In a time when Congress may often seem divided, Legionnaire and U.S. Rep. Dr. Phil Roe said the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs is the most bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives. Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House committee, thanked The American Legion by video conference during its 100th National Convention in Minneapolis Aug. 29, for the support they have shown to him and the committees, as well as to his partners.
Speaking on the convention floor, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., ranking member of the House committee, said the reason for the bipartisanship is because the focus for both committees is the care of America’s veterans and how they conduct themselves in the service of those veterans. “Because of that, the last several congresses have been the most productive we’ve seen in decades in delivering for veterans because we have partnered together, we have partnered with The American Legion in the best interest of America. That’s how it’s supposed to work,” said Walz, a member of Legion Post 11 in Mankato, Minn.
Both Roe and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs who also spoke to the Legion delegation by video conference, reinforced important legislation that The American Legion has helped both committees accomplish.
H.R. 299, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.The bill will extend disability benefits covering medical conditions associated with Agent Orange to Blue Water Navy veterans.
Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the Forever GI Bill. “I know all of you Legionnaires are incredibly, incredibly proud of this one. I think that it is going to be one of my major accomplishments,” Roe said.
Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which President Trump signed into law on the national convention stage last year in Reno, Nev.
“As all of you know these weren’t easy wins, but because of your grassroots support we got it done,” said Tester, a Legion member. “For 100 years The American Legion has been on the front lines fighting for veterans and their families and promoting a stronger nation. I couldn’t be prouder partnering with you, and my friend Chairman John Isakson (R-Ga.). Together we’ve had legislative success.”
Walz stressed that as a committee, as a nation, there’s more work to do.
“We have an entire new generation of veterans coming back from war. As long as one single veteran commits suicide the job is not done. If one veteran sleeps on the street, the job is not done. If one veteran waits too long for health care, the job is not done,” he said.
Walz does not approve of balancing the budget on veteran’s issues by raising copays for pharmaceuticals or taking benefits away from veterans. The copays were paid on the battlefield, he said.
“When you get veterans benefits, you did not win the lottery. It is the price that liberty and freedom cost and this nation must not be allowed to forget that,” Walz said. “That’s the job of the Legion.
“When I look at these seats with you in it what I know is that you are far more than just Legionnaires, you are far more than veterans. You are the conscience of this nation and that voice must always be heard.”