Keeping Faith with Veterans

November 14, 2007
November 10, 2007
Keeping Faith with Veterans

November 10, 2007

By U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo
Palo Alto Daily News

For 88 years, America has designated Nov. 11 as the day to honor our nation's veterans. It began as Armistice Day at the conclusion of World War I, and today Veterans Day is an opportunity for each of us to pause and remember our men and women who served in the military to protect and defend our country.

Today we have 25 million living veterans among us. Their service spans several generations, many wars and countless battlefields, and they all share the same devotion to preserving our freedoms and our shared values. They risked death and disability and endured long separations from their families in order to serve, and while we can never fully compensate them for their sacrifices, we can make good on our commitment to provide our veterans with the care and support they've earned.

The need is great and urgent. Over the next year, the Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to treat 5.8 million patients and 263,000 veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to revolutionary advances in medicine, more of our troops are surviving serious combat injuries and illnesses that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts. The higher survival rate is good news, but it also means that more veterans are coming home in need of intensive treatment and rehabilitation.

Our community is home to the VA Palo Alto Health System, where doctors, nurses, therapists and other caregivers provide the most comprehensive, advanced treatment available to help heal our wounded warriors. Their work is amazing and it wouldn't be possible without a national commitment to ensure treatment is available and delivered as promised.

Democrats in Congress are keeping faith with our veterans. We rejected the president's plan to create new enrollment fees and increase drug co-payments on one million veterans. When problems came to light at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, we passed legislation to improve outpatient military medical care and the transition of wounded service members to the VA system. We've also passed legislation that takes another step to end the disabled veterans tax, which forces disabled military veterans to give up one dollar of their pensions for every dollar of disability pay they receive.

Recently we voted to send legislation to the president that provides the single largest increase in veterans health benefits in the 77-year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill reduces the frustrating backlog for veterans benefits and it improves the treatment of mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which are among the most common problems facing veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This legislation enjoys the support of every major veterans group in our country.

Actions always speak louder than words. We honor our veterans by fulfilling our promises to them just as they fulfilled their promise to our nation by standing sentry over our freedoms.

Anna G. Eshoo represents the 14th Congressional District of California and serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.