Clarity on legislative efforts to honor and empower veterans
Special to Stars and Stripes May 23, 2023
As a combat veteran, I understand and appreciate just how important our obligation is to support the veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country. One of my top priorities in Congress will always be to meet the needs of veterans and ensure they receive the highest quality care and support.
In March, I introduced the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act and Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act (COLA) of 2023 — two bills vitally important to our veterans. This week, the House of Representatives passed the Senate version of COLA, which will increase Department of Veterans Affairs benefits to equal the cost-of-living increase provided for certain Social Security benefits.
As budget negotiations are ongoing, my Republican colleagues and I have been fighting to protect VA benefits. However, Democrats have been launching false, divisive attacks, claiming our budget would cut veterans’ benefits. This is dishonest. In reality, Republicans are increasing funds to support our veterans in even more than the fiscal year 2024 budget.
The proposed Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (MILCON/VA) appropriations bill released last week provides the VA discretionary programs with nearly $18 billion above fiscal year 2023, fully funding veterans’ health care programs, veterans’ benefits and VA programs, including the electronic health record modernization initiative. And it acknowledges the importance of getting our fiscal house in order by cutting wasteful spending through prohibiting the use of funds to promote radical ideologies, like critical race theory.
As chairman of Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs subcommittee on House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the implementation of the PACT Act, which expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances, is a top priority. The MILCON/VA budget fully funds the PACT Act, and last week, my subcommittee had its first hearing on PACT Act implementation since the VA began processing claims on Jan. 1.
Veterans sacrifice so much for our country. It is an honor to represent them and fight for them in Washington. They have risked their lives for our freedoms, and we owe them all a great debt. I’ll continue to do everything in my power to defend those who have defended us.
Rep. Morgan Luttrell, a Republican, represents Texas’ 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.