Latta: Honoring heroesWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
Since the inception of our nation, citizens serving in the military, both overseas and at home, have vigilantly and bravely defended the liberties and freedoms on which this country was founded. The unwavering loyalty and sacrifices our veterans and their families have made for our country is the very reasons Americans are able to enjoy the freedoms and rights we cherish today.
Our veterans and their families have honored their commitments to this nation, and whether it is disability, retirement, health and survivor benefits, employment and educational training or other issues important to veterans, we must ensure our veterans receive the benefits they were promised and have rightfully earned.
But many veterans are forced to wait an unprecedented amount of time before their benefits claims are processed. According to a recent report released from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the average wait time for veterans’ benefits claims is over 300 days. In the state of Ohio, I have heard stories from veterans who have had to wait nearly a year and a half for their claims to be processed. With over 800,000 veterans in Ohio, this is unacceptable — our veterans, in the state and throughout the nation, deserve better and more efficient service from the VA. While the VA is aggressively pursuing a plan to significantly reduce the claims backlog, it is imperative that Congress continues to work with the VA to achieve the goal of processing all claims within 125 days, and to streamline the process to guarantee a system that is less frustrating and easier to navigate.
During this tough economy, the unemployment rate among our veterans, particularly those veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, remains to be very troubling. While the national unemployment rate causes great concern for all Americans, recent unemployment reports released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed an alarming unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans. As a member of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, I have worked toward providing common-sense solutions to remove the roadblocks for veterans who have already completed training and have the needed skills for jobs that utilize their military training. I was proud to support the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act, a comprehensive jobs package that included provisions to lower the rate of unemployment among our nation’s veterans. This bill was signed into law, and while some good strides have been made on the legislative side, we must continue to work to find widespread solutions that assist all veterans with the transition back to civilian life and empower them with the tools and resources they need to succeed.
While our nation is coping with budget shortfalls, we cannot allow politics to get in the way of one of our fundamental responsibility to care for our veterans. I extend my gratitude and appreciation to all veterans who have answered the call of service to our great country and have fought to defend the values, liberties and freedoms that we as Americans hold so dear – they are true heroes for the sacrifices they and their families have made. However, honoring those who have served must be reflected in more than holidays and homecoming parades; it should be shown in our commitment to upholding our promise of veterans’ benefits and to caring for our wounded warriors and the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. O
Rep. Bob Latta (R) is the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 5th Congressional District. For more information, visit his website at latta.house.gov.
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