Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
In the wake of last year's scandals involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), I created a veterans survey to learn more about the experiences and needs of Idaho's veterans community. The 2014 Veterans Survey was an invaluable tool. I read the comments that came in and heard loud-and-clear the voices of Idaho veterans. Their voices have shaped my actions on veterans policy and legislation. For example, several veterans told me of their experiences with Agent Orange. Because of their insight, I am a co-sponsor of measures such as S.901, the Toxic Research Exposure Act, and S. 681, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
Earlier this summer, I began conducting the 2015 Veterans Survey. This survey builds on lessons learned from last year to ask more specific questions about the experiences of our veterans. This year's survey is better than last year's and has captured the attention of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), which has VA oversight responsibility. If you have not already done so, please consider taking the survey. I am interested in hearing from veterans, family and friends, and those who work with veterans on a regular basis. The information you share with me will drive my legislative agenda for the next year and affect how I consider several of the pending VA reform measures. The final report on the survey's findings will be shared with the SVAC, the VA and with Idaho's VA community. Ensuring timely, high-quality veterans care is an ongoing effort. Idahoans, please help with this effort and take the survey before September 30, 2015.
There are several ways to take the 2015 Veterans Survey. It can be accessed online through my website at https://www.crapo.senate.gov/contact/vetsurvey/survey2015.cfm . Participants may also stop by one of my offices or call to have a staff member administer the survey. The following phone numbers can be used to reach my offices: Washington, DC (202) 224-6142; Idaho State Office (Boise) 208-334-1776; South-Central Idaho (Twin Falls) (208) 734-2515; North Idaho (Coeur d'Alene) (208) 664-5490; Eastern Idaho, North (Idaho Falls) (208) 522-9779; North-Central Idaho (Lewiston) (208) 743-1492; Eastern Idaho, South (Pocatello) (208) 236-6775.
Idahoans in need of specific assistance in working with the VA or other federal agencies may also contact my office for further assistance through the survey or separately. Veterans casework more than doubled and Idaho veterans received more than $723,000 in retroactive benefits as a result of the assistance sought by many of the survey participants last year.
Idaho veterans and their loved ones know best what is working and not working for veterans utilizing VA services. Their ongoing input drives sound and lasting improvements. The solutions they help institute today not only improve the services for current veterans, but also help ensure that other military families do not face similar challenges. Thank you, Idaho veterans, for your service and assistance with improving services for your fellow and future veterans. Please continue to guide meaningful reforms that will improve Idaho veterans' access to first-rate services by taking the 2015 Veterans Survey.
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