This Veterans’ Day gives us another opportunity to honor the men and women in uniform who have demonstrated such courage and commitment in serving our country. Whenever I meet former and current members of our Armed Forces, National Guard, and Reserve, I am reminded of their unwavering dedication to serve and the sacrifice that they and their families have made during their deployments.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting with one of Hawaii’s own, Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki, at a House Military Veterans Caucus event. Secretary Shinseki emphasized the importance of the VA working closely with the Defense Department to ensure that our servicemembers benefit from a seamless transition as they move from active duty to veteran status. He also expressed appreciation for Congress in passing legislation that allows the VA to increase the number of claims processors so that veterans can receive more timely payments of their disability claims.
In addition to listening to the concerns of veterans and military family organizations, Congress has been working closely with the Obama Administration to address the needs of our veterans and troops. We worked to enact legislation authorizing VA funding a year in advance so that the VA has adequate time to plan how to deliver the best medical care to our veterans. We provided stop loss payments to soldiers who have had their enlistments involuntarily extended, and we successfully passed a new and comprehensive GI bill that expands educational benefits for our troops.
I also worked closely with my colleagues to provide long-denied benefits to Filipino veterans who honorably answered the call of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served alongside our armed forces during World War II. They fought shoulder to shoulder with American servicemen and sacrificed for the same just cause.
I am humbled by the courage and dedication of the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way in service of our country. We must never forget all that we owe to them. I will continue to support strengthening benefits for our wounded warriors and for the families of those who have lost their lives.
I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to the soldiers and civilians who were wounded or lost their lives as a result of the senseless act of violence that took place at Fort Hood on November 5th. I hope that the wounded make a full and speedy recovery, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who lost their loved ones. Our thanks to all those who sprung into action to assist those in need on that tragic day.
Warmest aloha to all of our men and women in uniform who have served and continue to serve our country so nobly.