With Veterans Day coming soon, veterans and their representatives from military service organizations joined Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday to discuss advances in veterans’ care and priorities moving forward.
Sanders, I-Vt., is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and said it’s no great secret that the Congress is beset with partisan disagreement. But protecting and serving the nation’s veterans is “an exception,” and lawmakers often cross party lines to collaborate.
Among Sanders’ priorities for upcoming years: improving veteran access to affordable education, expanding support for families caring for ill and injured veterans, simplifying eligibility requirements so more veterans can qualify for the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system and reducing the amount of time it takes to process veterans’ disability benefits claims.
Raymond Kelley, the national legislative director at Veterans of Foreign Wars, said lawmakers should focus on legislation to ease veterans’ transition back to civilian life. In addition to ensuring affordable education, he suggested increasing job opportunities for veterans by incentivizing employers to hire veterans.
The national legislative director at Disabled American Veterans, Joseph A. Violante, urged Congress and President Barack Obama to pass legislation to enact advance appropriations for veteran health care to ensure funding for payments to disabled veterans and pensions despite potential budget stalemates.
“Bottom line here is that we owe a debt of gratitude to the veterans’ community that can never be repaid,” Sanders said. “But we have the moral obligation to do everything that we can to make those lives as good as they possibly can be, and that’s what Veterans Day 2013 means to me.”