On Friday November 11th, Americans around the globe will pause to honor the service of our nation’s veterans. This annual observance, with roots from the end of the First World War, is an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the efforts of our men and women in uniform to preserve the ideals of freedom and liberty that this country was founded upon. Ohio is home to over 900,000 veterans, and our state has a rich history of uniformed service throughout times of war and peace.
Dayton is home to one of the three original Soldiers Homes established by President Lincoln, which is also one of the oldest VA facilities in the United States. The Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center opened in 1867 and became known as the “Mother Home,” because it served as the model for future facilities that were constructed by the U.S. to provide care for disabled veterans. The Dayton VA has provided continuous service to Ohio’s veterans for 143 years.
In response to the recent investigation at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center Dental Clinic, I introduced legislation that specifically addresses infection control practices and the care of VA patients. This legislation (HR 2965) seeks to hold accountable Veterans Health Administration employees who intentionally fail to follow safety standards and infection control practices by making offenders liable for criminal penalties instead of just the administrative review process that the VA has employed. I have also worked with the new Dayton VA leadership to change the culture and the facility. They are truly making progress.
Veterans often face a time of transition when leaving military service and reentering civilian life. While the national unemployment rate has held at 9.1 percent, there has been a sharp rise in veteran unemployment of late – from 7.7 percent to 8.1 percent nationwide. H.R. 2433, the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011, of which I am a cosponsor, would take steps to turn back that trend. The VOW Act will help educate and prepare our veterans entering the workforce. Veterans would be in line to receive training benefits, and the bill would grant servicemembers access to a 21st Century Transition Assistance Program. The legislation would also create a uniform credentialing and licensing standard for servicemembers entering the civilian job market, and strengthen the protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act for National Guard and Reserve members. With my support, this legislation passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support, and awaits consideration in the Senate.
As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I understand and appreciate the important contributions made to the defense of our nation by our service members, military retirees, and their families. Honoring our commitment as a nation to our veterans who endured military service to secure our freedoms and protect our national interests is, and will remain, one of my top priorities. Please join me on Veterans Day, November 11th, in expressing thanks to our fellow Americans who have risked and given their lives to protect our freedom through their service in the United States Armed Forces.