Through nearly 30 years of military service, whether abroad in Germany, Panama or Iraq, or here at home at Ft. Bragg, Ft. Rucker or Ft. Meade, I’ve seen first-hand how our servicemen and women are some of the most patriotic, courageous, and inspiring Americans. Because of their service, our nation remains the greatest nation in the world. And for that, we owe each and every one of our Veterans a debt of gratitude and a commitment to providing for them and their families.
In Maryland we’ve spent the past several years making Veterans’ services a priority. We passed the Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013, making it easier for Veterans to use the skills they’ve learned in the military to find work or return to college once they return home; supported Veteran Small Business Owners through no-interest loans; and invested close to $7 million in our Veterans’ Behavioral Health Initiative. We’ve also made tremendous strides in the day-to-day workings of our MDVA Veterans Service Program, through which we’ve seen a dramatic increase in Veterans contacted, an overall increase in claims filed on behalf of Veterans, and the opening of new offices around the State.
But for all of our progress, there’s more work to be done, and we need more Veterans in Congress who can get that work done. Today, fewer than 20% of the members in Congress have any military experience. That is down from the 75% in the mid-1970s. As a military Veteran, in Congress I will fight to:
• Ensure proper funding so the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can provide timely health care and benefits
• Build capacity at the VA Medical System to meet the demands for care by properly funding infrastructure and establishing adequate staffing levels
• Reduce the number of suicides among service members and Veterans by ensuring proper funding for Department of Defense and VA suicide prevention programs and mental health treatment
• Increase research and services for women’s health care needs
• Fulfill President Obama’s pledge of zero tolerance for Veterans homelessness
• Ensure that service members receive proper licenses, credentials or academic credit for their military training, education and experience to transition into similar civilian careers
• Fully fund the Transition Assistance Program to meet the needs of service members and Veterans at all phases of the transition process
• Recruit and retain the highest quality service members by maintaining a quality and comprehensive military benefits and retirement package
• Support full concurrent receipt of military retirement pay and VA disability compensation without offset and regardless of the rating percentage
• Achieve the fullest possible accounting of U.S. military personnel missing from all wars
• Implement a pilot program to incentivize businesses and non-profit organizations to create on-the-job training opportunities for Veterans
• Fully support U.S. troops and their mission to protect our nation’s citizens and interests around the world
Veterans have protected our nation through their service – today, they and their families make our communities stronger with their presence. And while we owe them a debt we can never fully repay, through our commitment to them, we’ll help build a better Maryland and a better America for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our state and for our nation.