Our commitment to veterans can help us lead for all Americans
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On Veterans Day and every day, we owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans and their families, but our commitment goes much further than that. 

I represent the 32nd District of Texas, where I was born and raised by a single mom who was a Dallas public school teacher. Though it wasn’t always easy, I was lucky because I had the support of teachers, coaches and the folks at my local YMCA. With their support, I was able to get a full ride to Baylor, play in the NFL, become a civil rights attorney, and work in the Obama administration. My story would not be possible without the community that helped me, and I am dedicated to making sure that every one of our veterans has the same opportunity to live their version of the American dream, and has easy and efficient access to the benefits they have earned. 

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In the United States, there are about 18.2 million veterans, 9 million of which receive medical care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the country. But as our veteran population in North Texas grows, wait times at VA health care facilities continue to be too long. 

Nationwide, veterans wait on average almost 18 days to get care at a VA facility. In Texas, we have the second-largest veteran population and North Texas has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country. This rapid growth in North Texas, and elsewhere, has strained our VA health care system, reducing the number of veterans who are able to get quality care. The wait at Dallas VA Medical Center is 10 days for a new patient primary care appointment. Every day, 40 to 80 veterans wait for a bed at a VA facility in North Texas. 

That is why as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am leading a bipartisan effort with my North Texas colleagues to urge the VA to convert the recently closed Baylor, Scott and White hospital in Garland, Texas into a VA health facility. For many veterans, the care they receive at the VA is crucial, and converting this facility in North Texas would allow 184,000 more veterans to be served in our area, create 5,500 jobs and save hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs.

On the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have worked with my colleagues to pass legislation that would help our veterans get the care and benefits they are owed. Earlier this year we passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, and it was signed into law. The measure will grant thousands of Navy veterans benefits they earned after being exposed to Agent Orange while serving off the coasts of Vietnam over 40 years ago. 

I introduced the VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act which passed this week with bipartisan support. The bill would cover emergency medical transportation costs for newborn babies born to women veterans. As Texas has the largest population of women veterans in the country, it is important that we close this gap in coverage and ensure veteran parents everywhere don’t have to worry about surprise medical bills. 

I was pleased the House also passed the Veterans’ Access To Child Care Act earlier this year. The bipartisan bill would provide child care to veterans receiving health services at the VA. The bill passed while I was on parental leave earlier this year, and as a new dad, I know how important it is to have access to child care. In my absence, Rep. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Bipartisan bill to secure election tech advances to House floor Our commitment to veterans can help us lead for all Americans MORE (D-N.J.) introduced and helped pass my amendment with Rep. Norma TorresNorma Judith TorresLawmakers press for ICE reforms after fake school report Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit MORE (D-Calif.) strengthening outreach provisions in the bill.  

The Fallen Warrior Battlefield Cross Memorial Act also passed this week, a bill led by my Republican colleague Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezWorld Bank approves billion-plus annual China lending plan despite US objections Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Bipartisan bill to secure election tech advances to House floor MORE of Ohio. I am a co-sponsor of this bill, which bars the VA from removing battlefield cross memorials from national cemeteries for those who died in combat, ensuring these monuments remain standing as tributes to our fallen heroes.

I recently joined Congressman Gonzalez and toured his district as part of a bipartisan district swap in hopes to show an example, and let the American people know that despite areas of disagreement we can work together, especially when it comes to caring for our veterans. 

This commitment to bipartisanship should serve as a model for how we can work together to tackle other issues in Congress. Let’s use this duty-bound oath as a start to forge relationships and work together. Whether it’s protecting Americans’ health care, rooting out corruption in Washington or ensuring every person has a shot at their version of the American dream, our work for veterans can lead the way for a better nation for all of us.

Allred is a freshman member of the House and represents the 32nd District of Texas. He serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee as well as the Foreign Affairs Committee and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.