Weekly Column: Veterans' Selfless Service Keeps America Free and Safe
We recently recognized Memorial Day to honor the brave men and women who died in combat, as well as the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, where more than 116,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of northern France to free Europe from the Nazis during World War II. These days serve as important reminders of the tremendous sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and their families. They risk everything to protect the freedoms we enjoy in the United States each and every day.
While our debt to them can never be fully repaid, it is our duty to fulfill the promises we have made to them. I have the privilege of serving on the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, where I have been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance legislation that will streamline and improve services for our military families. The Senate recently passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which is a bipartisan bill that will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It accomplishes this by further empowering the secretary to hold bad employees accountable for misconduct in the workplace and protect whistleblowers from unfair workplace retaliation and providing assurances to the many hardworking VA employees who are dedicated to the care of our vets. I was happy to cosponsor this legislation that will, when signed into law, remove some of the burdensome red-tape within the VA.
I have also been working on a few other bipartisan bills to improve veterans’ lives after they leave service and transition back into civilian life. The Veterans To Enhance Studies Through (TEST) Accessibility Act will make sure veterans aren’t forced to use up a full month of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in order to be reimbursed for an inexpensive test or job certification. Under current law, vets are required to use a full month of their Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility to be reimbursed for licensing, certification and national tests, such as those required to be an athletic trainer, fire fighter or medical technician. This legislation would further empower and encourage veterans to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to increase their qualifications, which I hope will make veterans more successful when transitioning to civilian life.
I also introduced a bill with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) to help veterans’ access to capital to start small businesses when their service is up. It would waive up-front fees for veterans who apply for the Small Business Administration’s Export Express, Export Working Capital and International Trade loans of $150,000 or less. This bill would simultaneously help veterans transition to civilian life and promote entrepreneurship.
Most recently, I introduced a bill to allow more flexibility in allocating Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to survivors of service members. The Increasing Transferability of Entitlement to Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Act of 2017 would allow survivors of deceased service members, who had Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred to them, to reallocate those benefits to other designated survivors. I expect this legislation to help the families, who have made enormous sacrifice to our country, to use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits more effectively amongst a family’s recipients.
These are just a few examples of the bills we are working on to improve the quality of life for veterans and their families. I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate—on both sides of the aisle—to improve and streamline VA services for our nation’s veterans. It is but one small way we can thank them for their service to our country.