Congress must continue to work together to serve our veterans

Congress must continue to work together to serve our veterans
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In the 241 years since our nation’s founding, countless American heroes have raised their right hands and sworn an oath to support and defend our Constitution and a set of principals all Americans regard to be self-evident: “that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

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Whether they fought for liberty and freedom in the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, the trenches of Western Europe, the snow covered-mountains of the Chosin Reservoir or the desert sands of Baghdad, time and again American servicemembers have demonstrated true sacrifice, patriotism, selflessness and bravery in the face of evil. We owe our deepest gratitude and respect to these brave men and women, and it is our sacred duty to ensure they will be cared for upon their return home.

That is why I have made it my personal mission since the day I was elected to Congress to ensure that our country keeps its promises to each and every one of our veterans.  When I was named ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in January of this year, I was humbled and grateful. As a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard, it is a responsibility I do not take lightly because I know firsthand how important it is for Congress to work together and get things right for our veterans.

You can see the progress our committee has made since that time, as it has become the most productive and bipartisan Congressional committee in recent memory.

Whether it’s improving access to high quality health care for rural veterans, making commonsense accountability reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), expanding educational benefits, or ensuring our disabled veterans can access the benefits they earned and deserve, our committee has been able to find bipartisan compromise during a time when the rest of Washington is entrenched in partisan deadlock. For that work, our committee was lauded by the New York Times in their story “A Bipartisan Congress That Works? Veterans Committees Show How It’s Done.”

However, our committee’s work is far from over, and at a time when Congress is debating landmark legislation that will decide the future of VA community care, bipartisanship has never been more important or more at risk.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the partisan political group Concerned Veterans for America, a nefarious dark money political organization funded by the Koch brothers, is preparing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to advance its corporate agenda — the central pillar of which is VA privatization — and attack any and all members of Congress who stand up to them.

As members of Congress, it is our sacred duty to protect the institutions that care for our troops when they come home, and for their widows and children when they tragically do not. So as we move forward, our committee must continue to reject the encroaching influence of partisan political groups and instead remain grounded in our promise to improve the lives of our nation’s 22 million veterans.

My longtime friend, colleague, and fellow veteran Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has empowered our members to work together, listen to veterans in the community, build bipartisan consensus and to stand up to those who would threaten that legacy. We need his leadership now more than ever to ensure that continues to be the case. Nothing, especially partisan politics, should ever come between us and our service to veterans.

Walz is a retired command sergeant major with more than two decades experience serving in the Army National Guard. He is the highest-ranking enlisted service member ever to be elected to the United States Congress and currently serves as the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.