As the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), I have consistently worked to ensure that our veterans receive the benefits and treatment they deserve for their years of faithful service. These benefits are critical for veterans, retirees, and their dependents, as well as those who are considering a career in the military. It is Congress’ responsibility to provide access to quality benefits, assistance programs, and medical treatment upon separation from the Armed Forces. Many veterans have chosen to live in the Puget Sound region, and it is my honor to represent them in Congress.
In the last several years, I have supported historic increases in Department of Veterans’ Affairs funding. Since Fiscal Year 2004, VA funding has increased by more than 77 percent. These dramatic increases reflect not only Congress’ priority to care for our veterans, but also a need to care for a new generation of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. I will continue to support full funding for the VA and continue working to improve its efficiency.
There is an alarming trend of increasingly high rates of unemployment and homelessness among veterans. On average, veteran unemployment is 5-10 percent higher than civilian unemployment. This includes young veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Congress, I am committed to doing more to bring the veteran unemployment rate down.
I have supported apprenticeship programs for veterans to learn new trades from skilled craftsmen. The Post 9/11 GI Bill, which I strongly supported, was the single largest improvement in helping veterans access higher education opportunities. The bill and subsequent improvements to the Post 9-11 GI Bill have only increased those opportunities for veterans. I have also supported tax credits for business who hire veterans. I also co-sponsored the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, designed to help veterans transition successfully from the military to the civilian working world by taking advantage of the incredible training and experience they have already accrued during their service.
During my time in Congress I have also supported the elimination of Concurrent Receipt and the SBP-DIC offset. Concurrent Receipt, or the "disabled veterans tax," requires that veterans' retirement pay be reduced by the amount they get in disability pay. The SBP-DIC offset, also known as the “widows’ tax,” which requires that benefits received under the Survivor Benefits Plan (SBP) be offset by the amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) received. I believe these brave veterans and their families have earned both types of pay and should be allowed to receive the full amounts. In recent years, Congress has made progress to address these discrepancies. I will continue working with my colleagues in an effort to find a responsible way to end the current policy and provide full payment to veterans and their families through these important programs in a fiscally responsible manner.
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