Every American owes a deep debt to the brave men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. We must repay that debt the moment they return home, and do all we can to make sure veterans have access to good healthcare and quality employment opportunities.
We can do more to encourage private industry to recruit, hire, mentor and train veterans. I know it is possible because I did it myself: as a leader at a major Minnesota company, I created a program that put veterans to work in our company and across the medical technology industry.
Many veterans face serious health problems related to their service. My family has not escaped this burden. My uncle died of cancer in his early 50s following his service in Vietnam – believed to be due to Agent Orange exposure. Younger veterans face similar heath challenges related to their work near toxic “burn pits.” When our soldiers return home, they deserve access to the best healthcare, treatment and compensation that our nation can provide for their physical and mental health needs. But that isn’t what they’re getting right now.
An audit of the VA found that more than 120,000 veterans waited at least 90 days for healthcare appointments or never received appointments at all. More than 82,000 veterans were still waiting for the VA to evaluate their claims for service-connected disability compensation more than 125 days after filing. And we need to make sure veterans have health care in their communities. That’s why I’m urging the Mayo Clinic to accept TRICARE as a network provider. This would allow veterans who live in Wabasha and Goodhue counties to have high-quality care convenient to them.
We must be there for our veterans for life. They’ve been there for us. And there is still much work to do.