Special Veterans Day Report
Special Veterans Day Newsletter
On Veterans Day we honor every American who has donned the uniform of our armed forces to defend our nation and secure our freedoms. I strive every day to honor their commitment to the United States by ensuring the health and well-being of the more than 20,000 veterans in our Congressional District and the more than 16 million veterans across our country.
I’m incredibly proud that this year, Congress passed and the President signed into law the most significant expansion of veterans’ benefits in over three decades. The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act provides life-saving care for 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances while serving our country.
Prior to the PACT Act, many veterans seeking care and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for medical conditions resulting from exposure to toxic substances, including from burn pits, were denied because the VA maintained highly restrictive standards for what constitutes service-connected toxic exposure. For years, I’ve heard from veterans in our congressional district who described the great frustration of being denied the care and compensation they need. The PACT Act addresses this issue by acknowledging that toxic exposure is a cost of war. You can access a list of qualifying conditions here: https://www.va.gov/pact.
Major Veterans Bills that Passed the House This Congress
Under current law, veterans must proactively enroll in the VA health care system to qualify for care, yet many veterans fail to access care because they don’t know whether they’re eligible or how to enroll. The EVEST Act addresses this issue by requiring the VA to automatically enroll new veterans in the VA health care system. This commonsense proposal passed the House in January 2022 and is still awaiting action in the Senate. It ensures that veterans can access the care they’ve earned without having to navigate the complex VA bureaucracy.
The Guard and Reserve G.I. Bill Parity Act
The Guard and Reserve G.I. Bill Parity Act grants National Guard and Reserve Members the same access to G.I. Bill benefits as their active-duty counterparts. This important bill passed the House in January 2022 and now awaits further action in the Senate.
Legislation Anna Cosponsored to Correct Past Injustices to Veterans
GI Bill Restoration Act
In 1944, the GI Bill was signed into law, providing low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans, and educational benefits to World War II veterans. However, many Black veterans were denied these benefits because of Jim Crow laws and widespread discrimination. I’ve cosponsored legislation that aims to correct this injustice by extending access to GI Bill educational benefits and the VA Loan Guaranty Program to the surviving spouses, children, and grandchildren of Black World War II veterans who were denied benefits because of their race.
Restore Honor to Service Members Act
Prior to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2011, more than 100,000 service members are estimated to have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Many of these veterans were dishonorably discharged, limiting their ability to access VA benefits. While these veterans are eligible to correct their military records to restore honorable discharge status, many are unaware of this process and others struggle to prove they were dismissed because of their sexual orientation.
I’ve cosponsored legislation to improve efforts to correct the military records of LGBTQ veterans by establishing a team within the Defense Department to conduct outreach to veterans about the status correction process. The bill also directs military historians to study the circumstances of discharges related to sexual orientation and make their findings available to veterans seeking to correct their records. Lastly, the bill requires the military to review status correction requests from all veterans, including those who cannot produce documentation showing they were discriminated against.
My office is available to help veterans with any issues they may have with the VA. Just recently we helped a World War II Navy veteran retrieve the military records he needed to receive VA medical services. Prior to contacting my office, he had waited seven months for the paperwork he needed. My office was able to expedite his papers and get them in two months.
The staff in my Palo Alto office work daily to address the wide-ranging problems or concerns constituents have with the VA and other federal agencies. Any time you need assistance, contact my office HERE.
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When we send the brave women and men of the U.S. Armed Forces into harm’s way, it is our collective responsibility to provide them with the health services, opportunities, and care they’ve earned. Strengthening this sacred promise has been a guiding principle of my public service.