Chairman Bost and Ranking Member Takano: Working Across the Aisle for America’s Veterans
Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Ranking Member Mark Takano (D-Calif.), published the below bipartisan opinion piece in the Ripon Forum to mark Veterans Day this year:
Working Across the Aisle for America’s Veterans
By Rep. Mike Bost & Rep. Mark Takano
Veterans Day 2023
Since the founding of our great nation, selfless men and women have raised their right hand to serve and defend America’s guiding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, no matter what it takes. These servicemembers agree – without hesitation – to become a shepherd for these values, to defend the Constitution, and to give their own lives in defense of freedom for their fellow Americans. We can never forget that the debt we owe these men and women can never fully be repaid.
This truth is why – as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – we go to bat on their behalf and fight daily to fulfill the promise President Lincoln made to veterans, their families, and their survivors in 1865. Our Committee oversees the delivery of healthcare, disability, and burial benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our nation’s veteran community represents the very best of America – sons, daughters, moms, dads, neighbors, and friends from all walks of life – and they have earned a VA that works with them and delivers the very best care and services that it can.
We have made significant bipartisan progress over the past decade to enact legislation that has reshaped the delivery of care and services at VA to: expand veterans’ healthcare options to get them the care that works for them, where they live and when they need it; modernize the availability and delivery of education benefits; and, expand cost-free mental health care options on a nationwide scale. Most recently, President Biden signed into law the Honoring our PACT Act, the largest expansion of healthcare and benefits to our post-9/11 warfighters who were exposed to toxic substances through burn pits and other hazards in combat over the last two decades, as well as recognizing the exposures of our never forgotten Vietnam-era veterans, and others. But we’re not slowing down.
While we swapped who strikes the gavel at the start of each congressional hearing this year, our Committee’s mission for veterans and their families has remained unchanged. In the 118th Congress, our Committee is focused on conducting vitally important oversight of VA’s implementation of the PACT Act, to ensure that this landmark expansion of healthcare and benefits delivers for the over three million eligible veterans and their families. We’re going to continue to hold VA to that promise.
With this massive benefits expansion comes a new group of veterans who are eligible for VA benefits, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, however, this presents the opportunity for veterans to be charged when navigating the process of filing their VA claim, despite assistance being available to them free of charge. Congress will take action soon to protect veterans and their families, and ultimately put more money in the pockets of the men and women who earned each and every dollar of their benefits.
Our Committee is also focused on expanding economic opportunity for veterans when they hang up their uniform for the last time. Veterans should be empowered and able to go out into the civilian world and attain the career they want or the education and training they need. We’ve both heard firsthand that the transition from “active-duty servicemember” to “veteran” can be tough for a lot of veterans, especially our junior troops. This is why our Committee is working hard on a bipartisan basis to hold both DoD and VA accountable to ensure that the services and programs in place, like the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), and the SkillBridge internship program, are not just growing, but also easy to navigate. We want to ensure that no veteran slips through the cracks and falls into homelessness, substance use, or a mental health crisis during, or any time after, their transition from military service. Our continued broad oversight to hold VA accountable will lay the foundation for the future of VA so that it can keep up with today’s and tomorrow’s veteran community. All of these efforts put action behind the ‘thank you for your service’ we so often hear.
The two of us come from different sides of the aisle, and while we don’t always agree on every issue, we recognize that this discourse is what makes our democracy great, and what allows us to put politics aside, iron out the details, and find common ground to get the job done. Veterans are at the core of our mission and, for each and every one of them, we owe them nothing less. We will keep working to ensure that veterans can easily access the healthcare and benefits they have earned.
On this Veterans Day, we encourage you to celebrate the service of your fellow Americans – our volunteer fighting force – from the Union soldiers, to the Tuskegee Airmen, the Army Nurse Corps, the Greatest Generation, from Korea, Vietnam, to the Middle East, and everywhere in between, who have and will continue to walk into the face of evil so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we hold so dear. While they will never ask for it, they deserve your utmost thanks.
If you or a veteran you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line for free, comprehensive support and services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year by calling 988 and pressing 1, or texting 838-255.
Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., is a Marine Corps veteran and serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., serves as the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives.