Since my first days in Congress, I have promised to leave no veteran behind and every day I work to fulfill that promise. Our men and women in uniform serve with honor and when they come home, they deserve the best we can offer. With our country involved in two conflicts overseas and the largest deployment of Wisconsin National Guard troops since World War II, it is as critical as ever to support veterans’ programs and services.

Ron greets WWII veterans at Freedom Flight in La Crosse.

Supporting our Veterans

Having traveled around western and central  Wisconsin and visited Iraq four times and Afghanistan twice, I have heard from a number of the Wisconsinites currently serving in our nation’s armed forces. It has become very clear that in these challenging economic times we must do more to provide for the basic needs of our troops and veterans. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues in recent years to support historic investments to strengthen veterans’ health care and improve care for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Fighting Veteran Homelessness

Our nation’s commitment to the men and women who serve in the armed forces doesn’t end once they return home. It is tragic that so many of our soldiers return home and struggle to get the support they need to reintegrate into civilian life.  I worked to help pass the End Veteran Homelessness Act of 2010, which strengthened successful comprehensive programs for homeless veterans and pays special attention to the needs of homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

I strongly support the Supported Housing Program that is designed to provide permanent supportive housing to homeless veterans. This program, known as HUD-VASH, provides a unique integration of rental assistance and supportive services that work to prevent homelessness. When efforts were made to strike funds for this important program in the FY11 and FY12 appropriations process, I joined my colleagues restoring the funding needed to keep this essential program for our vets.

VA Medical Care

It is critical that we ensure there is a robust VA medical system available so that Wisconsin’s 445,000 veterans can get the quality care they have earned.  

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. Since the enactment of health care reform, many of concerns have been raised by veterans and Veterans Service Organizations as to how the new law would affect TRICARE beneficiaries, as well as veterans and certain dependents receiving care through the VA health care system.  I can assure you that TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, and Veterans’ Health Care will not be impacted by health care reform.  Nothing in the health care reform bill changes the hard earned benefits of veterans through any of those programs.  TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, and Veterans’ Health Care all meet the requirements of the health reform legislation that calls for every American to be insured with at least a minimum quality of coverage. Enrollees in these programs can rest assured that health care reform has no negative impacts for them.

Fighting Veteran Unemployment

There are an alarming number of unemployed veterans in the United States – over 1 million today. As Iraq and Afghanistan veterans come home, and as Vietnam, Cold War, and Persian Gulf War veterans find themselves out of work, the economy is losing some of its best and brightest leaders and workers. We must find a solution to veteran unemployment.

I am proud to have supported the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act, a comprehensive veterans employment bill passed by Congress in October 2011. The VOW Act will ensure servicemembers are receiving the job skills and training they need to be successful in the workforce by enhancing the Transition Assistance Program. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, more veterans are getting a secondary education than ever before. The VOW Act will also enable 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras to receive up to 1-year of Montgomery GI Bill benefits. This Act also strengthens protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act so that National Guard and Reserve members’ jobs are ready and waiting for them upon their return.

Veterans History Project

I believe we owe an enormous debt to our men and women in uniform.  A great way to show our gratitude is to encourage them to share their memories and experiences.  This is why in 2000, I authored legislation creating the Veterans History Project, which allows veterans and their families to record their stories and preserve them for future generations.  These recordings are entered into the permanent collection in the Library of Congress, where they will serve as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices these men and women made defending our country.    
The Veterans History Project has recorded more than 78,000 stories and testimonials to date but there are more stories to be told.  If you, a family member, or a friend would like to record your story or if you’d like more information on the program, please contact my office at 1-888-442-8040. 

Click here to find more information on how to record and submit your story, as well as how to get involved in the project.