out to my great, great uncle who was serving in the U.S. Senate to help him with his disability.
Today, as our service members return from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have the same responsibilities to the men and women who fight for our freedoms and interests of our country.
No matter what major legislative crisis we are facing, we have a responsibility to these brave men and women. The debates that take place in this body are no doubt of great importance, but so is each constituent who is having trouble with a federal agency. In some cases, we are their last resort to overcome a major obstacle in their lives and each and every case that comes before us must be given our undivided attention. To find out more about how our office can help you with individual problems with the Veterans Administration, such as getting claims heard or finding out if additional benefits are available, please visit my VA casework page.
Serving our country in uniform is an extremely noble undertaking that all-too-often goes under-appreciated and unnoticed. I am committed to working hard for the veterans in Arkansas and will use my assignment on the Veterans' Affairs Committee to affect legislation that serves all veterans.
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