I have been a strong advocate for our nation’s veterans while serving in the United States Senate. Our veterans have put themselves in harm’s way to defend us, and I think it is only right that we do everything in our power to defend them and their interests when they return home. While I believe that a great deal has been accomplished to help veterans over the years, there are still a number of improvements to be made.
Department of Veterans Affairs
I continue to have very serious concerns about the allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs and the issues that have persisted since. Our veterans deserve timely access to care and mismanagement and cover-ups, like what has too often occurred at the VA, are inexcusable. Our veterans have earned their benefits through dedicated service and sacrifice to our nation, and I believe the VA must work to correct these problems.
Reports regarding the treatment of veterans in Alabama have been particularly disturbing. It is my understanding that the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) had one of the longest average wait times in the nation for veterans to receive care. As your United States Senator, I will continue to work with the VA to address the systemic challenges it faces both at CAVHCS and across our nation. I remain committed to keeping our nation’s promise to our veterans and will do all that I can to ensure they are provided with timely and effective health care services.
Our nation’s veterans have risked their lives for the freedoms we all enjoy and should receive the care they most assuredly deserve. Defending veterans’ access to timely medical care today is the very least we can do because they defended us first.
I believe the federal government has an obligation to honor its commitments to TRICARE recipients. While previous Administrations have called for increases to TRICARE fees for retired military families, I believe that we should not impose a significant burden to our veterans, particularly low-income and older veterans.
It is important to note that Congress ultimately holds the power of the purse and retains the authority regarding TRICARE changes that will affect retired military families. Although there is certainly room for fiscal responsibility throughout the federal government, we must be cautious when attempting to trim the budget from programs or personnel that keep our country safe. As the Senate continues to address the needs of our servicemembers and veterans, I will continue to fight for the support that they have rightfully earned.
Service-connected Disability Payments
I have long believed that retired military personnel with service-connected disabilities are entitled to receive their benefits in full. When a servicemember retires from the military, they are provided a pension. When a servicemember is disabled while serving our country, we support that individual with disability compensation. These are two distinct payments for two entirely separate situations and circumstances. For those who made a career in the military and suffered an injury as a result of their service, they should collect both payments in full. Concurrent receipt is simply an equity issue. Additionally, there should not be a deduction from the combined amount of their disability compensation and military retirement pay. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to see that our veterans receive the benefits they have rightfully earned.