Since taking office, I have had the privilege of greeting hundreds of Kansas Veterans visiting Washington as part of the Honor Flight network. This incredible program is an opportunity for these men and women to visit the memorials erected in their honor, as well as remember those missing and those who gave the last full measure of devotion in service to our country. Some of these great Kansas Veterans served in Vietnam, others Korea, and some even World War II.
For me, greeting these brave individuals serves as a reminder of the gravity of the work I am honored to do on their behalf as a leader on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
On this Veterans Day, let us take some time to listen to their stories, thank those who served, and reflect upon the meaning and significance of freedom. We must also evaluate what happens when soldiers return home from conflict with mental health needs, physical limitations, or struggles to readjust to civilian life.
Assistance for Veterans often comes in the form of community partnerships, family, or religious institutions – those that practice love and honor well. But for many, much of their care is delivered by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Unfortunately, it’s an understatement that the VA does not have a reputation for delivering the care and services Veterans need and deserve. The VA is plagued with mismanagement, manipulated and unreliable data, and zero desire to innovate or make the system more efficient. Secretary McDonald even admitted to me that the VA is in a “leadership crisis.”
In my job on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I have worked with my colleagues to pursue aggressive oversight of VA. There are no easy or simple fixes to a bureaucracy set in its ways, that is often more interested in bonuses instead of accountability to those who put their lives on the line. And this was confirmed by a recent 4,000 page independent assessment by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office and the Office of the Inspector General.
Because of these bad reports, over the past year Congress has passed laws to require the VA to allow more Veterans to choose care in their communities, to improve mental health care services, and to fire poor-performing senior VA bureaucrats. But there is still a long ways to go. I remain committed to continuing the fight for transparency and accountability, better and quicker access to care, and more choices for America’s Veterans.
This Veterans Day, let’s all do our part to love and honor those who fought for our country and for freedom.
Congressman Tim Huelskamp represents the First District of Kansas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Huelskamp serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Small Business Committee. He is the Pro-Life Caucus Whip and Chairman of the Tea Party Caucus