Skip to content

Smith Report 5.22.2014

May marks National Military Appreciation Month when events are organized to honor our brave men and women in uniform and the sacrifices they make defending our freedoms at home and abroad. Across our country, civic groups and average American citizens are joining together to host everything from appreciation dinners to parades and even a fishing tournament to let our military members know we honor their service. In the House of Representatives, I am working to ensure our federal government keeps its promises to members of the military.
Caring for our veterans should be a top priority in Washington. The Veterans Administration (VA) has thousands of doctors, nurses and public servants who work hard to give military members the best healthcare we can offer. But, too often, the VA system fails those it was created to help. An outrageous backlog at the VA has caused veterans to wait months for answers on disability claims. Unfortunately, the same is true of VA medical services where wait lists for some critical services are extremely long. In some tragic instances, veterans have passed away waiting for healthcare services from the VA. This is unacceptable.
This month, the House of Representatives took action to provide critical funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to funding, the House has acted to make systemic changes in the VA to improve access to healthcare services for our veterans. The legislation provides specific funding for medical care, mental health services, traumatic brain injury treatment for our most seriously wounded American heroes, homeless services and job training to ensure that the transition back to civilian life is successful for our veterans. Additionally, the House is working to modernize the VA with a new electronic health record system and an updated paperless claims processing system. These updates are the first step toward ending the unacceptable backlog of VA disability and medical claims.
Another way that Congress can improve access to care for our veterans is through the Patient-Centered Community Care program that allows the VA to contract with local healthcare providers. In our Eighth Congressional District there are veterans who are forced to travel one hundred miles to the closest VA clinic or hospital. Many veterans have injuries or are elderly. Extended travel often times only adds to veterans’ frustrations. The Patient-Centered Community Care program is relatively new and not yet widely available. I am working to grow the program and make healthcare options more accessible for our veterans.
Like other Americans, the House of Representatives is committed to honoring members of the military during Military Appreciation Month. While people across the country are holding special events for our service members, I have been working in the House of Representatives to keep the promises made to our veterans and honor their service to our nation. We must always honor the service and sacrifices of our military members.