On Veterans Day, North Carolinians come together to reflect on the courage, service and sacrifice of the brave men and women who were ready and willing to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice to defend our freedoms and keep us safe.
It is because of those who are willing to lay down their lives that America has always been able to triumph over threats to our security and our freedoms.
We are proud of the service of our veterans, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. One of our nation’s most important obligations is fulfilling the promises we made to veterans to provide them with quality health care and improved opportunities for education and careers upon the completion of their service.
The VA’s failure to provide timely and quality health care for all veterans has certainly been well documented, and at times unconscionable, like the 2014 VA wait-time scandal, which shined a light on gross incompetence and unacceptable treatment of veterans.
The good news is that under the Trump Administration, we have made tangible progress and improvements over the last few years.
President Trump has made VA reform and accountability one of his top priorities, and working together with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie — a Fayetteville native — we have seen a steady improvement in wait times and morale at the VA, a very welcome development.
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve worked closely with President Trump, Secretary Wilkie, and my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to keep the focus on holding bad actors at the VA accountable while cutting red tape and bureaucracy in order to keep the momentum going.
Last year, my colleagues and I succeeded in passing the MISSION Act, landmark legislation aimed at making sure all veterans have access to quality care, whether in a brick and mortar VA facility or through one of the VA’s community partners. The MISSION Act represents one of the greatest transformations in VA’s history, putting health care decisions back in the hands of veterans and enabling VA to deliver care in a manner that is more in line with a high performing, 21st century health system.
We also need to do everything in our power to assist veterans who bear the invisible wounds of war, which is why I strongly support President Trump’s commitment to stopping the national tragedy of veteran suicide and ensuring our veterans have access to support systems and critical resources, wherever they are. Among the biggest challenges is finding ways to make contact and provide solutions to the veterans who are not part of the VA system. That is why I’ve co-sponsored legislation like the IMPROVE Wellbeing for Veterans Act, which creates new grant programs to enable the VA to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving nonprofits in addition to state and local organizations.
Supporting our veterans also means helping them transition back into civilian life, and I’ve championed a number of bills that make it easier for veterans to access quality and affordable education and vital job training and apprenticeship programs. Veterans offer unique and extraordinary leadership and skills sets, which is why promoting career opportunities for veterans is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do for our economy.
While Washington is often frozen by partisan gridlock, we have been able to work together to enact historic reforms. We’ve had real results under the Trump Administration to start addressing the issues that have been plaguing the VA for decades and in turn provide better customer service and results for our veterans.
In addition to pushing for legislative solutions, among the greatest honors I have as North Carolina’s senator is offering constituent services to our veterans. My staff always tries to move heaven and earth to assist any veteran having issues with a federal agency, including the VA. We’ve closed thousands of cases on behalf of North Carolina veterans on everything from getting them appointments at the VA to cutting through red tape to expediting the resolution of their disability claims.
If you’re a veteran or the loved one of a veteran, please never hesitate to contact my office if you need assistance by calling me at 919-856-4630 or by visiting my website at tillis.senate.gov.
More work needs to be done when it comes to improving the VA, and I’ll continue to work with President Trump and my Senate colleagues to fulfill our nation’s promises to our veterans. Some of my top priorities will include pushing for additional reforms at the VA, pursuing justice for the victims of the Camp Lejeune toxic water contamination, and ensuring that exposure to toxic burn pits does not become our nation’s next Agent Orange.
We owe our freedoms and way of life to each and every man and woman who has worn the uniform in service to our country. We should treat every day like Veterans Day and recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to honor our veterans through our words and our actions.
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees.
Read the op-ed here.