Veterans

I am dedicated to ensuring our veterans have timely access to high-quality care and services. A country that commits its people to war must be prepared to provide care to those who serve. It is non-negotiable that the 120,000 veterans in Idaho, and millions across the country, receive the necessary physical and mental healthcare benefits, on-time and in-full.  I believe that veterans are entitled to timely answers to their questions and concerns, and I have designated staff members whose sole purpose is to assist with the needs of our veteran community.

Two priorities in this area are the ongoing issues of veteran suicide and the lack of access to appropriate mental health care.  In 2019, the Veterans Administration reported that the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times the rate of non-veterans. Despite representing only 8% of the population, veterans account for nearly 14% of deaths by suicide. Some 20 veterans commit suicide each day. This is 20 veterans too many.

In order to gauge the impact of veterans-related policies being considered by Congress, I am in frequent contact with Idaho veterans, and am very grateful to have Air Force Veteran Steve Ackerman serving as Policy Analyst in my Washington, D.C. office. I also rely on the good work of Idaho’s veterans services, leaders with Idaho’s veterans homes, and with the efforts of Idaho’s veteran service organizations, including the Idaho Division of Veterans Services, VA Regional Office, local suicide prevention groups, and VA Medical Centers. These channels are extremely valuable to representing the best interests of veterans in Idaho’s First District, and I encourage all veterans and their families to reach out to my offices with questions, comments, or concerns.

Legislation

Below is a list of specific initiatives, bills, and letters I have supported in Congress to support our veterans. Click on the links or contact my office for additional information.

  • Amendment to H.R. 3055: To provide additional beds in rural VA facilities providing long-term care to veterans, many times treating mental health issues. 

  • PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act (H.R.4305): Implements a pilot program to improve veteran mental health through training service dogs for veterans with disabilities.

  • Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act (H.R.1605): To create an opt-in for military families to establish Military Education Savings Accounts to help fund their children’s education and expand access to high-quality educational experiences.

  • National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act (H.R.1830): To create coins emblematic of National Purple Heart Hall of Fame and prescribe surcharges for the coins to be distributed to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, Inc.

  • ACT for Veterans Act (H.R. 2493): To give veterans 96 hours to notify the VA that he or she received emergency care at a non-VA facility.

  • Service-Disabled Veterans Small Business Continuation Act (H.R.499): To enable the surviving spouse of a service-disabled veteran small business owner to retain priority of the business upon death of the veteran spouse. 

  • Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Act (H.R. 3537): To provide entrepreneurship training to veterans and active military through the SBA Boots to Business program. 

  • Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R.299): To compensate Vietnam and some Korea veterans that served in oceans adjacent to the theater of operations during these wars and were exposed to Agent Orange and related herbicides and chemicals.

  • Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act (H.R. 1381): To allow family members of deceased servicemembers and veterans to enter the cause of death in the burn pit registry. Currently, only registered individuals are allowed to update the cause of death information. This bill will ensure that the VA has accurate service-related death data for our veterans which enables improved prevention, compensation, and identification patterns.

Casework

My office is here to help veterans navigate complex federal government bureaucracies — including the Department of Veterans Affairs. In Idaho's First District, there are five VA facilities (Sandpoint, Caldwell, Grangeville, Lewiston, Coeur d’Alene), and the VA hospital in Boise serves many veterans in our district. If you run into any issues while working with the VA or tracking down your military records or medals, or any other issues with a federal agency, my office is here to go to bat for you.

Veterans History Project

We have also partnered with the Library of Congress for the Veterans History Project. This project allows our veterans to record their story and have their mementos preserved for future generations to learn from their experiences. If you would like to have your story recorded, please reach out to our office.