Military and Veterans
I am grateful for the service of our brave men and women in uniform, and am dedicated to working to ensure that our veterans have access to the resources they need and receive the benefits they have earned.
Americans unite around our respect for the men and women in uniform who keep us safe and free. Our respect and gratitude do not end when these heroes conclude their military service. These men and women have protected our families and our way of life, and we owe them a lifetime of gratitude.
I am committed to making sure that the security of our homeland and the welfare of our troops and veterans remain a top priority in Washington. Ensuring that the United States has the ability to build and maintain a strong national defense is one of Congress’ most important duties. To achieve that, we must be clear-eyed about the threats America faces and about what is required to overcome those challenges and defeat our enemies. Congress must also work together to ensure that our military members, both current and former, receive the recognition they deserve and the benefits they have earned.
- Veterans Choice Program: Although Congress created the Veterans Choice Program to help veterans access health services faster following the 2014 waitlist scandal, there is still more work to be done to ensure Colorado’s veterans receive the health care they need and deserve. After the Choice Program was put in place, many of Colorado’s veterans voiced concerns about the 40-mile eligibility rule, which was calculated “as the crow flies” instead of 40-miles driving distance. I joined many of my colleagues in urging the VA to change the calculation, so veterans in our rural communities would be able to use the program. In February 2015, I sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald and pressed the VA to take steps to improve the Veterans Choice Program for veterans living in rural areas. In May 2015, following pressure from Congress, the VA updated the program so that 40-mile eligibility requirement would be calculated by driving distance. I continue to meet with veterans groups across the Third Congressional District to learn how we can further reform the VA and meet their health care needs.
- Accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs: The 2014 waitlist scandal underscored the need for fundamental reforms within the VA. In the 114th Congress I have called for greater accountability among VA executive staff. I supported the passage of the VA Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1994), which cuts bureaucratic red tape and gives the VA Secretary more flexibility to demote or fire employees who aren’t doing their jobs. The House also passed the Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 1038), which will go a long way towards making sure VA employees are held accountable for any action that threatens the wellbeing of our veterans.
- National Security: Our nation faces many complex challenges that have tangible impacts on every American’s ability to leave a prosperous and peaceful life. As a result of the previous administration’s indecisive and ineffective foreign policy, America is less secure than we were eight years ago. We need a plan to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS. Congress required the president to develop a plan for defeating ISIS in the 2016 National Defense Authorization, but we have yet to see a comprehensive strategy. In the meantime, we have to take steps to ensure safety within our borders. In December 2015, the House passed the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R. 158) to address security gaps in the Visa Waiver Program that could have made it easier for terrorists to enter the United States. The bill was signed into law as part of the year-end funding measure. Now, no person who has traveled to a terrorist hot spot in recent years will be able to enter the U.S. without obtaining a visa.