Richard T. Riehle
posted on October 01, 2020 18:10
Agent Orange update!
Thank you for contacting me about veterans' issues in Massachusetts and around the nation, including an amendment, which I supported, to the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to expand the list of Agent Orange presumptive diseases.
Our men and women in uniform serve our country with honor and courage, putting themselves in harm's way to protect us. All three of my brothers served in the military. As their little sister, I know first-hand how much servicemembers, veterans, and their families contribute to our country. It is critically important that we recognize their service and make sure that our veterans have timely access to the highest quality care, including the VA health care system and the TRICARE program that provides benefits to millions of active duty military personnel, military retirees, and their dependents. We need to ensure that our veterans have the mental health and employment services they need to live healthy and productive lives, including ending the backlog of disability compensation claims and eradicating the terrible scourge of veteran homelessness. Moreover, I believe that VA employees must be held accountable when they cut corners in the delivery of care to our veterans. The Trump Administration should also avoid federal hiring freezes that make it more difficult for the VA to deliver care to veterans and undermine the employment prospects of veterans who are ready to use their skills to serve their fellow veterans.
In the U.S. Senate, I have continued to work with members of both parties to improve the lives of our veterans and honor their sacrifice. Working with my Congressional colleagues, we secured long-overdue medical benefits for servicemembers at Westover Air Force Base who were exposed to Agent Orange. I helped struggling veterans avoid foreclosure by pushing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to increase access to loan modifications for veterans on fixed incomes. I successfully fought for millions in funding for the Worcester Community-Based Outpatient VA Clinic and supported Soldier On, Inc.'s grant application to help that organization fight homelessness. And Congress passed my bipartisan bills to authorize a commemorative chair on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol honoring servicemembers who are Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA) and to require the daily display of the POW/MIA Flag at the White House, the Capitol, and other major federal properties.
I was an original cosponsor of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the Forever G.I. Bill, which modernizes and expands the G.I. Bill education benefits. I worked to include provisions in this legislation that expand eligibility for Purple Heart recipients previously shut out of the G.I. Bill, improve Yellow Ribbon educational benefits for families of fallen servicemembers, increase coverage for some reservists, and restore benefits for veterans who were cheated by certain for-profit colleges. I proudly voted to pass this bill and I am glad that the President signed it into law. I am also proud to have worked with Senator Rubio (R-FL) to pass legislation that improves protections for older veterans and their families from financial scams. Working with Senator Tillis (R-NC), I persuaded the IRS to reverse a policy that allowed the agency to take military retirement benefits from low-income veterans if they owed some back taxes. I worked with Senator Ernst (R-IA) to introduce the Women Veterans Peer Counseling Enhancement Act to ensure the VA's Peer Support Program has enough peer counselors to help address the mental health needs of women veterans. I have also supported legislation that will allow the VA to immediately suspend without pay any employee whose misconduct poses a direct threat to veterans' safety, while maintaining the appeal rights of disciplined employees. I voted to pass the VA MISSION Act, which includes a provision that requires the VA to expand benefits to caregivers of veterans from all wars.
Additionally, I have been very concerned about companies that target veterans and active duty servicemembers for financial scams. Before I became a Senator, when I was appointed by President Obama to help set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), one of my top priorities was setting up the Office of Servicemember Affairs to put a stop to predatory lenders and financial scams that target servicemembers, veterans, and their families who are too often the targets of fraudulent practices.
The most rewarding part of my work on veteran and servicemember issues is the opportunity to intervene directly with the VA or other government agencies to help constituents in need. I encourage anyone requiring assistance to contact my office online at www.warren.senate.gov or by phone at (617) 565-3170. I believe that Washington must do more to help and honor our veterans, and I will continue fighting for them both in Washington and in Massachusetts.
United States Senator