I believe that we owe no greater a debt than that owed to those who have fought to preserve our freedom. As such, I have made it my mission to provide top-quality care to our nation’s servicemen and women and our veterans.
In the 112th Congress, I was able to get important pro-veteran language included in a bill that was signed into law. Under the bill, I was able to expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit through 2012 for the hiring of unemployed veterans. It’s imperative that America does everything that it can to ensure that every veteran can find employment after they served our nation. As a result of this, businesses will have a real incentive to seek out veterans that are looking for employment, and they will receive a tax benefit for hiring an unemployed veteran.
In order to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and facilitate the building of the new Bob Michel Outpatient VA Health Clinic, I led numerous meetings with leadership from the Department of Veterans Affairs. I am proud to announce that the new VA Health Clinic has officially opened and is bigger than the old facility, and is providing additional services that were not previously offered to veterans.
Also, since I have been in Congress, I introduced legislation that provides incentives to franchisors so they can offer discounted franchise fees to veterans through the U.S. tax code. Opening a franchise is often out of reach to many, as the franchise fees can be quite substantial. My legislation would result in the opening of more small business franchises that are owned by our nation’s veterans.
I have become a co-sponsor of, the Disabled Veteran’s Tax Termination Act, which would allow Veterans to concurrently receive both retired pay and disability compensation. Additionally, I am a co-sponsor of the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, which aims to repeal the clause that reduces the benefits received by spouses when both retired pay and disability pay are present. I have also supported the End Veteran Homelessness Act, which increased the authorization for VA comprehensive service programs for homeless veterans. I also introduced an amendment to help fund the estimated 3,286 loans the Department of Veterans Affairs will make in FY11 to service disabled veterans enrolled in vocational rehabilitation programs.
I have also becomea co-sponsor of the National Gaurdsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act, which would include after September 11, 2011 as service qualifying for the determination of reduced eligibility age for receipt of non-regular service retired pay.
Since arriving in Congress, I have supported a number of bills that are designed to support our veterans, such as H.R 1627, which reaffirmed that burial at Arlington National Cemetery should be based on one’s qualifying service instead of rank or position. I voted in favor of H.R. 1383, which raised the amount of education benefits paid to certain veterans and their dependents. I also supported H.R. 1657, which increased penalties for businesses that falsely claim to be veteran or disabled veteran owned.
I have also become a co-sponsor of the War Memorial Protection Act, which would permit religious symbols recognizing the religious background of members of the Armed Forces at military memorials. Additionally, I co-sponsored the Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act, which is legislation that would prevent military retirees and their families from paying higher TRICARE premiums.
In the 112th Congress, I introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would assist military families. It would allow a service member with a minor dependent – a child under the age of 19 – to request a deferment of deployment to a combat zone if their spouse is currently deployed to a combat zone.
I voted in favor of HR 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act, which included important provisions that provided for an across-the-board pay raise for members of the Armed Forces, and capped future health care fee increases to cost of living adjustments. Additionally, I supported the Defense Appropriations bill for FY12 and FY13. These bills included pay raises for military personnel, an increased funding for military equipment upgrades and health programs. I was also a supporter of both the FY12 and FY13 Military Construction – Veterans Affairs Appropriations bills.
During last Congress,I supported H.R. 4155, the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act, which would help veterans who are facing unemployment by allowing them to cut through bureaucratic red tape so that they can work in fields in the private sector that they are already qualified to do in the military. I was also a co-sponsor of H.R. 1947, the Post 9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act, which would make it easier for veterans to be in the program, and expands the number of school districts in which a veteran can qualify for a stipend toward the cost of becoming a teacher.
In the 112th Congress, I introduced and passed an amendment to the FY13 Military Construction – Veterans Affairs Appropriations legislation to transfer $16 million in veterans health funding into programs to allow veterans to visit hospitals and physicians outside of the VA network, closer to the veteran’s home. I also supported the underlying legislation provided $1.65 billion for military family housing, and $61.7 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration.
As a State Representative, I served on the Veteran Affairs committee in Springfield, and I spent my time ensuring veterans had a path to the Veterans Administration that was clear of bureaucratic obstacles and red tape. You can rest assured that I will continue this effort in Washington. Additionally, if veterans are experiencing any personal problems with the VA, I encourage them to contact my district office, so that we can work to help address the matter. You can be sure that when the U.S. House debates veteran related issues, the well-being of all those who have worn the uniform will be foremost in my mind.