The Ripon Forum

Volume 53, No. 5

Veterans Day 2019

More Than a Day of Remembrance, Veterans Day is a Call to Action.

By on November 3, 2019


Each year on November 11, we mark Veterans Day – a day to honor and show respect for our nation’s veterans and their contributions. I was a product of the draft and entered military service in 1956. I can say without a doubt that my time in the service shaped my life for the better. Yet, I am humbled daily by the sacrifice that countless men, women, and families endure on behalf of a grateful nation.

Since my time in the Army, I’ve also seen a lot of changes in our Armed Forces and in how America treats its veterans. While we’ve come a long way since the Vietnam-era in the respect and appreciation we show to our veterans, too often we see Veterans Day as only a day of remembrance, instead of what it should also be: a call to action to keep our commitments to the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform.

Our veterans deserve and have earned high quality health care, competitive educational benefits, and post-service employment opportunities, but they haven’t always received it.

I can say without a doubt that my time in the service shaped my life for the better.

On December 22, 2015, Oklahomans woke up to a front page story in USA Today detailing the appalling standards of care at Oklahoma’s Veterans Affairs facilities. It made it clear that our VAs were not being held to the highest standards, meaning too many veterans weren’t getting the care they deserved.

We went to work – and as of today, we’ve made key reforms to empower VA leaders to fire bad actors for misconduct or poor performance, reauthorize Veterans Choice program so veterans can receive timely, high-quality care and establish accountability and oversight by allowing outside entities to investigate VAs to ensure they are held to the same standards as private hospitals.

Sen. Inhofe at the World War II memorial with an Honor Flight from Oklahoma in April 2018.

President Trump has made other important reforms, too. He’s worked to improve veterans’ health care by putting the needs of veterans first. He also demanded a culture of accountability at the VA – creating a 24 hour, seven day a week hotline where veterans and family members can speak to an advocate to help them navigate federal programs and seek assistance. Additionally, he’s made supporting veteran mental health a priority – securing over $8 billion for VA mental health services.

We also looked beyond health care. Last Congress, we enacted the Forever G.I. Bill to modernize veteran educational benefits. It enabled veterans to use their benefits whenever they choose and included a provision I authored to expand G.I. benefits to career and technical schools. The result: veteran unemployment rate is the lowest recorded level. Ever.

I am humbled daily by the sacrifice that countless men, women, and families endure on behalf of a grateful nation.

We’re still not done. I’m currently working on several initiatives that will support veterans fighting opioid addiction and modernize workforce development opportunities for the families of service members. As long as men and women continue to wear the uniform, we’re going to keep the faith with them by making sure they get the benefits they have earned. But it doesn’t stop with Congress.

There are many opportunities for a grateful nation to show their commitment to our service members as well. Visiting memorials, participating in an Honor Flight, or volunteering with a respected veterans service organization are good places to start. And never forget the power of a simple, heartfelt: “Thank you.”

Jim Inhofe represents the state of Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate, where he serves as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Sen. Inhofe previously served in the U.S. Army.

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