Nov 05 2018
** Audio of this week’s column is unavailable**
As I have been visiting towns across the Good Life, I can’t help but be filled with pride. Deep into the season, with the hues of orange that grace our trees and seas of Husker red every weekend, Nebraska is showing her fall beauty. It’s only fitting that during these times we have the opportunity to come together to honor the best Nebraska has to offer: our veterans.
On Veterans Day, we take time to honor and show our appreciation for America’s service members. We recognize their courage, patriotism, and a sense of responsibility to defend our way of life. Our veterans come from many different backgrounds. They are Nebraska’s farmers, teachers, manufacturers, parents, sons, and daughters. Yet throughout America’s history, these patriots have confronted our challenges with the same virtues of integrity and dedication to defend a cause greater than themselves.
In September, Nebraska’s veterans made history. I had the honor of greeting more than 130 women who travelled to our nation’s capital as part of the first ever all-female honor flight. They were welcomed with grateful cheers, waving flags, and the tune of “God Bless America” sung by supporters. As the rain fell at the Women’s Memorial in Arlington, we shared tears and laughs as they recounted stories of their service. Ranging in ages 27-98, these Nebraska women bravely served in different conflicts. I was proud to thank them in person for their courage and selflessness.
Alongside a renewed appreciation, Veterans Day also brings a strengthened commitment to fulfill promises made to those who were willing to risk life itself for our protection. Engraved into the marble walls of Arlington National Cemetery is an assertion from our first Commander-In-Chief, George Washington: “When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.” Anyone who knows a veteran understands that their service to our communities doesn’t end when they come home. Our commitment to them should not change either.
A few years ago, we learned of inexcusable shortcomings at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair (VA). In response, the Senate came together and took decisive action to restore accountability. Unfortunately, the policy changes made at the time didn’t quite work as intended and many of our veterans, especially those in rural areas, were still having trouble accessing the quality care they deserve.
That’s why this year I proudly supported the VA MISSION Act, and President Trump signed it into law. This solution delivered real reform and real choice to veterans’ health decisions. It authorized agreements with local providers to remove red-tape and improves efficiency by streamlining existing community programs into one.
The VA MISSION Act also eliminates the 30-day and 40-mile requirements that were once unnecessary barriers to veterans’ access to local care. It replaces a one-size-fits-all policy and puts the medical decisions where they belong- between veterans and their provider.
What’s more, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which was signed into law last August, will expand educational benefits for veterans in the coming years. More commonly known as the “Forever GI Bill,” this important legislation removed the 15-year period in which a veteran had to use their G.I. bill benefits. This will ensure that veterans can use this benefit whenever they choose. The bill also expanded G.I. bill eligibility to Purple Heart Recipients and specified reservists.
Here in Nebraska, we work together to support our men and women who have served. I have long worked to advance projects that will help deliver proper care for Nebraska’s veterans. I steered legislation to allow the community of Omaha to help manage the construction of a new ambulatory clinic. Because of this policy, the project is up and running.
I’ve also worked to move along the redevelopment of the Lincoln VA campus, a vital project for our veterans. I’m pleased that the VA recently announced a contract was awarded for a new clinic that will be constructed on the VA campus. I will continue to work hard to ensure the project continues its progress.
I take pride in fighting for Nebraska’s veterans and their families in the Senate.
This Veterans Day our hearts are filled with gratitude and great respect. I hope you will take the time to find a veteran, shake their hand, and thank them for their service.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process, I look forward to visiting with you again next week.