As I have said many times, my commitment to our armed forces and our veterans runs deep. Having grown up the son of a World War II veteran, I learned early on how important the sacrifices our veterans make are to the history and future of our great country. Their dedication and valor are shining examples of what is great about our nation.
I believe as your Congressman, proudly representing thousands of veterans and service members in the Eighth District, it is my duty to do everything I can to make sure the debt we owe them is honored. I meet with various groups of veterans throughout the district as often as possible.
My next veterans meeting will be on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at my Fayetteville District Office, 6257 Raeford Rd. Suite 2 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. In addition to hearing from veterans, caseworkers from my office will be on hand to host a veterans’ service clinic. If you or a family member are in the area and need help, please attend.
I make it a priority to ensure legislation moving through Congress helps make the lives of our veterans and active duty military personnel better.
Recently, I cosponsored the Veterans Pensions Protection Act, which will protect veterans from losing their pensions if they receive payments to cover expenses incurred after an accident, theft or loss. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs considers many sources of revenue when determining a veteran’s annual income, including reimbursement of expenses related to accidents, theft or loss. These reimbursements are considered income and if these reimbursements push the veteran’s income above income limits set by the VA, the veteran may not qualify for their pension or could lose benefits.
This is simply unacceptable. Our veterans, who’ve always answered the call when asked, should not be shortchanged their benefits because of circumstances beyond their control. The Veterans Pensions Protection Act would right this wrong, and make sure our veterans aren’t being denied their benefits due to loopholes.
In addition, I have authored a bill that would make sure our veterans who unselfishly answer another call and accept guardianship of minor children have this kindness taken into consideration while seeking hospital care or medical services through the Department of Veterans Affairs. H.R. 4465 directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to take into account each child a veteran has in their guardianship when determining the veteran’s financial status when receiving hospital care or medical services.
Accepting responsibility for another person’s child, whether it is in the event of a tragedy or a child whose parents have been called to duty, should be applauded. Veterans are the type of people who step up and accept this type of responsibility. Many times the need for permanent or temporary guardianship is unexpected and may cause emotional and financial burden to the household.
Yet, veterans see a need and they respond. This is behavior we should be encouraging. This bill will ensure our veterans who’ve answered this difficult call are being treated fairly when determining their medical and hospital benefits.
I have also joined the Congressional Invisible Wounds Caucus to promote awareness and find solutions to the mental health challenges facing many of our service members and veterans. We have all heard the stories of the rising incidents of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression, substance abuse and suicide in our military personnel and veterans. This caucus will identify and support mental health programs and services at the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Too often there is a stigma associated with seeking mental health assistance that prevents our service members from seeking the help they need. Too often emotional and mental wounds can be just as debilitating as physical injuries, but it is too difficult to seek help and these invisible wounds are left untreated. This is an area where we aren’t doing enough to support our returning military members and veterans. And we must change this.
Our veterans and service members have served their country with dignity, honor and valor. Our nation’s debt of gratitude must never be forgotten, and we have an obligation to ensure they receive the help they need.
I am proud to represent so many of our courageous veterans and active duty service members and their families in Congress. I will continue to fight to ensure their voices and yours are heard in Washington.
Congressman Larry Kissell (D-N.C. -8) offices include Rockingham: 230 East Franklin St., Rockingham, NC 28379, Phone: 997-2070; Concord number (704) 786-1612; Fayetteville number (910) 920-2070; Washington office: 512 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; phone (202) 225-3715. Web site, kissell.house.gov.