Veterans deserve our honor every day
Sunday, June 08, 2014 10:00 PM
I hope that all of you enjoyed time with your families and friends over the Memorial Day weekend. I know our family had been looking forward to the beginning of summer. As we enjoyed family time last weekend, I can't tell you how special it is to be able to explain to Teddy and Ryan what Memorial Day means.
The day was set aside to honor the more than one million Americans who, as Abraham Lincoln said, 'gave the last full measure of devotion' in service to our great nation. We must never forget the human toll that comes with committing our servicemen and women to combat, and must do all that we can to avoid it.
From the first militiamen that fell at Lexington and Concord, to the war fighters who sacrificed their lives in the War on Terror, we must always remember the brave patriots who gave their all to secure our country, so that we may hand down the blessings of liberty to future generations.
We must also take care of those who risked their lives, and thankfully, returned home. That is why the House has worked hard in recent weeks passing legislation in response to the recent reports of avoidable patient deaths, falsified records, secret waiting lists, and cancelled appointments in our Veterans' Affairs facilities.
Veterans ought to expect timely and effective care. The troubling reports of backlogs and poor service at VA medical facilities are unacceptable. Those who are directly or indirectly responsible must be held accountable, starting with being fired for their negligence. I will continue fighting for our veterans by pursuing legislation and other remedies to correct these problems.
Two weeks ago, I joined with other Hoosier lawmakers in sending a letter to the President demanding the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki for the service being shown our veterans. For once, the President finally listened, as the Secretary resigned today. These problems, however are bigger than one person. The resignation of Secretary Shinseki is an important first step, but it must be the beginning of much larger changes. To best serve our veterans, the bureaucratic culture must change, and fast.
The House recently considered and passed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Management Accountability Act, H.R. 4031, to address the recent troubling report of avoidable patient deaths, falsified records, secret waiting lists, and cancelled appointments in our VA facilities. This legislation holds the management and employees responsible for this negligence.
Gulf War Health Research Reform Act - H.R. 4261 makes the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses an independent committee, appointed by Congress, within the VA. It also requires the Institute of Medicine reports on the health efforts of toxic exposures veterans were subjected to during the Gulf War, and how best to treat the afflicted veterans.
I stand ready to help veterans who are experiencing trouble with the VA bureaucracy. To date, we have assisted with over 1,000 cases. Cases we have assisted with have ranged from VA disability benefits to education benefits, and many others. We also have been able to assist resolving pay issues for active duty service members.
I have also assisted in ensuring veterans are properly recognized for their service. In August of 2012, I had the great honor of participating in a ceremony to present retired Sgt. Frank Spink with a Silver Star for heroic actions in Vietnam over 40 years before. Due to a bureaucratic error, he didn't learn that he should have received the medal until earlier that year. Other veterans contacted my office on his behalf, and my staff and I worked with military officials to get his medal and to present it to him at a special ceremony at Stout Field.
Contact my Danville office at (317)718-0404 if you or a relative is experiencing difficulty with the VA or any federal agency.
Rep. Todd Rokita is Indiana's 4th District congressman. He represents Montgomery County and other areas of West Central Indiana.