Supporting Veterans Every Day
In South Dakota, we support our veterans every day of the year, not just on Veterans Day. Veterans actually make up 10 percent of our state’s population! Nearly all of us have a friend or family member who served, or you’re a veteran yourself. The men and women whose sacrifice and bravery allows us to live freely are among the best of the best. We owe it to them to make sure they receive the benefits they were promised when they signed up to serve.
I have the privilege of serving on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where we work to make sure the federal government is living up to its promises to our veterans. The legislation we consider seeks to improve the lives of veterans in all stages of life, including the transition from military service to civilian life. We work to make sure that transition is as easy and seamless as possible. We’re also working to give them better access to their benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which too often means cutting through layers of bureaucracy and red-tape. If any veteran or beneficiary has trouble accessing benefits, our office can act as a liaison between the veteran and the VA. I encourage veterans and their families to contact any of my South Dakota offices if you need help. I have a number of veterans in both my Washington and South Dakota offices who help me with military and veterans issues we come across in the Senate. Phone numbers and addresses are listed on my website, www.rounds.senate.gov.
This year, I’ve introduced a number of bills – all bipartisan – that will help veterans as they re-enter civilian life. For some, that may mean starting or finishing their education. For others, it may mean finding a job that fits with the skillsets they acquired during their service. I joined Sen. Jon Tester of Montana to introduce a bill that would cut down on delays for student veterans trying to access the extra funds they’ve earned through the VA Work-Study Allowance Program. I also introduced a bill that would change the Small Business Act to waive up-front guarantee fees for veterans and their spouses who are participating in the Small Business Administration’s export promotion loan programs. This will help veterans who are looking to start or grow a small business.
I also recently introduced a bill that would establish a wounded warrior fellowship program in the Senate, similar to an existing program in the House. It would allow each Senate office to hire a veteran to work on important armed services and veterans affairs-related policy for a period of up to two years. This program can help veterans use the skills, knowledge and experience they gained through their service to help constituents and shape important policy that impacts the heroes who wear the uniform of the United States of America. It also creates future employment opportunities for veterans once their fellowship is over and makes sure that the perspectives and concerns of veterans are continually added to the Senate workforce.
Whenever I travel around the state, I always appreciate the opportunity to meet with veterans to hear directly from them about the issues they’re facing. We seem to always have a discussion about healthcare benefits and quality of care. We also continue to hear that the VA employees in South Dakota are doing a good job, but the VA in Washington keeps causing problems. Cleaning up the VA remains a priority for me and the other members of our committee.
We are so grateful to each and every veteran. On Veterans Day, we honor all of the men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom. Thank you.