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On this Memorial Day 2014, we honor the fallen men and women of our Armed Services.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, every day I’m inspired to work on behalf of all our military personnel and veterans.
My work as a member of Congress on behalf of Veterans is two-fold: In Washington, I have consistently proposed or voted to help increase awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), boost mental health funding, decrease homelessness and increase job opportunities for our Veterans.
At home in Georgia, through my constituent services representatives in Lithonia, we are working hard every day to ensure that veterans receive their benefits.
Every day in my district or Washington, D.C. offices, one of our constituent services representatives helps a veteran with a housing, health, job or compensation issue.
It is part of what we do in Congress – especially at the district level – helping constituents who have an issue with a federal agency, including our Veterans. Since I took office in 2007, I’m proud to say we’ve helped thousands of veterans receive the benefits they have so rightly earned and deserve.
But today we face a mounting back log crisis at our VA hospitals across the country, including here in Atlanta. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll as more than 2 million new veterans have enrolled in VA health care since 2009, just as the baby-boomers are reaching an age where they need greater health services.
The President and I take allegations of misconduct with respect to the care of our veterans extremely seriously. President Obama has taken action to find out the facts and fix the problem. He directed Secretary Shinseki to get to the bottom of this issue, and has temporarily assigned one of his closest advisors – Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors – to the VA to conduct a review and provide recommendations on how to fix these problems.
I look forward to seeing the results of this review so we can move forward and truly address this pressing issue through policy, legislation and changing the culture of the VA.
The fact of the matter is that we have made historic investments in supporting our nation’s veterans. VA funding is at its highest level ever, and discretionary funding for VA has increased by 33 percent since 2009. But it is not enough. We simply must do better.
Recently, one of the most tangible ways I’ve helped Veterans is the fight to keep a commissary here in Atlanta. Thanks to our efforts, the Fort Gillem Commissary will open again from June 26-28, 2014, to test the demand in the Atlanta metro area. The commissary will be in Building 900, not the regular commissary building. If we succeed in keeping the commissary open at Fort Gillem, we will ease the burdens of thousands of veterans in the north Georgia area who deserve accessibility to this important benefit.
To all our veterans and your families – I thank each of you for your service and can assure you that as long as I am in Congress, your needs will remain a priority for me and my staff.
Memorial Day is a solemn holiday and a great opportunity for us to make it clear that we appreciate the service and sacrifice of our military and their families.
It is a day to pause and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and to say a heartfelt thank you to those who are still with us.
Because our military stands strong here and around the globe, it provides the canvass of freedom that allows America to become a better nation. With their protection, we became a better nation through Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Civil Rights Movement, voting rights, workers’ rights and programs that protect our senior citizens and allows our businesses to thrive and grow.
Please take some time this weekend to enjoy and commemorate our veterans and their families at celebrations in Stone Mountain, the Veterans Memorial Park Walk of Heroes in Conyers or at a celebration in your communities in Gwinnett or Newton counties.
As always, I appreciate your time and feedback. Please remember you can reach me on Facebook and Twitter as well as e-mails, phone calls and letters. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you in Congress.