One constant in a time of great uncertainty

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Veterans Day is an opportunity for us to not only thank this country’s heroes of war, but also remember the selfless sacrifices made by our service members and their families to maintain peace at home and abroad. We are forever in their debt; and therefore, must continue to uphold our end of the bargain by keeping them a top priority when they return home.

Today, we have a new generation of veterans, who face different challenges and obstacles than their counterparts of years past. Nearly 22 million brave men and women living in the United States have served in our Armed Forces, and it is our responsibility to ensure they have increased access to the educational and health benefits they earned in service to our country.

Injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury are oftentimes the silent wounds of war, going unnoticed because of the stigma associated. However, they are not character flaws, and we need to change the culture that discourages many members of our Armed Forces from seeking the medical attention they need, particularly when suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury. This is why, as vice chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have worked diligently to draw attention to issues, like TBI, bringing Congress, the U.S. Army and the NFL together to discuss ways we can partner to make our research dollars extend farther. It is also why I have made it my personal mission to see proposals like Heroes Ranch, a family-friendly, specially designed post-acute, long-term care facility, come to fruition.

In this difficult economy, we must work to enhance benefits for our veterans in the most cost-effective way possible. Making great strides in that effort, I sponsored H.R. 4057, which the House passed in September, to increase the effectiveness of current veterans’ educational programs. This legislation arms this generation of Post 9/11 veterans with the necessary information that will allow them to gain skills to re-enter the workforce and make a smooth transition from the battlefield to civilian life.

Our veterans define the meaning of patriotism and heroism, and they embody the American spirit that has forged a better and brighter future for our Nation’s children and grandchildren.

This Veterans Day, may we celebrate and remember all those who have served, are serving or will serve this country.

Bilirakis is vice chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.