On Saturday November 9, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash) received the Washington state Department of Veteran Affairs’ “Outstanding Male Non-Veteran” award for his service to veterans at a Veterans Day luncheon in Auburn.  Smith was nominated for the award for his commitment and dedication to veterans’ issues, specifically his work on the American Lake VA Medical Center, which provides care for more than 17,000 veterans.  The number of patients continues to grow because of the large density of military bases in the immediate area – Army, National Guard, Air Force and Navy – and Smith has worked hard to ensure both the quality and the availability of care for the veterans at the center.  The following is a statement from Smith on the award: 

“This award is a very great honor.  As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have worked to craft our nation’s policies regarding national defense as well as benefits for military retirees and veterans.  All of us owe the men and women who have served our country an enormous amount of gratitude and respect.  Many of these men and women have chosen to live here in the Puget Sound region, and I feel honored to represent so many of them in Congress.

“One of the biggest challenges facing our veterans and military retirees is health care.  I am committed to improving access to health care and expanding coverage for those who have served our nation.  Further, many retirees are eligible to receive health care at both VA and DOD facilities – I have worked to make sure retirees do not have to choose between these programs.

“We must also honor our veterans and military retirees by helping provide for their spouses, who have also sacrificed so much to our nation.  I strongly support the Survivor Benefits Plan.  Spouses are often hit hardest by a reduction in family income, and can scarcely afford to live on less. 

“I am also an ardent supporter of concurrent receipt, working hard to permit retired members of the armed forces with service-connected disabilities to be paid both military retired pay and veterans' disability compensation. By faithfully fulfilling the required length of service, our veterans earned the retired pay, for service performed in the past. These veterans have also suffered debilitating injuries in the line of duty, and as a result should be compensated. Disabled veterans, particularly those who spent their lives protecting our nation in military careers, have a right to expect responsiveness from their elected representatives. 

“Concurrent receipt is a critical issue not only for our military retirees and their dependents, but also for those who are considering a career in the military.  Above all, improving the treatment of personnel, retirees and veterans is not only the right thing to do, but is fundamental to our national security.  If we want to continue leading the world in military power, we must have the best personnel.  Denying benefits like concurrent receipt tells active duty personnel and those considering a career in the military that our nation fails to keep its promises to the men and women in uniform who make sacrifices everyday for our country.  We cannot permit this injustice to continue any longer.  Veterans have given so much to preserve the security and prosperity of this country, and in the midst of the war on terrorism, our debt of gratitude is more apparent than ever and we must take action.

“I remain committed to our veterans and will work diligently to provide them with the best benefits available.  Thank you again for honoring me with this award.”