Service for Our Veterans

Congressman Paul Cook laments, “As long as I’m in office, I’ll keep fighting for

our Veterans who have made tremendous sacrifices to our great nation.

 

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During my time in office, one of my top priorities has always been improving services for our Nation’s Veterans.  With a 24-hour news cycle that thrives on controversy and negative stories, it’s easy to miss out on some of the positive things being accomplished. My colleagues and I have worked hard on Veterans legislation, and the President has signed into law several of these bills, all of which will have a significant impact on our Nation’s Veterans. 

 

Helping United States Veterans obtain gainful employment once they leave the military is one of Congress’s most critical responsibilities. I’ve worked to address this issue by trying to find ways to incentivize employers to hire and retain Veterans Earlier this year, the President signed into law a bill I authored called the HIRE Vets Act of 2017.

This much-needed legislation encourages companies to hire and retain veterans by rewarding employers with HIRE Vets Medallions, if they meet certain criteria. The medallions can then be used on marketing materials so that the public can see which employers are truly living up to their commitments to bring Veterans into the workforce. 

The needs of Veterans and the nature of higher education have changed dramatically over the past decade. In response to these changes, Congress updated and modernized the Post-9/11 GI Bill with the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. This Bill was overwhelmingly supported by members of both parties and veterans organizations and was signed into law by the President last month. This legislation greatly expands eligibility and access to GI Bill benefits. It also gives Veterans greater flexibility for the type of education they pursue, increasing their ability to pursue technical certifications and other types of degrees. Included in that legislation was language from my Bill, the Veterans Education Equity Act. This provision fixed the way the VA determines Post-9/11 GI Bill housing payments for Student Veterans, which prevents some Veterans from receiving a fair housing payment. This change ensures that our Student Veterans are getting a fair and reasonable housing benefit so they can afford their education. 

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the VA, David Shulkin, has been working to change the culture among employees and to streamline how that VA operates. To assist that effort, Congress passed and the President signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This important legislation gives the Secretary more flexibility to change personnel who are not performing to the VA’s standards. Maintaining the status quo at the VA is not acceptable, and this Bill will help Secretary Shulkin to change that. Congress also recently passed the VA Choice Act, extending and fully funding the Choice program that allows certain veterans to access care outside the VA and avoid long wait times.       

 

We still have more work to do with regard to Veterans’ access to healthcare, reforming the VA to make it more accountable, and improving Veteran unemployment, but these bills show that Congress is making headway to address these issues.

 

This editorial was recently published  in the Yucaipa Valley News Mirror.