Johnny Isakson’s Position Statement on Veterans

Veterans fought to protect our freedoms and ensure our way of life and one of my top priorities is to make sure America takes care of the veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving our country.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I will be dedicated to ensuring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs rises to the challenge of implementing the reforms set forth in the Veterans’ Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, which was signed into law on August 7, 2014. We passed this law to address systemic problems of long wait times and poor-quality care for veterans at VA facilities across the country. There is no greater calling for us in Congress than to bring value back to the VA and our veterans. I look forward to leading the charge in the Senate to fix the VA’s problems and to help instill a system of success and accountability for the future.

I have long been focused on improving the quality and timeliness of care at Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities across the country, and I helped to uncover signs of neglect and mismanagement at the Atlanta VA Medical Center after holding a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee field hearing there in August 2013.

A veteran myself, having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972, I have been a member of the Senate VA Committee since joining the Senate in 2005. Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

I am proud to serve on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs so that we can honor the promises our government has made to our veterans.

Veterans Employment

I supported the bicameral, bipartisan VOW to Hire Heroes Act that encourages businesses to hire veterans, makes the Transition Assistance Program mandatory for all separating servicemembers, and enables veterans to continue their education. 

I am a member of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus.  I joined 32 of my Senate colleagues in a commitment to work to reducing the barriers to veterans’ employment opportunities.  I have worked on bipartisan legislation that would help veterans translate their military training into a civilian career.

Veterans Benefits

I believe that veterans and their families should receive the benefits they have fought for and so rightly deserve.  Our fighting men and women have earned the retirement benefits they were promised when they joined the military, and we should not break those promises.

If retirement benefits for America’s service men and women and their survivors continue to erode, our troops and veterans will lose faith in their chosen careers and in our nation’s commitment to them. Also, as we continue to rely more and more on our Guard and Reservists, we must ensure that we provide them with the benefits and quality of life equal to the demands we make of them.

I am fully aware of the VA’s claims backlog, and it is unacceptable that the VA is unable to process claims correctly and in a more timely matter. I will continue to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to eliminate this backlog.

Veterans Health Care

I firmly believe the VA must work closely with the Department of Defense to ensure that veterans and their families are provided with timely and high-quality health care services.

I support the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, which expands individualized services for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, enhances tele-health care access for rural veterans, and increases nursing home options for elderly veterans.  The Department of Veterans Affairs health care system has consistently been ranked among the best in the nation, and I believe that most veterans will choose to remain with the VA. However, this legislation will ensure that veterans, particularly those in rural areas, have additional options.

I also applaud the collaboration that takes place every day in Augusta, Georgia, where the Eisenhower Army Medical Center and the Augusta VA Medical Center work together to treat active duty service members who have returned from theater who have sustained injuries. This model should be duplicated across our nation.

National Guard and Reserves

I have worked hard to expand benefits for Reservists, National Guardsmen and their families. We honor the many men and women who have selflessly served and their families who sacrifice so much during their absence. We recognize their dedicated service to our country during the global war on terror and have implemented numerous benefits on their behalf. In recent years, Congress has enacted legislation to improve medical readiness, increase retention and ensure health coverage for those who continue to serve.

I have introduced legislation to create a reintegration program for National Guard personnel returning from combat. This legislation would ensure that service members and their families receive the training and assistance they need in order to successfully transition from the battlefield back to civilian life. The legislation is modeled after the Minnesota National Guard’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” program.

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