My family and I have seen and been part of serving our country from many positions and vantage points. My Dad was a Navy man, serving as a flight mechanic on aircraft carriers. My brother served in the Army reserves for many years and mentors kids through the Civil Air Patrol to this day. My cousin is a Nurse Anesthetist in the Army and is getting close to retirement. Myself? I served as a Commander in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, one of America’s seven uniformed services, along with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps Officers of NOAA. I’ve worked at two Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals, and know how special the system is when it works. And in my work in global health, I’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of our Department of Defense as part of the global fight against AIDS, and have complemented the important work of our troops in winning hearts and minds by extending women’s health and child survival products and programs to the furthest regions of war-torn Afghanistan.
It’s these kinds of life experiences that have shaped my views on the value and importance of veterans in our country, and have made me acutely aware of the need to support our veterans in the unique problems and struggles they may face. And some of our veterans are certainly facing tough challenges: unemployment and underemployment, recovery from wounds including the sometimes invisible wounds of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health difficulties, addiction, and homelessness. Yet too often, our elected officials spend a lot of time praising their service, but neglecting their needs. It’s not enough to thank them for their service, however – we are duty-bound to support those who sacrificed for us. It’s time to give more than lip service to the issues that matter to vets, and make sure our dedicated civil servants in the VA are empowered to deliver the help our veterans need. It’s not just about the budget for VA services, it’s also about reducing bureaucratic hurdles, promoting quality and accountability, and making things work. These are things I know something about. I’ve spent a professional lifetime it seems, figuring out how to make federal resources, policies, and people deliver results. As your Congresswoman I will make these my priorities:
- Improving the VA healthcare system and protecting it from privatization, making sure that vets get top-notch healthcare and that those who mismanage resources or mistreat patients are held accountable;
- Working to eliminate claims backlogs and red tape that make vets wait intolerable amounts of time to receive disability benefits and pensions;
- Finding ways to end veteran homelessness, ensure educational opportunities for those who want them, and expand job opportunities for veterans, while promoting hiring incentives for civilian employers and ensuring that skills developed during service transfer to private sector employment;
- Expanding care for those who have suffered traumatic injuries by increasing the number of polytrauma treatment centers and providing better access to assisted living services for those with traumatic brain injuries;
- Providing more and better counseling and care services for the enormous number of vets suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, working to reduce the stigma attached to it, and expanding screening and access to mental health services for those veterans at risk for suicide;
- Opposing the ongoing dismantling of our State Department under the current Administration, so that diplomacy is given a chance to work and that going to war and putting our service members in danger is a last resort.