As a member of Congress, I take my responsibility to veterans very seriously.  The U.S. Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, grants Congress the power to “provide for the common defense” and to “raise and support Armies.”  Through their service to our country, our veterans have earned care and benefits, a big part of “supporting Armies.”  This is also important for recruitment and retention of our military service members.

We celebrate and care for the 330,000 veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, other operations, and peacetime service who live in Oklahoma. They selflessly served to defend us, and now the United States has a duty to serve them. 

As a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, I appreciate the needs of service members. I understand what it means to return from active duty and face the challenges of dealing with the VA and supporting a family. I believe those challenges are great enough without becoming stuck in the endless bureaucracy of the VA (Veterans Administration). 

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have gained unique insight into military and veterans issues in addition to my own experience. Long wait times and inadequate care from the VA is insulting and inexcusable. I have, as a Member of Congress, consistently demanded improved integrity and efficiency in the VA. 

My two major priorities for veterans’ policy are:

  • Improve medical care by giving veterans more choices and holding the VA accountable
  • Focus veterans benefits and services on those with service-connected disabilities

So far in the 114th Congress, the House of Representatives has passed multiple bills for veterans.  I voted in favor of these bills, including:

  • H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt SAV Act (Became Public Law No. 114-2 on February 12, 2015.) to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct annual evaluations of mental health care and suicide prevention programs of the VA and to require a pilot program on student loan repayment for psychiatrists who serve in the Veterans Health Administration.
  • H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act of 2015 (Passed House of Representatives on July 29, 2015.) to give the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to fire or demote certain VA officials and to require that certain new VA hires undergo a probationary period of 18 months before they are fully protected by civil service laws.
  • H.R. 280, To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Passed House of Representatives on March 2, 2015.) to authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to direct a VA employee to repay an award or bonus if determined appropriate and if the employee is afforded notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The Department’s repayment decisions are final and unreviewable by any other agency or court.
  • H.R. 294, Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act (Passed House of Representatives on March 2, 2015.) to authorize the VA to transfer a veteran from nursing home care to medical foster home care meeting VA standards, at the veteran’s request, should the veteran agree to accept VA home health services.

I will continue to advocate in Congress for Oklahoma veterans and seek out legislation which honors their courageous service.

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