"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.''
- George Washington, 1789
I am pleased to represent the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. Florida is the home to 21 military bases and three military unified commands. Florida’s military and defense-related industries are critical to the state’s economy. The $30 billion industry is the state’s third top economic sector behind tourism and agriculture, and employs hundreds of thousands Floridians.
Since first being sworn in as a Member of Congress, I have been honored to serve as a member of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. During my tenure, I have served as the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. I presided over 20 hearings on issues relating to veterans services, health care and VA's readiness for the new millennium. Also while Ranking Democrat; I called the first hearing since 1994 on issues concerning women veterans. In 2002, I received the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC, and a "Legislative Leadership Award" from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. I current serve on the Subcommittee on Health.
I have worked tirelessly to encourage Department of Veterans Affairs to listen to the Committee and focus more attention and resources on veteran’s services in Florida. As a result of my efforts several projects are underway in and around the district: a new clinic in Jacksonville, a Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Gainesville, and the new Medical Center in Orlando. Florida has the oldest veteran population in the country and these medical services are greatly needed.
I have supported many pieces of legislation that would allow for full military retirement pay and disability compensation, pay for postage on packages sent to service members involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom, exclude from gross income certain death gratuity payments to members of the uniformed services, and increase the minimum Survivor Benefit Plan basic annuity for surviving spouses age 62 and older.
In the 110th Congress, I was pleased to be a member of the majority when we passed the largest increase in the budget in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This single largest increase in the 77-year history of the VA was the first time in the 21-year history of the Independent Budget, written jointly by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans America and Veterans of Foreign Wars, that the House has met their request.
In the 111th Congress, I was pleased to support and have the President sign the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 and the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010. The Caregivers law created an unprecedented support program for veteran caregivers that will provide training, financial assistance, and improved respite service. This law also improved health care services for America’s women veterans, expands the mental health services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and expands supportive services for homeless veterans.
The Veteran’s Omnibus Health Services Act new law addressed the needs of veterans by enhancing employment opportunities, preventing and caring for homeless veterans, ensuring the welfare of veterans and their families by increasing insurance limits, protecting service members called to combat, honoring fallen service members and their families, strengthening education benefits, addressing housing needs of disabled veterans, and investing in research for Gulf War veterans.
I look forward to continuing to serve you and supporting the needs of those who served to protect our freedoms in war and peace.
If you need assistance with veterans issues, visit my Veterans Assistance page.