The Ripon Forum

Volume 55, No. 5

Veterans Day 2021

VA Update: Our Work for Veterans is Never Done

By on November 8, 2021

by JERRY MORAN

This Veterans Day as we honor, remember, and pay respect to those who have served in our military, we should also reflect on what we have done and what more we can do to repay our American heroes for their service. Our country made a binding pact with our servicemembers and veterans to ensure they receive the care, support, and recognition earned through their service. Upholding our end of the bargain is not only a moral obligation, it also strengthens the faith our next generation of heroes have in our country.  

During the Trump Administration, I’m proud that Congress and the White House were able to take substantial steps forward to fulfill our obligations and make certain veterans received the care they have earned. 

We opened the doors to community care through the MISSION Act; we expanded and improved veteran education benefits with the Forever GI Bill; we overhauled the aging appeals process to empower veterans with options on how their appeal was reviewed; and we granted the VA greater authorities to discipline and dismiss bad actors within the agency whenever they did not put the best interests of our veterans first. These wins were significant, but the real test is ensuring the current administration effectively executes these laws.   

Veterans deserve a system that provides them the care and benefits they need where they are located.

Since the MISSION Act was signed into law, veterans’ perceptions of the VA have improved as more choose to utilize care through community providers in the towns and cities where they live and work. This evolution of how the VA provides care is a groundbreaking win for all veterans. I am committed to ensuring the federal government puts veterans first and prioritizes their decisions in health care instead of regressing to the days of long wait times and burdensome commutes to distant VA facilities. Veterans deserve a system that provides them the care and benefits they need where they are located.   

In addition to the MISSION Act expanding health care choice for veterans, the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission was established calling for an independent review of VA’s infrastructure and recommendations for how VA can modernize to reflect demographic changes in the veteran population and update aging infrastructure ill-suited for modern medicine. The commission will assess the more than 7,500 buildings VA owns, leases and operates. This will help determine where future funds should be focused to update aging facilities and make renovations based on needs of the local veteran population and newly available medical technology.  

As we work to continue improving the VA, it is important to address disparities in access and levels of care available to our veterans. Particularly in rural and underserved areas, veterans can easily fall through the cracks due to unequal access or varying quality of care. That is why I introduced the Guaranteeing Healthcare Access to Personnel who Served Act, or “GHAPS Act.” The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has already taken the first step to pass this legislation out of committee. I look forward to passing this bill out of there Senate to help the VA meet the unique needs of every veteran and make certain veterans receive cutting-edge, high-quality, and timely care.

There is no group of Americans I hold in higher regard than those who have served and sacrificed.

Even amid successes, our work for veterans is never done. For too long veterans affected by toxic exposures while in the military have had to wait for care or come to Congress to advocate for a change in law to enable them to obtain the care and benefits they need. This patchwork system must end. Veterans deserve a transparent and reliable framework, supported by science, to identify and address the toxic wounds of war.

While I am not a veteran, I watched as many of my high school peers left to serve in Vietnam, most of whom were only a year or two older than I. When I saw the way they were treated when they came home, the disrespect that was thrown at them for answering the call to serve their country, I decided that I would spend the rest of my life honoring those in uniform.

I never thought I would be a United States Senator, but since I have been in Congress I have served on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and I am determined to represent our nation’s veterans to the best of my ability because there is no group of Americans I hold in higher regard than those who have served and sacrificed. This year, and every year, we thank those who have guaranteed our freedom. God bless our veterans.

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran represents the great state of Kansas in the United States Senate and is the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

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