Washington, D.C. – On May 1st, 1945, American troops liberated the Landshut concentration camp in Germany. Among the surviving prisoners was Corporal James Sutcliffe, who bravely marched through German territory and evaded enemy fire before enduring eight months of forced labor at the hands of the Nazis.
His service to this nation during WWII was nothing short of heroic, and last month in his hometown of Sparta, Tennessee I had the privilege of presenting him with a Prisoner of War (POW) Medal.
Heroes like James Sutcliffe are part of a thriving community of veterans in Tennessee. In every major conflict since WWII, Tennesseans have bravely served their country in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines, and today, nearly 430,000 veterans call the Volunteer State home.
After our veterans return from battle, many face a long recovery from wounds endured during their service. However, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is notorious for long wait times, inadequate care, and endless bureaucracy.
The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic only further exposed the failure of the VA to care for our heroes. In February of last year, the VA had successfully reduced the claims backlog to 70,000. Now, that number has jumped to over 250,000. For veterans already eligible for care, understaffing and shuttered facilities led to the cancellation, delay, or rescheduling of almost 20 million medical appointments.
On Capitol Hill, I am leading the charge to improve care for veterans. Last week, I demanded answers from the Biden administration on how vaccine mandates will impact the ability of the VA to provide care. We know that the need for long-term care has increased dramatically, so earlier this year, I partnered with a Senate colleague to provide our veterans with greater choice and expand options for personalized long-term care.
In September 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) exposed that VA was failing to adequately disclose information about wait times, patient safety, and quality of care. In response, I introduced the VA Quality Health Care Accountability and Transparency Act to require the VA to streamline how it displays information onto one user-friendly website.
James Sutcliffe and countless other Tennessee veterans risked their lives for our freedom. On Veterans Day — and every day — we recognize their sacrifice, but our veterans deserve action. Washington elitists can no longer sit on the sidelines and ignore the structural deficiencies in our healthcare system that have failed our veterans. While we can never repay our debts to these heroes, we must honor their service by prioritizing quality care.
Passing A Resolution For Gold Star Families
Gold Star families are bonded by a common thread of loss, grief, and sacrifice. I introduced the Sergeant First Class Sean Cooley and Specialist Christopher Horton Congressional Gold Star Family Fellowship Program Act to offer family members the opportunity to affect change on Capitol Hill, and last week, this resolution was passed.
It is a privilege to have championed this effort to honor the service of our fallen warriors, and it is my hope that future Gold Star fellows will find renewed hope and healing as they channel their voices on behalf of the American people.
Expanding Career Transition Programs For Veterans
Our veterans deserve the opportunity to thrive after leaving the Armed Forces. When our service members begin the transition into civilian life, they often struggle to find employment and achieve financial stability.
I introduced the bipartisan Onward to Opportunity Act to address this issue directly by providing individualized career training programs and job placement services to help our servicemembers transition to civilian life.
Thank you to the men and women who have courageously fought to defend our nation and its freedoms.
Our nation’s veterans are heroes. We must protect and care for our veterans every day.
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