Weekly Columns

As a son of a Master Sergeant in the Air Force who served for 23 years, I understand the unique challenges veterans and their families experience and how Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, programs and care are critical for men and women called to serve in our nation’s uniform. This is what drove me to serve on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and work with Arkansas veterans and Veterans Service Organizations in our state and nationwide to improve services and benefits veterans earned. Through our collaborative efforts, we’ve made positive reforms and updates to VA care and benefits. 

I want to share some of the improvements we’ve made in 2022 that will help veterans well into the future.

Today’s veteran population looks a lot different than it did a few decades ago. With more women serving in uniform it’s necessary the VA has the resources to serve their unique needs. We’re building on the foundation from last Congress to improve support and medical resources for women veterans. Just months ago, the president signed into law two measures I championed to save lives through implementing better cancer prevention, detection and treatment tools at the VA.

The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environments (SERVICE) Act and the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act will modernize the VA’s breast cancer screening policies and offer earlier access to mammograms and, for those diagnosed with breast cancer, improved breast imaging services to ensure they get the world-class imaging and care they earned.

We strengthened oversight at the VA so the Office of Inspector General (OIG) can conduct more thorough investigations by expanding its authority to subpoena former VA employees no longer in federal service and other individuals who may be relevant to its reviews. This will enable us to enhance transparency.

We expanded health care to all eras of toxic-exposed veterans with passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 and supported VA funding to ensure we can meet those needs. 

Congress closed out the year with some other achievements in support of veterans including expediting disbursement of veterans’ life insurance benefits to surviving family members or beneficiaries. Veterans need to know their loved ones will be taken care of when they’re gone. The Faster Payments to Veterans’ Survivors Act will improve the VA’s process for administering these funds.

Finally, we made improvements to how the VA cares for survivors of military sexual trauma so they have the trained support they need when documenting their experience. We also made it easier for veterans living with service-related medical conditions to get their clothing allowance benefit. The VA Clothing Allowance Improvement Act eliminates bureaucratic paperwork and simplifies continued participation in this program.

I look forward to continuing my commitment to our nation’s veterans and their families. In 2023 I’ll be working to strengthen suicide prevention programs and bolster recruitment and retention of the VA’s workforce. As long as men and women wear our nation’s uniform in defense of our ideals and freedom, we have a responsibility to take care of them. As always, we will continue our promise to supporting them like they like support us.