Mike Bost has been a firefighter, small business owner and U.S. Marine before becoming chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Bost, a Republican from Illinois, discussed implementing the PACT Act, preventing veteran suicide and other issues during an address to American Legion Family members during its 63rd Washington Conference on Feb. 28.
“I am proud to be part of an organization that has so dutifully upheld its sacred motto, ‘For God and Country,’” said Bost, a member of Murphysboro Illinois American Legion Post 127. “What makes the Legion great is the people who make it up: the former soldiers, airmen, sailors, and for the Marines. Well, there’s no such thing as a former Marine.”
He credited Legionnaires for helping to get the PACT Act approved as law last August.
“I think we can all agree that getting the bipartisan PACT Act over the finish line and signed into law was one of the largest victories of last Congress,” he said. “This legislation was long overdue and it will have a direct, positive impact on millions of veterans suffering from toxic exposure.”
That, however, was only the first step.
“As chairman, I will ensure our committee closely oversees PACT’s implementation, to ensure that it fulfills its promises to veterans and their families,” Bost said. “We cannot have a situation where the claims backlog grows and veterans are waiting too long for care.”
Mental health is not a one-size-fits-all approach, Bost said, which is aligned with The American Legion’s Be the One initiative.
“We must continue to tear down the stigma surrounding asking for help,” he said. “I am grateful to all of you for your continued advocacy for community-based mental health services which helps us do exactly that. The American Legion does great work to help vets access the mental health services that work for them, and I commend you for it.”
Bost also discussed transitioning out of the military.
“The importance of a successful transition from active duty to civilian life cannot be overstated,” he said, noting the changes in the TAP program since he separated in the 1980s.
“My commander gave me a ‘tap’ on the shoulder and said see ya later.”
The chairman also said he would prioritize optimizing veteran health care.
“Too many veterans are still waiting too long for care or cannot get community care – across the country, which is why I appreciate how strongly you have continued to advocate for community care access,” he said. “This is vitally important so that veterans can access the care that works best for them.”
• Vowed to identify improvements to TAP that would ensure all servicemembers would be empowered with tools and support they need to achieve successful civilian lives.
• Expressed support for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s VET TEC program, which has helped thousands of veterans find jobs in the tech field. “I want to make that program permanent and create more like it.”
• Thanked Legionnaires for supporting his bill, H.R. 705, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act. “No veteran should be unlawfully stripped of their due process and potentially lose their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”