Supporting Our Veterans
The men and women who risk their lives to protect our country deserve our utmost gratitude and support. We must treat them with the same respect and devotion they have shown to our country. That requires a full, wide-ranging support system that ensures our veterans have access to education, good jobs, health care (including mental health services), and anything else they may need upon return to civilian life. It also means providing support for their spouses and loved ones.
The federal government has recently taken steps to expand educational and employment opportunities for veterans with the passage into law of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the “Forever GI Bill.” Raja co-sponsored and voted in favor of this law because of its beneficial amendments to the GI Bill, including its removal of time limits to use its benefits (previously set at 15 years), its expansion to National Guard and Reserve members and Purple Heart recipients, its expanded emphasis on STEM scholarships, its protection of funds for recipients at schools that close mid-semester, and its easing of red tape for veterans to access their benefits. These changes reflect Raja’s belief in a government that supports our veterans for their service, prepares them for the jobs of the future, and provides protections and ease of access to ensure they can make the most of their benefits.
In addition, Raja wants to reduce veteran homelessness. Since 2010, veteran homelessness has decreased by 36%. While the trajectory is certainly positive, the thought of any member of our armed services sleeping on the street is unacceptable. Raja believes the federal government should provide cities and states with the resources necessary to ensure that all veterans have access to employment support, tenant assistance, and counseling services.
The cornerstone of our veteran support system is health care, and earlier reports of delays in care and secret waiting-lists are unacceptable. For veterans to have the health care they deserve, we need to improve efficiency and accountability at the VA. This begins with improvements in technology and integrating the various VA systems. Recent adjustments have improved claim-processing times, and Raja believes this work should be accelerated. Additionally, improved whistleblower protection and transparency requirements would make the VA more accountable to the public.
Raja also supports turning President Obama’s 2012 executive order on veterans’ mental health care into law. This executive order has led to increased mental health staffing at the VA, higher capacity for the veterans crisis line, and new partnerships between the VA and community mental health services. These efforts must continue – especially in helping the thousands of brave American men and women who served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.