Congress is fulfilling obligation to our veterans and troops
On this Veterans Day, we honor and celebrate the more than 24 million brave veterans -- including more than 100,000 in Hawaii -- who have served our country so faithfully.
I have had the privilege of participating in Veterans Day events throughout Hawaii this weekend and hearing from veterans about issues of concern to them. I am proud to tell them that the new Democratic-led Congress has made our veterans a top priority. For too long, service members and veterans have been neglected.
This Congress has acted to improve veterans' health care and benefits by passing the largest single increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs in its 77-year history, providing $3.7 billion more than the president's request. This will help the VA treat millions of patients, significantly reduce the claims backlog by hiring new processors, upgrade VA facilities and support research for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which are among the most common problems facing veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. We have passed legislation that appropriates funding for veterans' benefits and raises the pay of those now serving. We also rejected the president's plans to increase veterans' health care fees.
In addition to honoring our veterans and supporting our troops, we must also take care of our military families in recognition of the sacrifices they too make. I am a co-sponsor of legislation that supports wounded warriors and their families by providing six months of unpaid, job-protected leave for family members to act as caregivers for service members who suffer from a service-connected injury or illness.
I also believe that the unique needs of our veterans in Hawaii should be addressed and therefore support legislation that would require the VA to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate programs and services for veterans.
Finally, we must also recognize veterans who served in wars during the 20th century. In addition to co-sponsoring legislation that honors veterans of the Korean War, I support a bill that would establish a congressional committee to fully investigate all unresolved matters relating to U.S. personnel unaccounted for from previous wars, including POWs and MIAs. No less important are the Filipino veterans of World War II who fought alongside our armed forces, sacrificing for the same just cause. I support legislation to make sure Filipino veterans finally receive benefits that they were promised, and I have also introduced legislation to help reunite Filipino veterans with their children. Many of these veterans live in Hawaii. Both the benefits and reunification bills are important, long-overdue measures.
Today, as we honor and thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice, I believe that we also honor them by recognizing that all of us can do our part to fight for freedom and justice at home.
Mazie K. Hirono represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in the U.S. House of Representatives.