With Veterans Day we have an annual reminder of the many sacrifices our military, past and present, provide to keep our nation strong and safe. As a member of Congress I have the opportunity to provide assistance to veterans on local level through the constituent service we provide in my district offices and national level by adopting legislation that provides opportunities for veterans when they return home.
In Western New York:
According to the US Census Bureau, over 59,000 veterans live in the 27th Congressional district. Caseworkers in my offices are available to help veterans with a number of issues including cutting through the bureaucratic process of receiving benefits or applying to receive the service medals an individual earned while in the military.
We take great strides to bring veteranís personal cases to a successful resolution. In one case an Iraq veteran who contacted our office, was rejected for a job with the post office because he sprained his ankle in the service, yet he was deemed fit for duty by the military. Today that veteran is a mail carrier in Hamburg. In another instance a young veteran and University at Buffalo student who served in Afghanistan was being recalled for duty despite the fact that he suffered permanent disabilities related to his service. We helped him through the appeal process, were successful in that appeal and today he is able to finish his higher education. In a third case, we became aware of a WWII veteran who never received his service medals. After contacting the appropriate departments we were able to present this veteran with 11 medals and ribbons he earned over 60 years ago. We have diligently advocated on behalf of dozens and dozens of veteranís cases similar to these.
In Washington, DC:
In Washington I have joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives in voting for the largest increase in funding for veterans health care in the VAís 77-year history which included among other things increased funding for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, Congress authorized legislation including tax relief, home ownership opportunities, job training assistance and a military pay increase to assist struggling military families. This summer we also passed the GI Bill for the 21st Century, which provides the more than 260,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with the opportunity to attend college.
Regardless of your position on the current conflicts, everyone can agree that we all want to see our service members return home safely. Thatís why I have supported funding to pay for additional and better military ground equipment and personal protective gear.
Most recently I signed on as an original cosponsor of the SERV Act, a bill which would provide federal grants to veteran treatment courts. After noticing an increasing number of veterans coming through the court system, in January of this year Buffaloís Judge Robert Russell established the first veteranís treatment court in the nation. The program is modeled after the existing mental health and drug court system which provides a strong emphasis on rehabilitation for non-violent offenders. Veteran Treatment Courts provide service members who end up in the court system with a support network that can help set them on a better path. Statistics demonstrate funding for treatment courts produce an excellent return on the investment in one study finding that for every $1 spent on treatment courts there is a $10 savings realized.
Our military men and women serve this great nation nobly and deserve respect, care and opportunity when they return. This Veterans Day I salute this nationís brave and selfless military heroes past and present and pledge continued advocacy for veterans through my district offices and the policies I support in Washington.
Feel free to contact my Erie County office at 716-852-3501 or my Chautauqua County office at 716-484-0729 if there is a veteranís issue you would like to discuss.