Honoring our veterans

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Shortly after Election Day, we will commemorate Veterans Day, solemnly acknowledging the sacrifice of those who make our democracy possible.

In San Antonio on Friday, Nov. 4, I will join Carlos Martinez and the American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program at their annual Stand Down event, one of the many events that I participate in each year to honor our veterans. On the Saturday after Veteran’s Day, Nov, 12, I will again join the community and ride with Maj. Val Martinez to salute our veterans during the U.S. Military Veterans Parade in Alamo Plaza.

Every week I serve in Washington, I pass the imposing, inspiring World War II Memorial, where an inscription by President Truman reads, “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our Country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”

My work as your representative in Congress is to fulfill that commitment to our veterans.  On the battlefield, the pledge is to leave no service member behind; and on their return home, we must leave no veteran behind.

While there have been improvements, some vets are still waiting too long to receive the care they have earned. At the first indication of scheduling manipulation within the VA, I talked with whistleblowers and met personally with staff across Central Texas.

While aware that the vast majority of VA employees, many of them vets themselves, work hard and care deeply about serving veterans, there remain some problems at the VA that demand our continued efforts. I welcome the continuing advice from vets on this and other issues and want to hear from constituents who have experienced problems.

While we rightfully demand more accountability from the VA, I strongly oppose those who would use the recent problems to dismantle and privatize the VA and its unique service to our vets. The VA was specially designed to care for veterans and their families, featuring cutting-edge rehabilitation technology, custom-tailored treatment plans, and expertise with combat-specific ailments. Replacing that with a system designed to make a profit off of those who deserve the most comprehensive, thoughtful care is unacceptable.

In Washington, there has been some modest progress.  The Veterans ID Card Act is now law.  It provides veterans recognition for service without having to carry a DD-214. Also, the troubling mental health challenges that occur when some individuals are returned to a battle theater again and again were recognized with some modest improvements for increased access to mental health for returning vets through the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act.

A further measure honors those who have served by requiring two minutes of silence across America on Veteran’s Day. And the House has authorized a 2.1 percent pay raise for military service members on January, but the final amount will not be determined until Congress returns after the election.

While we still face budget challenges, we cannot afford to break our promises of retirement and health security. Service members should not be forced to bear the burden of balancing our nation’s budget. We should not cut compensation for our troops while corporations can pay their lobbyists more than they pay in federal income taxes. They should contribute their fair share to keep our military second to none.

Often the most meaningful work that I do is not with the millions or billions in Washington, but by making a difference for one deserving family at a time in Texas. My San Antonio office, located at 217 W. Travis, which is accessible on the sidewalk near Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, stands ready to assist veterans with reevaluating disability ratings, obtaining or replacing lost records and medals, accessing health care, and other services.

I salute each veteran and family of a veteran for your commitment to America.  Your sacrifice speaks powerfully to the men and women in active duty who are defending our country today and those who will follow your lead in the future.