Our nation is greatly indebted to those who served in the Armed Forces to protect and defend our country. Our veterans are a national treasure, and we must keep our commitment to these brave men and women. I have been honored to meet many of the veterans who call Idaho home, and their experiences inform my work on veterans’ issues in the Senate.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the mechanisms through which the federal government keeps its commitment to veterans. The VA provides health care to many veterans and is also responsible for administering pensions and other benefits and services for veterans. While the VA has adapted over the years to meet increasing demand for its services, more must be done to ensure the agency can continue to provide for our veterans in future. The VA’s number one priority should be ensuring that our veterans receive the best-available care and high quality services while also maintaining excellent customer service.
In recent years, I have conducted a survey of Idaho veterans, their families and their caretakers to learn more about the challenges they face and how the federal government can better meet their needs. Each survey has improved my understanding of what is and is not working at the VA and has directly shaped legislation I introduced in the Senate to reform the VA. Based on the results of the surveys, I have continued to work to make many of the changes identified by Idaho’s veteran community. As we confront new challenges related to veterans’ benefits, I will continue to focus my efforts on reforms that make a difference in the lives of Idaho’s veterans.
As another way to recognize veterans and their accomplishments, I established the Idaho Spirit of Freedom Award in 2002 to honor veterans and volunteers who assist our veterans for their service to our nation. The statewide nomination process includes input from a number of partners, including the Idaho Division of Veteran’s Affairs, the Idaho State Veterans’ Homes (ISVH), the VA Regional Office, the VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Boise, as well as the commanders of chartered veterans’ service organizations in Idaho. This is just one step I have taken to honor Idaho’s veterans, and I will continue to approach my work in the Senate with longstanding respect and admiration for America’s service members.