Rep. Gabbard Advocates for Better Veteran SupportDecember 12, 2018, 7:59 AM HST (Updated December 12, 2018, 8:02 AM)
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) and Brian Mast (Florida-18), along with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and other veteran service organizations, hosted a press conference on Dec. 12, 2018, underscoring the urgent need to serve the nation’s veterans and provide the benefits and care they’ve earned and deserve.
“The VA bureaucracy is still failing our veterans,” Rep. Gabbard, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus, said. “For months, hundreds of thousands of our nation’s veterans failed to receive their GI Bill payments. Our post-9/11 generation of veterans are still suffering from debilitating and deadly illnesses as a result of toxic burn pits exposure. Female veterans are not able to get the care they need from the VA. Our veterans deserve better than to return home to empty promises and excuses. They deserve real leadership and action that honors their service and sacrifice.”
“The VA’s response around the late and incorrect GI Bill payments has been slow, insufficient, and incomplete,” said IAVA Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant. “We are thankful for Congresswoman Gabbard and Congressman Mast for standing with us on this important issue, as they have on so many other important issues impacting our brothers and sisters in arms—from recognizing and supporting women veterans like myself, to supporting those suffering from injuries due to burn pits and other toxic exposures. As we look to welcome the 116th Congress in 2019, IAVA is proud to stand with such forceful allies in this GI Bill fight, among many others.”
At the press conference, the lawmakers and veterans service organizations advocated for ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs fully repays every veteran who faced inaccurate and late GI bill payments, treating burn pits, taking care of the nation’s female veterans, addressing high veterans suicide rates, and more. Rep. Gabbard joined her veteran colleagues in urging VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to immediately address the technical problems contributing to the delays of payments affecting the educational pursuits, housing, financial security, and emotional well-being of veterans and their families. The congresswoman has also championed the Burn Pits Accountability Act (HR 5671), with the support of 147 cosponsors and 25 military service organizations (MSOs) and veterans service organizations (VSOs), that would ensure the evaluation the exposure of U.S. servicemembers to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals. She has also pushed for the Deborah Sampson Act (HR 2452) to improve access and quality of care at the Department of Veterans Affairs for female veterans.