As a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs since first coming to Congress, I have been able to oversee and formulate some key legislative accomplishments that have improved the quality of life for many of our brave men and women who return from combat.
As always, there is much room for improvement. The VA operates the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, and is therefore one of America’s greatest resources. It is imperative that we use this resource to the best of our ability. Addressing changing healthcare needs and building an efficient and timely claims process are among some key challenges faced by the VA, and it will take cooperation between the VA and Congress to successfully take on those challenges.
I served as the ranking Republican member of the Subcommittee on Health in the Veterans Affairs Committee. I worked hard with the subcommittee’s chairman to usher in even more improvements to the VA healthcare system, including in the area of mental health. A key challenge the VA faces is the changing health care needs of men and women returning from the Global War on Terror.
Congress and VA must continue to work together tirelessly to bring the best health care to our veterans. There also still exists a significant claims backlog that has long plagued the Veterans Benefit Administration. Once the new leadership of VA is confirmed, it is imperative they tackle this backlog headfirst. During my time in Congress, I’ve seen great strides made not just in funding increases but also the number of employees hired and training implemented. However, it is clear that more must be done until that backlog is eliminated. Our veterans have given too much to face the uncertainty of how long a disability claim will take to process.
The first congressional district of Florida is home to one of the largest veterans’ populations in the nation. I was proud to witness the openings of two VA clinics in our district in 2008. The community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) at Eglin Air Force Base and the Joint Ambulatory Care Clinic (JACC) at Corry Station in Pensacola provide unique access to an array of healthcare services that might not otherwise be available. By locating these clinics near Department of Defense health care facilities, the opportunity to share resources and specialized care is vastly increased. Rest assured that I will continue my work to bring increased levels of care to Northwest Florida. Our veterans put their lives on the line for our nation’s freedom, and we owe them an eternal debt of gratitude.