A few summers ago, my kids and I had the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The Memorial features many quotes from our country’s heroes.  A quote from President Harry Truman, in particular, sticks out to me: “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid.  They have earned our undying gratitude.”

In far too many cases, our Veterans Affairs (VA) system has failed to show this nation’s gratitude.  I was very troubled to learn how widespread the mismanagement, data manipulation, and subpar care within the VA was.  I have heard from many in South Dakota who have served that they are happy with their overall care, but others have told me they’ve waited months – years in extreme cases – to receive care.  That is unacceptable.

More must be done, but I’m proud of legislation we’ve already been able to get signed into law that aims to improve access to and quality of health care for veterans, expand the VA's internal capacity to provide timely care to veterans, provide accountability for incompetent or corrupt managers, and improve education benefits for veterans and dependents. 

Additionally, in 2017, with President Trump’s signature, legislation I supported was enacted to expand whistleblower protections within the VA and streamline the process required to fire any VA employee. Working with President Trump, we have also passed and gotten signed into law the HIRE Veterans Act, which will recognize companies who make an effort to hire veterans; the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act, which increases the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as the rates of dependency compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans; and the Enhancing Veteran Care Act, authorizing the VA to contract with non-profits that accredit health care organizations to investigate VA medical centers -- to name a few.

Beyond the VA, I’m proud to have supported the GI Tuition Fairness Act, which allows veterans to receive in-state tuition for all public universities, as well as the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a criminal offense to fraudulently claim to have been awarded a service medal.

Moreover, I led the charge to keep the Hot Spings VA open. I invited the House Veterans Affairs Committee to South Dakota for a field hearing, met personally with the Secretary of the VA and numerous other officials to discuss all avenues possible, and brought the VA Secretary to Hot Springs so he could see it firsthand. 

My office is always willing to work on your behalf. In 2017 alone, we helped more than 800 South Dakotans navigate federal bureaucracies. If you are not getting a timely response from the VA, having trouble getting your GI benefits, or facing any other problems with a federal agency, please click here or call my office at 855-225-2801. We may be able to help.

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