House Veterans Affairs’ Committee working to help our nation's veterans
© US Marine Corps

“Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

That quote comes from my home state’s hero, Abraham Lincoln. The brothers – and now sisters – to whom President Lincoln was referring are the brave servicemembers who risk their lives to protect our freedoms. And what better honor for us is there than to give back and ensure these heroes receive the care they deserve.

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It is with that in mind that my colleagues and I on the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee got to work on an ambitious, bipartisan agenda to help our nation’s veterans. Under the leadership of Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-Minn.), we’ve had some proud moments of accomplishment in a capital city that too often is gripped with partisanship. 

As chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, I was privileged to sponsor legislation with Ranking Member Elizabeth EstyElizabeth Henderson EstyConnecticut elects first black congresswoman Former aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action Rising Dem star in Connecticut says people like me ‘deserve a seat at the table’ in Congress MORE (D-Conn.) that provides for a once-in-a-generation overhaul of the veterans’ benefits appeals process. Prior to our legislation, 400,000 veterans’ appeals were backlogged in an outdated system just waiting to be processed. With each passing day, a claimant was just another day further from receiving the treatment they deserved. 

Now our veterans will have a modernized appeals process with three new “lanes” to have their claims addressed: one in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor; another in which the veteran can submit new evidence for review and have a hearing; and a final lane in which jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

The committee also addressed issues of higher education, the “Forever GI Bill” removes the 15-year time restrictions to use the GI Bill and improves and extends the education benefits granted to veterans, their surviving spouses and dependents through the GI Bill.  Studies show that student veterans succeed at a higher rate than their non-veteran peers, and it is in our nation’s best interests to continue to invest in these individuals.

Lastly, following shocking reports of veterans’ deaths due to long patient wait times and hidden waiting lists at VA Medical Centers in Phoenix and elsewhere, Congress created the VA Choice Program – which allows eligible veterans to receive health care from a community provider rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling far distances to a VA facility.

This summer, authorization for the VA Choice Program was set to expire. Congress passed bipartisan legislation to continue the VA Choice Program to ensure veterans have certainty and continuity of care while we work on wholesale reform of the VA.

All three bills passed by Congress. All three signed into law. All three supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. 

Veterans Day is a day for all of us to come together as Americans to honor our nation’s finest. As a Marine and the father of a Marine, I recognize the sacrifices that generations of men and women have made in defense of liberty. To the 55,000 veterans in my district and the approximately 22 million nationwide, thank you for your service. 

Bost has represented the 12 counties of Illinois’ 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2015. Bost serves as Chairman of Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs under House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.