February 25, 2020

Chairman Takano: “Thank you Disabled American Veterans for your tireless advocacy!”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs entitled "Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans" (DAV). A link to the video Chairman Takano’s opening statement and remarks as prepared can be found below.

 

Video of Chairman Takano’s opening remarks.

Chairman Takano’s remarks as prepared:

I want to start by thanking Commander Whitehead, and the many women and men who have served our nation. Your country owes you a debt of gratitude that we in Congress strive to repay every day. Thank you.

I want to congratulate Senator Moran on his Chairmanship and look forward to working together this year.

I’ve had the privilege to work with many veteran groups over the years, and I appreciate the dedication and care that Disabled American Veterans and other Veteran Service Organizations share for our veterans.

Without the volunteers mobilized in small towns, the VSOs who take mobile service clinics into remote areas, and our government partners who pitch in to lend a hand where needed, we could not reach all the veterans in need. This is why we need your advocacy.

This year, we have the opportunity to celebrate DAV’s 100 years of service to our veterans.  In fact, Ranking Member Roe and I coauthored a House Resolution to honor your work for our veterans and their families—join me in thanking DAV for their tireless advocacy!

DAV is integral in the work to connect veterans with resources and helping them navigate the often-confusing VA system.  But DAV’s advocacy also helps Congress recognize emerging issues and pioneer solutions.  As a result of DAV’s partnership with Congress, we have better legislation that best serves the needs of our veteran population.

As I am sure everyone in this room can agree, we must work together with all our partners to reduce veteran suicide. It’s clear that we have a national public health crisis—and it will take all of us working together to truly address this crisis. That’s why the Committee adopted a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy to reduce veteran suicide. We must look at every factor from economic burdens to increased access to care to reduce this crisis.

I introduced the Veterans’ ACCESS Act as one piece of this puzzle to ensure all veterans-- regardless of discharge status or enrollment in the VA healthcare system -- have access to emergent mental health care. Under this bill, no veteran will have to pay out of pocket for the care they need during a mental health crisis.

While the Veterans’ ACCESS Act is one part of the solution, the fight to end veteran suicide must be shared by everyone in our nation.

As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I have tasked my staff with working with stakeholders, advocates, medical professionals and VA to find more ways to not only reach our veterans who are in crisis, but to also find ways to expand access to key resources. This work will take all of us—and I encourage everyone to write down the Veterans Crisis Line phone number:: 1-800-273-8255.

That is 1-800-273-TALK. If you are a veteran in crisis, please reach out and know there is someone on the other end of the line there to help.

I also want to thank DAV and the VSO community for their diligent and good-faith efforts to perfect the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. This bipartisan effort became law in June  and while VA began processing claims in January of this year, the work to ensure  VA is completing accurate, fair and timely rating decisions is not done.  A strong working relationship between VA and the VSO community will increase access and visibility of these new benefits.  I hope VA will provide open and transparent communication with Congress and VSOs about the progress of Blue Water Navy implementation.

I continue to be thankful for DAV and the VSO community for their efforts to support veterans. 

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Miguel R. Salazar