Today and every Veterans Day, we honor the service and sacrifices made by our nation’s veterans – our friends, family, and neighbors – who have put on the uniform to serve our country. Thank you to all the veterans and their families across Vermont and the nation for their bravery and sacrifice. Vermonters have a long and proud history of military service, participating in every major military conflict in U.S. history, dating back to the Green Mountain Boys’ role in the American Revolution.
We owe all of our veterans and their families a tremendous debt of gratitude, which we will never truly be able to repay. Today and every day, we must recommit ourselves to keeping America’s promise to our nation’s veterans, just as they kept their promise to us. I believe that if someone takes an oath to serve their country, to go off to war, to risk their life, or risk coming home wounded – in body or in spirit – then that government has a duty to make good on its commitment. That means making certain that veterans and their families get all the benefits they earned through their service on time and without delay. That means ensuring access to the best quality health care this country can provide by protecting and strengthening the Department of Veterans Affairs, and that means ensuring no veteran goes hungry or is forced to sleep on the streets.
If our country is worth anything, it is measured by how we treat the people who have put their lives on the line to defend us. I am proud to have worked closely with the VA here in Vermont to secure approvals for updating infrastructure at two Vermont VA locations, including a major renovation at the White River Junction Medical Center, providing veterans with greater access to care in modern medical facilities. I am also proud to have introduced legislation to eliminate long-standing barriers to VA health care enrollment and provide increased dental services. No one can deny that dental care is health care, and no veteran should go without the dental care they need to ensure overall good health.
In addition, last year, Congress passed the most comprehensive expansion of VA health benefits in years with the signing of the PACT Act, which provides millions of Vietnam, Gulf War, and Post 9/11 veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service with the health care and benefits they deserve. Since being signed into law, the VA has approved over 500,000 disability claims and has expanded health care to nearly 200,000 new veterans without disabilities under PACT Act authority. The VA has expanded women’s health services to include abortion counseling and abortion services to women veterans in cases of rape, incest, or when the life or health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term. And the VA has expanded telehealth resources to better meet the health care needs of rural veterans.
But as we celebrate these victories, we also know that the work does not end here. As a longtime member and former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, it is my honor to do my very best to keep our solemn promise to all veterans. As your senator, your service and sacrifice remain with me as I serve all of you in Washington. Know that I, and my staff, are here for you and will help in whatever way we can. On behalf of a grateful state, thank you for your service.
P.S. Over the years, I have had the very great honor and privilege to meet personally many Vermont veterans, of all generations, from all over our state. These moments mean a great deal to me and I wanted to share just a few of them with you. Image Credit – Sen Sanders