On Veterans Day, we honor those who have served and those who continue to serve our country. The men and women of our Armed Services risk their lives around the world every day to keep us safe. In recognition of their bravery, heroism, and sacrifice, we must ensure that they and their loved ones are cared for when they return home. As we reflect on their courage and selfless service, I wanted to give you an update on my efforts in Congress on behalf of our veterans and their families.
As the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), I am honored to work with and for the brave men and women who have donned the uniform to represent our great nation. One of my top priorities in Congress is to ensure that we take care of our military—active duty and veteran alike. This means doing all I can to ensure that members of our military come home to the quality jobs, educational opportunities, and health care services that they deserve. These benefits are critical for veterans, retirees, and their dependents, as well as those who are considering a career in the military. I will continue working to address the needs of our veterans, and for those newly leaving active duty, to ensure they have the support necessary for their transition back to civilian life.
Connecting with Veterans in the Community
When I am back home in the Ninth District, I meet with individual veterans and local veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) to better understand the needs and concerns of these members of our community. These meetings provide an important opportunity for me to hear from local veterans so that I may elevate their concerns and learn about the issues that impact them and their families.
This October, I hosted a Veteran Services Town Hall, where I was joined by stakeholders from King County, Pierce County, the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs and the VA Benefits Administration. Together, we discussed the status of and challenges to veteran service in the Ninth District. This conversation highlighted the issue of affordability as conveners explained that the high cost of living in King County has outpaced the benefits and pay afforded to caseworkers and other service staff. For instance, the Community Based Outreach Clinics, which includes the Federal Way Veterans Center, has lost over half of their primary clinicians to private practices that pay more competitive wages.
Veterans face unique barriers to quality care, many due to the unusually broad scope of caseworker responsibilities. Caseworkers who work with veterans must manage complex and wide-ranging problems compared to their colleagues who work with non-veteran populations. Veteran case management requires caseworkers to learn veteran cultural competency, navigate the complicated veteran benefit system, and interact with uniquely complex challenges in the housing arena.
These conversations provide me with the critical knowledge to help me better advocate for the veterans that call our region home. My office is always looking to expand our work with veterans.
To join my Veterans Advisory Council, please contact my District Representative Glenn Carpenter at (425) 793-5180 or Glenn.Carpenter@mail.house.gov.
Commitment to Veterans’ Healthcare
Many of my veteran constituents receive care through the VA Puget Sound (VAPS) Health Care System. I visited the VA Puget Sound to learn about the work being done in the new Mental Health and Research building which opened earlier this year. I met with VAPS leadership to hear about innovations in 3D printing, the VA’s approach to addressing veteran suicide, and the risks posed by untested drugs pushed by the President and VA Secretary Wilkie, such as Ketamine nasal spray as a treatment for depression.
In meetings with individual veterans and in conversations with local VSOs, my staff and I have worked to identify some of the root causes of the existing obstacles to veterans’ access to care. While we have seen progress in recent months, significant work remains to ensure that our veterans have access to the services and care they deserve. One of the most important aspects of my job is fighting to ensure that not only are veterans voices heard, but that their concerns are brought to the attention of the proper officials. I look forward to continuing work with the VA - in coordination with VSOs in our community - to make impactful changes for veterans and their families.
Honoring Veterans in Our Community
We must always take time to celebrate our veterans and reflect our community’s commitment to recognizing the men and women who have fought for our freedoms and liberties. In July, the Disabled American Veteran (DAV) Chapter 23 in Seattle held its inaugural Black Veterans Appreciation and Celebration event. I was honored to be invited to speak about the importance of recognizing the contributions made by black veterans. I look forward to continuing this work with the DAV to amplify the stories of black veterans who have withstood harsh circumstances to propel us toward a more perfect union.
This year, my staff and I worked closely with the Minority Veterans of America (MVA), which works to advance equity and foster community for women, LGBTQ, and religious minority veterans as well as veterans of color. Hearing from these underrepresented veterans and identifying solutions to their unique challenges is crucial in our work towards ensuring a more open and inclusive military. This summer, King County awarded MVA a five-year grant to establish their operations in Seattle. I am proud that my office has worked closely with this group since their founding and look forward to continuing to support their efforts on behalf of underrepresented veterans.
Hearing From You
It is critical that I continue to hear from my constituents about the issues most important to them. In order to best represent my district, please keep me updated on your priorities by contacting either my Renton or Washington, D.C. office or by visiting my website.
I am honored to represent thousands of veterans who call Washington’s Ninth Congressional District home. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress, and particularly on the Armed Services Committee, to ensure that we fulfill our commitments to our service members, their families, and our veterans. Thank you to all of our nation’s veterans for your service.