Standing Up For Arizona Veterans

June 26, 2018
Contributed Columns

Over the course of our nation’s history, millions of brave men and women stepped up and vowed to protect our communities from those who wish to do us harm. We have made a solemn commitment to support those returning brave soldiers and their families, but sadly, Congress has failed to address the most pressing issues impacting these Americans for too long.

For years, Arizona veterans have experienced some of the worst health service in the nation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. While that care is slowly improving for veterans in urban areas, those living in our rural communities must still drive hundreds of miles for health care and long-term nursing care. That problem is even worse for veterans in Indian Country where there are no veteran nursing homes or cancer treatment programs.

Earlier this year, I announced the culmination of months of hard work by local, state, and federal officials to secure funding for state veterans nursing homes in Flagstaff and Yuma. These communities have, for years, tried to receive VA funding to build these facilities, but a flawed priority list that favors metropolitan areas has prevented them from making it to the top of the list. To prevent rural communities from being forgotten, I introduced the Fairness for Rural Veterans Act, which would require the VA to revise the existing project funding formula to allow those in rural communities to compete for higher priority placement on the construction priority list.

To address the needs of tribal veterans in need of long-term nursing care, I introduced the Nursing Home Care for Native American Veterans Act with my Republican colleague, Congressman Walter Jones. This legislation would close a loophole that prevents veteran nursing homes on tribal lands from receiving federal construction grant money. The complete lack of nursing homes in Indian Country means veterans living in these areas who require nursing care must live away from their families and cultural support systems. These brave men and women come from varied backgrounds, cultures, and communities, but one thing unites them: they have served our country with honor. They deserve access to quality care near their homes and their loved ones, not hundreds of miles away.

Our returning veterans face hurdles as they seek to reenter the civilian workforce. While many return to school for a degree, many more struggle to acquire the skills they need for a good-paying job in their communities. My office has partnered with the Small Business Administration and Arizona veteran service organizations to host a Boots to Business Reboot event and other successful seminars that connect hardworking veterans with businesses who are hiring in Arizona. I recently joined my colleagues to introduce bipartisan legislation that gives veterans the skills to work in the solar energy industry.

While we can never fully repay the debt we owe our veterans for their service, I am committed to doing all I can to support these men and women who sacrificed for our nation. I have hosted a number of town hall-style meetings with rural veteran groups throughout the First Congressional District, and I look forward to continuing those events this summer. My door is always open to you, and I urge you to reach out if my staff can assist you with your Social Security, Medicare, or veterans benefits, or any other federal issues you and your family are facing.