Jackson Cit Pat: Honoring our commitments to our veterans
Several times a year, the Honor Flight program takes World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans from Michigan to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor.
It has been my distinct privilege to welcome these heroes on many occasions. On Saturday, Sept. 30, the Talons Out Honor Flight is embarking on its latest trip with Michigan veterans, including several from Jackson County, to our nation's capital.
The men and women who served in harm's way to defend our freedoms are owed an immeasurable debt. It is our duty to uphold our commitments to them. In Congress, I am working to improve healthcare for veterans, enhance job and educational opportunities for our troops when they return home and increase accountability and transparency at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA has faced mismanagement and culture problems for years. Too often, the VA has failed to put veterans first and live up to the high standards of care they deserve. While most VA employees are hardworking, there are bad actors who settle for mediocrity or abuse their positions, leading to shocking instances of neglect and cover up like the VA scandal of three years ago.
To help clean up the VA, Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in June, which President Trump signed into law. The bipartisan law includes long-overdue reforms to provide the VA secretary with greater flexibility to remove or suspend poorly performing employees. Getting the right people in the job - and helping them properly carry out the VA's core mission - will produce better care and better results for America's veterans.
Congress also passed, and the president signed into law in August, landmark legislation to modernize the GI Bill for the 21st century. Called the Forever GI Bill, this new law removes the 15-year time limit for veterans to use their GI Bill benefits.
From now on, new servicemembers won't face an expiration date and will be eligible to go back to college whenever it best meets their needs. This sweeping expansion of the GI Bill will help veterans transition back into civilian life and build a successful future in whatever career path they pursue after military service.
These are significant leaps forward, but more work is ahead, including two bipartisan bills I've introduced this Congress. The Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights will help educate veterans with amputations and ensure they have access to high quality prosthetic limb and orthotic care. The VA Transparency Enhancement Act, which I introduced with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, will increase reporting requirements of infection rates and surgical cancellations so patients and the public know when quality of care standards are not being met.
My office regularly hears from veterans who are bogged down by bureaucratic red tape at the VA. We are here to help and want to hear your story.
Recently, Congresswoman Dingell and I teamed up with local organizations and agencies to host a Veterans Resource Fair and Town Hall to listen to concerns and connect veterans with available resources. If you are a veteran or a family member who has questions or needs help navigating the VA, you can call my office at 517-780-9075 for assistance. I am committed to ensuring our nation's heroes receive the care and benefits worthy of their service.
-- U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, represents the 7th Congressional District and is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee. This op-ed originally appeared in the September 30 edition of the Jackson Citizen Patriot.