Veterans and Military Personnel
Our country can never repay the debt we owe our nation’s veterans and current active duty military personnel. These are the Americans who answered the call to duty and put their lives on the line to preserve our nation’s freedoms. I have had the distinct honor of making a number of visits to our troops overseas to thank them for their service.
Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have fought to ensure that our military has the very best equipment, weaponry and training. I have also consistently voted to increase benefits to our veterans and to expand education benefits, provide vocational training and make housing more affordable to returning veterans.
Specifically, I have sponsored the Returning Soldiers' Bill of Rights, supported the Long Island State Veterans Home, voted for veterans housing benefits, voted to keep TRICARE costs low and voted for a tax deduction on TRICARE benefits. I was also instrumental in keeping the Manhattan VA open and in blocking private development at the St. Albans VA Community Living Center campus. Based on my support of veterans’ initiatives, I was awarded an ‘A’ on the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America report card.
The Post 9/11 GI bill, enacted in 2008, brought the GI Bill of Rights into the 21st Century and expanded educational benefits for military veterans. But there is more work to be done. For instance, I strongly support the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2014, which would expand education opportunities for veterans by allowing them to attend a state-run higher-education institution of their choice at an in-state tuition rate.
In today's tough economy, our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling more than ever to find jobs. I have reintroduced the Jobs for Veterans Act, which will give employers incentives to hire returning soldiers. This legislation is a win-win solution for veterans and business owners.
In addition to joblessness, returning veterans also face housing issues. I will continue to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure veterans get access to affordable housing and the support network they need.
Veterans and active military also face mental health issues. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the major causes of PTSD among these men and women. That is why I established a pilot program to enhance Department of Defense efforts on mental health in the National Guard and Reserves through community partnerships.
A top priority of mine has also been to fix our broken VA healthcare system. That is why I voted for the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, which became law on August 7th, 2014. This law alleviates the burden on the VA healthcare system and reduces wait times by requiring that medical care be furnished to veterans through specified non-Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities if they cannot get an appointment at a VA facility within the VA’s wait time goal. This law also increases the VA healthcare system’s efficiency by requiring the Inspector General of the VA to determine annually, the five health care occupations for which there are the largest staffing shortages throughout the VA. Finally this law improves healthcare for wounded veterans by extending the pilot program that assesses the effectiveness of assistance provided to eligible veterans with traumatic brain injury.
I want you to know that any veteran who has any questions whatsoever – ranging from healthcare to finding military records to receiving medals – should contact my office. For additional information on services available to veterans and military personnel please feel free to view the helpful links below. For employment services available to guardsmen and reservists visit: www.h2h.jobs. For services and benefits available to veterans visit: www.ebenefits.va.gov.