Today, as we honor America's fallen soldiers, I ask you to join me in renewing our commitment to the men and women who have served our nation in the Armed Forces.
When I ran for Congress, I was clear about my opposition to the War in Iraq. But while I did not agree with President Bush 's policies, I worked hard in Congress to provide our servicemembers and returning veterans with the health care and educational opportunities they deserve.
Now I am renewing those efforts in the U.S. Senate. Last week I introduced legislation called PRO-VETS, to require the Veterans Administration to seek out and provide our returning heroes with information on the benefits they have earned. It will eliminate red-tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks, and require timely responses from the VA to all those who inquire about the benefits for which they are eligible.
I was shocked to find out the following statistics from my home state of New York:
- While there are 237,302 veterans in New York City , 181,360 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
- While there are 121,183 veterans in Western New York , 87,217 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
- While there are 85,401 veterans in Central New York , 61,220 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
- While there are 54,360 veterans in the Southern Tier , 39,277 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
- While there are 92,549 veterans in the Capital Region , 71,571 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
- While there are 46,762 veterans in the North Country , 35,085 are not receiving VA health care benefits.
My legislation would close the gap between what our veterans are eligible for and what they are receiving. As I say in the news piece below, this is about shifting the focus of the VA to become pro-active, not reactive.
While the US government provides our veterans with many benefits, I believe there is much more still to be done to fulfill our promise to those who risk their lives for our country.
- We need to expand health benefits to include treatment of autism for children of retired and active duty servicemembers.
- We need to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell to allow our soldiers to serve openly and honestly, regardless of sexual orientation.
- We need to expand access to healthcare for veterans and their families, including universal pre-natal care.
- We need to provide incentives to businesses in order to expand the opportunities available to our veterans upon their return to civilian life.
In the meantime, it is my hope that my PRO-VETS bill, once passed and signed into law, will at least help veterans take advantage of the benefits that do exist. For me, this bill is my small way of saying thanks to our brave veterans for their service to our country. I encourage you all to join me in honoring our veterans and service personnel, not just today but every day. They and their families have earned our thanks and our support.