September 2021


Earlier this summer, I stopped by VFW Post 4562 in Texarkana to listen to what local veterans and organizations that advocate for them had to say about the current state of affairs as it relates to getting their care and assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This visit also gave me an opportunity to update them on what I’ve been working on to enhance the federal government’s efforts to provide support to our former servicemembers. Some common themes came up: the disability exams backlog, the hardship related to traveling to distant facilities to receive care, the suicide crisis, toxic exposure and more. These serve as a reminder that there remain areas for improvement to the quality of care and delivery of services that the men and women who proudly and honorably dedicated themselves to defending our nation deserve. I’ve been privileged to serve on the VA Committee throughout my time in the Senate and am familiar with the long-standing issues we’ve faced in this mission as well as the new challenges that have arisen. We have made progress on several key fronts, but there’s more work to do. Last Congress, I introduced legislation to reduce the backlog of pending VA disability claims by expanding eligibility for health care providers who are allowed to conduct the required medical exam for veterans applying for benefits. President Trump signed it into law as part of a comprehensive veterans’ package, highlighting the need to address this problem quickly. As far as the need for a solution to the burden of having to travel great distances to receive care, the VA MISSION Act has been a tool the federal government is now implementing to bring care to veterans in their own communities. I was proud to support it because the service options provided in this bill will give veterans who live far from a VA facility and need frequent follow-up care, easier access to local providers and walk-in clinics. The veteran suicide crisis is an issue I’ve paid particular attention to because it is such a tragic situation. I also serve as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee that funds the VA and know firsthand that continuing to increase the Department’s budget is not the solution to bringing down the number of veterans who take their own lives. Instead, what I’ve successfully pushed for is an alternative approach that seeks to leverage the work non-profit organizations are already doing to provide support to veterans. My IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act, which became law last October, will allow us to reach more veterans and support organizations that have a track record of success in suicide prevention and better measure the effectiveness of these programs. In fact, earlier this summer, the VA Secretary testified that the department intends to implement this effort next year. I will be closely monitoring its progress to insure it is working as intended. Care for women veterans has also been a top concern I’ve heard about from Arkansans. Women comprise ten percent of the veteran population, and there are approximately 20,000 women veterans in Arkansas. That number is only going to grow as more women serve our country in uniform. Still, we know that many of them face barriers to care and services because the VA has been slow to adapt to this reality. I led efforts to pass the Deborah Sampson Act last Congress to help address this concern. The bill, which had bipartisan support, will help create a culture at the VA

Sen. John Boozman, Arkansas Republican, serves as Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. He also serves on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

HONOR FOR SERVICE BY SENATOR JOHN BOOZMAN W e recently marked the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the start of Operation Overlord that helped turn the tide of World War II. Like those who came before them and their successors, the men and women of the Greatest Generation were heroic yet ordinary people who were asked to do extraordinary things—and they did. My dad was a waist gunner on B-17s during the war, and he continued his career serving our country in uniform for years afterward. Because of his service, I understand intimately what it means to grow up in a military family and witness all the challenges and opportunities that America’s servicemembers and their loved ones encounter. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I work diligently to ensure veterans in the Natural State and throughout our country are getting the benefits and services they have earned.


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