Veterans Day is a time to honor our men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their service to our nation protects the opportunities and freedoms that we all hold dear. From advancing our national security interests to protecting the right to vote, our service members keep us safe and strengthen our standing in the world.
Yet when many come home, they return unable to find a job and access the care they have earned through honorably serving our country. This is unacceptable.
Kentucky is the home of more than 350,000 veterans, the fourth most in the nation. But Washington has fallen short of honoring our commitment to our returned service members. Many veterans across Kentucky have compensation claims pending, including more than 6,000 in the Louisville VA backlog alone. It is a shameful that Senator McConnell opposed plans to reduce this backlog and blocked legislation to create 20,000 jobs for veterans.
It is our duty to recommit to the sacred trust our nation has with our veterans and military families. We owe them the care they were promised and the benefits they deserve – a commitment that begins at enlistment.
On my recent trip to the Middle East, I met with deployed soldiers to assess military voting procedures and ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box. After returning home, I continued to discuss with several members of command and the National Guard in Kentucky how to improve military voting. Our recommendations received overwhelming bipartisan support and became law earlier this year. The Military Heroes Voting Initiative allows service members and their families to register to vote and update their registration online, ensures that military voters have sufficient time to vote in special elections and extends existing protections to state and local elections and National Guard members. It is the first initiative of its kind and assures that those who are fighting for us overseas never have to question whether their votes count.
I am dedicated to serving Kentucky’s 350,000 veterans and will continue to fight for the quality health care, benefits and treatment they have earned. We must expand education and training opportunities for service members and veterans and facilitate public and private partnerships that help them transition into civilian life. We must improve access to health care services, including mental health, prosthetic care and wound regeneration. And we must improve collaboration between the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, ensuring that veterans receive the benefits and medical care they deserve in a timely manner.
Our veterans have endured extended time away from their loved ones and have missed family birthdays, milestones and holidays to serve their country.
It is not enough to simply offer words. We must follow through with action in support of our veterans. Whether they fought in Korea or Afghanistan, we must keep our promises to our returned military and deliver on our responsibility to them just as they have for each of us. They deserve to share in the opportunity they bravely fought to protect.
To our men and women in uniform, both past and present – thank you for your service.