Rep. Chu with local veterans on Memorial Day in Monterey Park.
On the battlefield, our military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, we must make that same pledge for every veteran.
Now that many of our service members have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we are faced with new challenges in providing quality health care and helping new veterans transition back to the workforce. It’s important that we care for them when they return home. We also have an ongoing obligation to older veterans to ensure they receive the services they need to avoid homelessness and receive health care. I am committed to improving access to health care, as well as strengthening veterans’ benefits, and expanding job training and transitional services.
My priorities for our nation's heroes include:
From tuition to pensions, and everything in between, veterans’ benefits are indispensable lifelines for our nation’s heroes. These benefits provide access to a wide variety of resources to help veterans and their families. That is why I support efforts to protect and strengthen veterans’ benefits.
I am committed to ensuring that veterans in the San Gabriel Valley get the health care they have so rightfully earned. Any delay of treatment, whether through claims backlogs or waiting lists, is unacceptable. We must make sure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals in every city ensure timely care, not only for the visible wounds, but also for the invisible wounds.
That’s why I am fighting to protect TRICARE and other vital health and pension benefits that veterans rely on. I am fighting for system updates that will allow the VA to reduce its claims backlog, and accountability for timely services. I was among the members of Congress who called for investigations into the VA claims backlog, and voted for legislation to overhaul the VA. This was signed into law in August 2014, providing funds for veterans to seek medical care outside of the VA if necessary, and increasing accountability by granting the Secretary of the VA new powers to fire incompetent managers.
I also voted in July 2015 to fill the $3.3 billion budget shortfall at the VA. In 2014, Congress set up an emergency fund, the Veterans Choice Program, to ensure that veterans can see a doctor in a timely manner. However, this program was facing a budget shortfall. I voted to authorize the $3.3 billion needed to keep the program running because we need to make sure veterans’ health programs are one of our top priorities.
I am also committed to making sure San Gabriel Valley veterans have care options right here, not miles away across the county. There is no VA Health Clinic in the San Gabriel Valley, and this is a gaping hole I intend to see filled. That is why I am working closely with the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) and Pasadena City College to bring a new clinic to the area! For the first time ever, the VA has agreed to partner with a community college to place a veteran’s health center on the campus. This model is the first of its kind in the country! This center will provide primary healthcare services, women’s healthcare services, mental health services, and wellness therapies to all our veterans. There is still more work to do, but just as our fallen heroes never gave up on their mission, we will never give up on ours. I will continue fighting to make sure our veterans can find the healthcare they need right here in the San Gabriel Valley.
Helping Veterans Transition Back to Work
Many veterans struggle to find a job that meets their skills after returning home from war. It can be difficult for veterans to adjust to a new workforce, but after the sacrifice they have made for us, we need to be there for them. .
That’s why I voted for key veterans’ jobs provisions included in President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which was signed into law in 2011. It provides tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans or veterans with service-connected disabilities. It also takes steps to provide all service members the training and skills they need to find a job. This includes stronger resume writing workshops and career counseling, expanded education and training opportunities for older veterans, up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits for disabled veterans, and stronger workplace protections for members of the National Guard and Reserve. I continue to support efforts like these as they make their way through Congress to fill additional gaps in veterans’ opportunities and access to employment.
I have consistently supported bills – like the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act signed into law in 2012 – to enhance veterans’ job training resources, and let veterans translate military training and skills into civilian credentials and licenses. It is vital that we recognize any relevant training a veteran received while serving in the Armed Forces if he or she applies for any federal license requiring special training or credentials. This recognizes the value of our veterans’ skills in the civilian economy. And we must encourage the private sector to do the same. Our veterans have impressive, unparalleled training be it as medics, mechanics, truck drivers, electricians, and many other highly skilled professions.
Ending Veteran Homelessness
In these challenging economic times, returning veterans are experiencing unemployment rates in the double digits. Veterans who are unable to secure employment often end up becoming homeless. I support legislation and programs that seek to reduce homelessness among our veterans by providing access to housing, employment assistance, reintegration services, and more.