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Representative Jeff Denham

Representing the 10th District of California

Remembering Those Who Served: A Year of Action on Behalf of Our Veterans

Nov 11, 2013
Newsletter



Who are our Veterans?

California is home to over 1.8 million veterans who have fought in every conflict our country has faced since the Second World War. These men and women helped defend this nation in war and in peacetime they built our State into one of the world’s largest economies. Hundreds of thousands of these veterans call the Central Valley home; in the two counties I am privileged to represent more than 60,000 who have served in the Armed Forces.

My Mission in Congress: Honor Our Promises to Veterans

One of my greatest honors as a member of Congress and a veteran myself is having the ability to help fulfill the promises made to our veterans for their brave and distinguished service to our country. I come from a family with a tradition of military service, and as a veteran myself, I understand how important our work is to continually improve care and support for our veterans. As the sole Valley representative on the Veteran Affairs Committee, you can count on me to fight to preserve the rights, protections and benefits our veterans deserve.

The Veterans Affairs Committee: Oversight and Accountability

Every day more than 8 million veterans, survivors and dependents access care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) where they are served by more than 300,000 employees at 1,700 healthcare facilities. These visits range from routine check-ups to complex surgeries and mental health visits. Outside of direct healthcare the VA also provides educational, disability and pension benefits to millions of veterans and their families. These services make the VA the largest direct healthcare provider in the United States and the second largest department of the federal government – an extraordinary investment by the American taxpayers to show our gratitude for those who have worn the uniform.

This means that the Veterans Affairs Committee must be vigorous in conducting it oversight responsibilities and hold the VA and its leadership accountable for mismanagement, especially when those errors jeopardize the health and safety of the veterans they serve. This Congress, the committee has acted in bipartisan fashion to do just that and I encourage you to visit the Veterans Affairs Committee website for more information on these efforts.

Improving Access to Care in the Valley: New Facilities and Better Coordination

Improving our existing VA resources and bringing new facilities closer to home will greatly enhance the level of care offered to veterans in the Valley and surrounding communities.  This year I was proud to join fellow veterans and supporters at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System’s ribbon cutting for the Modesto VA Clinic, which was delivered on schedule and should serve as a model to other critical projects for Central Valley veterans. 

In July, I presented the keys to two new Veteran Transport Vans for use by the Modesto VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). My staff and I worked with local veterans, community leaders and the VA Palo Alto Volunteer Services to secure the vans, which now help veterans who have special needs or transportation restrictions travel to their medical appointments on their own.

Just as important as the Modesto Clinic is a planned facility in French Camp. For veterans in San Joaquin County who have to drive long distances for care, having this facility built on schedule is absolutely vital. I have met with Secretary Shinseki to personally deliver the message that we need to move forward with this project. Additionally, I’d like to salute the efforts of the San Joaquin County supervisors and officials who have been tireless advocates for getting the French Camp Clinic completed as promised.

These new facilities are only one part of the effort to bring a better VA to the Valley. Implementing new electronic health records and ensuring that easy-to-access benefits information is available online will bring the Veterans Administration into the 21st Century. 

We must also work to expedite the benefits claims process. Secretary Shinseki has set the goal of processing all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy in 2015. This year I met regularly with the Under Secretary for the Veterans Benefits Administration Allison Hickey to receive updates on their new paperless claims system and training processes that have been developed to reduce the backlog. While the VA has made important progress, thousands of Northern California veterans are still waiting more than 125 days for their claim to be processed at the Oakland Regional Office. I want to assure those who are waiting for their claim that I will continue to monitor the situation in Oakland to make sure that the VA follows through on their commitment to a better claims process.

Working Together to Hire Veterans: A Bipartisan Goal

I am proud that last Congress we passed the Vow to Hire Heroes Act as well as the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act, which I authored with Congressman Walz. These laws will help veterans take the training they received in the military and find employment in the private sector. With 250,000 servicemen expected to enter civilian life each year over the next 5 years, we must do everything we can to make the transition as seamless as possible. More than veterans’ benefits, what these soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines want is the dignity of a job.

That is why I started the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators who are committed to working with the private sector to bring down the rate of unemployment. Together members of the jobs caucus have held job fairs, announced ambitious veterans hiring goals and brought together key government agencies and private companies to collaborate on long term solutions. To learn more about the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, please click here.

Legislation

This Congress I have worked with democrats and republicans to introduce legislation that taken together would recognize the service of our guard and reserve members, improve access to important medical records, speed the disability claims process and push the Department of Defense and the VA towards a truly integrated healthcare record. I have introduced or been an original co-sponsor of the following pieces of legislation:

H.R. 679 Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act

H.R. 1980 Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act

H.R. 2055 Integrated Electronic Health Records (iEHR) for Military and Veterans Act

H.R. 2150 Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2013

H.R. 3405 The United We Stand to Hire Veterans Act

H.R. 1132 Efficient Service for Veterans Act

Overdue Honors: Ensuring our Heroes Get the Recognition They Deserve

It is a privilege as a member of Congress and a fellow veteran to help those who serve our nation get the recognition they are owed for their distinguished service. This year my office assisted more than 15 veterans get the award they earned fighting for our country. In some cases these men have waited more than 40 years for their heroic action to be recognized. Getting these overdue medals is a rigorous process that demands extensive documentation, eyewitness testimony and thorough review by the Pentagon.

Honor Flight: Bringing Our Veterans to the Capital

Honor Flight is a private, all volunteer organization that brings our elderly and terminally ill veterans to Washington D.C. in order to visit their war memorials.

This year I joined with the Northern California Honor Flight to welcome WWII & Korean War veterans to the capital. During the Honor Flight’s visit, I accompanied Frank Myers, a Navy vet and Pearl Harbor survivor, throughout the group’s tour of the WWII and Korean War Memorials. To experience the memorials that stand as a monument to Frank’s service with him was an unforgettable experience. To view photos from our tour, please click here.

Veteran Advisory Council: Local Veterans Who Make a Difference

I could not do my job in Washington, D.C. without the advice and perspective of local veterans who are committed to serving their brothers-in-arms. These leaders are a part of my veteran advisory council. They meet each month to discuss the issues affecting Central Valley veterans and identify solutions that I can bring to my colleagues on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Harold "Al" Pound

VFW Post 3199 Modesto

Jim Greer

Stan County VSO

Jerry Sarkovics

Marine Corps League

Doug Miller

Stan County Vet Commissioner

John Treantos

Marine Corps League/ Legion Post 172 Tracy

Mark Sward

American Legion Post 263 Escalon

Phil White

GWOT College Vets -CSUS/MJC

Mike Seward

VFW Post 5059, Turlock

Neil Holets

American Legion  Post 172 Tracy

Mike Maloney

American Legion VFW 1537 Tracy

Walt Butler

American Legion Post 491 Ceres

Amy Hussar

American Legion Post 168 Patterson

Jim Winston

American Legion Post 249 Manteca

Lee Herren

VFW Post 6311 Manteca

Harold Palmer

VFW Post 1051 Ripon

Ted Marshall

VFW Post 1051 Ripon

Peggy Winston

American Legion Post 249 Manteca

Vaugn Gates

VFW Post 1537 Tracy


There is still much work to be done to ensure that we provide for the men and women who have laid their lives on the line for our great nation. I will continue to work throughout the 10th district, on the Veterans Affairs Committee and with the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus to provide the best results possible for our service members.