Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

November 12, 2013

Land of the free, home of the brave

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” -Elmer Davis, Director of the United States Office of War Information during World War II

Those words are just as true today as they were when first spoken decades ago. While much has changed since the 1940s, the bravery, skill and dedication of our veterans remain unwavering.

Right now, more than 22 million veterans live in the US. They have served around the world during times of peace and times of war. It is up to all of us to ensure that those who served this country so proudly know their sacrifice is appreciated. But saying “thank you” is just the beginning. It’s imperative we welcome our veterans home with open arms, help them reintegrate into society, find meaningful employment and receive all the benefits they have earned for their service to this nation.

I am proud that in Indiana we have taken a lead in providing veterans with in-state tuition for higher education regardless of where they live. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 357, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, which would implement this worthwhile practice nationwide. I’ve also worked to encourage Hoosier businesses to hire veterans by creating “veterans only” hours at our yearly job fairs in Muncie and Lawrenceburg.

But more needs to be done and can be done. The Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims and appeals process is severely backlogged nationwide. In Indiana alone, claims take an average of more than a year to process. After dedicating their lives to protecting our freedoms, veterans should not have to spend years cutting through government red tape. H.R. 2189, which I voted for, and which passed the House with bi-partisan support, establishes a task force to evaluate the backlog of disability claims at the VA and find potential improvements to the claims process. It’s a small step, but it’s a start toward reform.

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