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OPINION

Thank you to our Veterans Service Organizations

By SENS. JOHNNY ISAKSON AND JON TESTER | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: March 28, 2019

Making the transition from servicemember to civilian can be difficult, and navigating the second-largest federal agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, can add additional stress to that process. A shared goal of the VA and Congress is to work together to make sure our veterans can easily access the quality care and benefits they deserve.

Congressional offices have dedicated staff to assist veterans in navigating the ins and outs of the VA, but our Veterans Service Organizations also play a key role in advocacy and assistance for our veterans.

Across the country, VSOs provide meaningful support to our nation’s veterans at local, state and regional levels. From assisting with VA disability benefits claims to hosting résumé workshops and job fairs, these organizations are with veterans every step of the way as they transition from military duty to veteran status.

They know firsthand what the biggest issues facing our veterans are, and they act as fearless advocates for them here on Capitol Hill. Our VSOs helped craft critical legislation including the landmark VA MISSION Act and have made the difference in getting major reforms to the disability claims appeals system, post-9/11 GI Bill and VA health care signed into law.

In short, VSOs are invaluable to our veterans, our nation and the legislative process.

At the beginning of each year, the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs hold multiple hearings so VSOs can testify before Congress on behalf of their members. As chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, we were honored to lead these hearings recently to hear from a wide variety of veteran voices.

Over the past month, 17 different VSOs testified before our committee. This list included:

 Disabled American Veterans

 The American Legion

 Veterans of Foreign Wars

 American Ex-Prisoners of War

 American Veterans

 Blinded Veterans Association

 Fleet Reserve Association

 Gold Stars Wives of America

 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

 Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

 Military Officers Association of America

 Military Order of the Purple Heart

 National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs

 Paralyzed Veterans of America

 Student Veterans of America

 Vietnam Veterans of America

 Wounded Warrior Project

We are extremely thankful that these groups take the time to share not only the challenges facing our veterans but also potential solutions for improving the quality of care at the VA.

Our job in Congress is to ensure that no veteran is left behind, and we would not be able to do this without the help of all of the VSOs who are “on the ground” and who bring the voice of millions of veterans to Congress. We thank you for serving our nation’s heroes and hope to continue these partnerships for many years to come.

Johnny Isakson, a Republican, represents Georgia in the United States Senate. Jon Tester, a Democrat, represents Montana in the United States Senate.

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