The end of the election season means a reorganization of Congress.
Currently, the Democratic Caucus is seeking a replacement to fill Rep. Mike MichaudMichael (Mike) Herman MichaudRecord number of LGBT candidates running for governor What to watch in Tuesday’s primary elections Democrats need an experienced leader on House VA committee MORE's (D-Maine) post as ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs (HVAC), which the Maine congressman will be vacating.
Rep. Tim WalzTim WalzJudge rejects Minnesota parents' attempt to force statewide school mask mandate Former Minnesota Senate Republican leader announces campaign for governor Minnesota parents sue Gov. Walz over lack of mask mandate in schools MORE (D-Minn.), a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard, has announced that he is seeking this key leadership post, an aim that enjoys strong support across the veteran community.
Many veterans I have spoken with recently are encouraged by the possibility of Walz stepping up into this leadership position because of his active support for the veteran community during his time serving on the HVAC. Walz's decades of military service and firsthand experience make him the most qualified candidate for this job, and his selection as ranking member would significantly enhance his ability to continue to improve policy for veterans and their families.
Walz has been intimately involved in helping pass key bills to improve care to disabled veterans, helping veterans secure employment after returning from deployment, and pushing reforms to remove bureaucratic barriers for veterans seeking earned disability compensation benefits when they return from war. Additionally, Walz frequently reaches out to Veteran Service Organization (VSO) stakeholders when crafting policy approaches designed to improve benefits and services at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Walz's work on the committee has included introducing legislation that would allow increased utilization of private medical examinations to be used in the VA claims process, which could prevent the VA from scheduling duplicate exams and prolonging the wait time veterans experience when waiting for decisions regarding claims for disability compensation.
Walz has also introduced a critical piece of legislation designed to curtail the tragic number of veteran suicides. H.R. 5059, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, is a bipartisan bill that Walz led in developing along with HVAC chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). This bill is critical to beginning to examine, reorganize and improve the current mental health and suicide prevention programs and services that are currently administered by the Department of Defense and VA.
This forward-leaning leadership style and focus on important issues facing the veteran community proves Walz's ability to engage in constructive bipartisan negotiation with the Republican chairman and produce results for veterans.
This is what the veteran community needs: a bipartisan policymaker who reaches out to our community to better understand the issues we face, listens to our recommendations for improving the VA, and turns those recommendations into actionable results. The veteran community needs a leader that puts hyper-partisanship aside and instead selects balanced negotiation with colleagues. The veteran community needs Walz as ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Neiweem is a legislative associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). He spent six years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a military police non-commissioned officer and served an honorable tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom detaining enemy prisoners of war and performing base security and customs in 2003 during the Iraq War.