United States Senator Johnny Isakson on the Progress of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Senior United States Senator from Georgia Johnny Isakson discusses the progress the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs has made this year on important issues such as strengthening benefits for veterans and access to VA Hospitals.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered remarks on the floor of the Senate this week in honor of Veterans Day, celebrated on November 11.
Isakson began his remarks reminding Americans that, “without our veterans, this Republic would not exist.”
“There are no Democrat veterans or Republican veterans; there are only American veterans,”he later reiterated. “They don’t go to the battlefield as partisans, they go as Americans. They fight for us, they risk their own life and sometimes sacrifice it. We owe them a lot. In fact, in many ways we owe them everything.”
“So this year, on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, when you celebrate, pause for a minute to say thanks to those who have come and gone, and those who are still here, who fight to serve us and protect us,” he continued.
During his remarks, Isakson paid tribute to two Georgia military veterans who played an important role in Isakson’s life and who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. Isakson reflected on the lives and sacrifice of his college friend, Jackson Elliot “Jack” Cox of Waynesboro, Ga., who was killed in Vietnam, and Noah Harris of Ellijay, Ga., who was killed in Iraq during the War on Terror.
Isakson offered a reminder that, “We have so much to be thankful for, because less than 1 percent of our population has worn the uniform, borne the battle and fought to save us and protect us…”
“The nation our Founding Fathers gave us… is here principally because of the undergirding foundation of a vibrant military.
“So when you have the chance to meet and become friends with a veteran… remember you owe them a debt of gratitude, and when you get a chance, do what I’m doing today, don’t let their memory ever be lost or forgotten,” said Isakson.   
Isakson also highlighted the commitment of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to advance critical legislation to reform the VA and better serve veterans, and he thanked his colleagues in the Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and the administration for their dedicated efforts toward achieving this goal.  
“We’ve done everything we could to see to it the benefits we promised them would be there when they left the military, are there for them in retirement and in their later life,” Isakson noted.
This year, the committee has passed seven major pieces of legislation that have been signed into law protecting whistleblowers, expediting appeals for benefits claims, expanding healthcare options, improving access to education benefits and increasing compensation for veterans’ disability benefits.
Isakson added that there would be more positive news in the coming weeks, “In a week and a half, we’re going to have our final bill of the year, which if we pass it will make us eight-for-eight. We will have totally reformed the VA and worked with the VA to do it in such a way that our veterans get better service, our taxpayers get more accountability for the dollars we spend, and America remains the great country it’s always been: safe and free because of those who fight and are willing to die on behalf of our country.”
He concluded, “There are lots of things to be thankful for, but none are more important than the men and women of the United States military. May God bless our veterans and may God bless the United States of America.”

In 2017, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has passed seven pieces of legislation that have been signed into law, including

· The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S.1094), to improve accountability at the VA, signed into law on June 23, 2017 (Public Law 115-41)

· The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act (S.544), to extend the Veterans Choice Program and ensure veterans have access to timely care in their own communities, signed into law on April 19, 2017 (Public Law 115-26).

· The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R.2288), to modernize the woefully outdated benefits claims appeals process at the VA, signed into law on August 23, 2017 (Public Law 115-55)

· The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 (S.114), to authorize and appropriate funding for the VA to continue the Veterans Choice Program and strengthen VA care, signed into law on Aug. 12, 2017 (Public Law 115-46).

· The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (H.R.3218), to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, signed into law Aug. 16, 2017 (Public Law 115-48).

· The Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2017 (H.R.3819) to ensure veterans continue to have access to critical programs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), signed into law Sept. 29, 2017 (Public Law 115-62).

· The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R.1329) to increase veterans’ disability benefits based on rising costs of living, signed into law Nov. 2, 2017 (Public Law 115-75).
The committee has held 15 hearings, including three oversight hearings on the Veterans Choice program, the Government Accountability Office’s inclusion of the Veterans Health Administration on its “High Risk List,” and veteran suicide prevention.
The committee has also confirmed 10 of the president’s nominees to positions at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

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