Solutions for Veterans
I am honored to serve as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Riverside County has the 8th largest veteran population of any county in the United States. The brave men and women in our community and across the country deserve our deepest gratitude and respect. I am committed to supporting our veterans by:
- Increasing veterans’ access to quality and timely health care while opposing efforts to privatize the Veterans Health Administration,
- Connecting student veterans with educational, vocational, and job training opportunities that prepare them for a successful future, and
- Creating a culture of excellence at the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve veterans’ experiences at the VA.
These priorities are critical to providing America’s veterans the care and support they deserve.
Strengthening the Veterans Health Administration
My first priority is to ensure that every veteran has access to quality and timely health care. A strong VA health care system is critical to connecting veterans with highly skilled doctors and medical staff that have the expertise required to treat the unique and complex health challenges our veterans face.
VHA doctors work exclusively with the veteran community and are familiar with military service and culture. As a result, VHA doctors can recognize service-connected issues that often go unnoticed or untreated by private healthcare providers. They can also access veterans’ service records to anticipate and address health conditions that are specific to certain regions or service histories.
According to studies, the VHA delivers care that is equal to or better than the care provided in the private sector. I stand with the overwhelming majority of veterans and veterans’ organizations who reject proposals to privatize VA health care.
Instead, I am focused on strengthening VHA’s capacity to provide quality care, streamlining the process for leveraging care in the community, and investing vital health services that veterans rely on, including the VHA’s program for suicide prevention, which is the largest suicide prevention program in the United States.
The most recent study revealed that 20 veterans die from suicide every day. This tragic fact is a call to action for improving access to mental health resources, and bringing veterans suffering from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder under the VHA’s blanket of care. At the same time, we must work to erase the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health.
Education and Job Training
For many young Americans, military service is both an opportunity to serve as well as a bridge to a better future. As a public school teacher for more than 20 years, I strongly believe that we must provide returning servicemembers with the educational tools and support they need to make a successful transition into civilian life. I am working with my colleagues on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee to shape the programs that ensure every veteran has access to an affordable and quality higher education or vocational training.
Specifically, I am fighting to expand and protect the G.I. Bill, enhance transition programs, and, most importantly, crackdown on for-profit education companies that continue to prey upon and exploit student veterans for their generous education benefits.
At the end of the 114th Congress, President Obama signed into law the Career-Ready Student Veterans Act, which I introduced to ensure that all educational programs meet state licensure and certification standards if they are to receive G.I. Bill payouts. This is just one step towards the protecting the G.I. Bill from the for-profit education industry, which frequently recruits students through ambitious promises but delivers crippling debt and few job opportunities instead.
I will continue pushing for a more comprehensive solution, including the PRO Students Act, which would remove the incentives that lead for-profit schools to aggressively target veterans.
A Culture of Excellence at the VA
After unacceptable instances of underperformance and misconduct at the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA must refocus its efforts on building a world-class workforce. Recruiting and retaining talented and passionate staff is critical to building a VA that offers veterans a consistently excellent experience.
In addition, strong and continuous leadership, organization-wide training and development, and accountability for those who fail to meet veterans’ needs are necessary steps toward earning the trust of the veterans community.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is vital to keeping the promise we make to veterans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the VA is providing veterans the care, support, and respect they have earned through service to our nation.
If you’re a veteran and need assistance working with the VA click here to get in touch with one of the caseworkers in my Riverside Office.