Opinion: What We Owe Our Veterans

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Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard



On Thursday, November 11th, we celebrated our second Veterans Day since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Like last year, many of us were still largely restricted from honoring our veterans with our traditional Veterans Day celebrations and family gatherings. This reality in no way minimizes the great respect and gratitude we have for our veterans, who have served and made the sacrifices needed to defend our nation and American ideals.


As we know, 2021 has been a year of multiple challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s civil unrest, and the tragedy in our nation’s capital on January 6th. These heartbreaking realities of polarization, unrest, and threats to our American values are constant reminders of just how fragile our democracy is.


It is, therefore, incumbent upon us all to celebrate Veterans Day to reaffirm our commitment to the patriotism, heroism, and ideals for which our veterans risked and gave their lives. Let us also pledge to respect and honor the men and women who bravely served our country by doing our part to protect and preserve our American democracy.


I am privileged to represent so many veterans in our 40th Congressional District, and I am proud to be part of a family of veterans that includes my husband, a Marine officer who served two combat tours in Vietnam.


On behalf of all of our veterans, I am thrilled to have joined my Democratic colleagues to pass President Biden’s American Rescue Plan into law. This legislation provides the care and support our veterans have earned and rightfully deserve.


It delivers extensive funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) service organizations, including the East Los Angeles VA Clinic in the City of Commerce, to strengthen its ability to serve veterans facing challenges from the impact of COVID-19.


The American Rescue Plan also addresses the weaknesses the pandemic exposed in the VA’s hospital supply system, which have increased delays in claims processing and slowed the delivery of benefits to disabled veterans. To ensure a more efficient and effective VA, the American Rescue Plan provides funding to modernize the VA’s supply chain, expand service record digitization services, boost the ability of the VA to conduct tele-hearings, and accelerate the claims process by covering overtime costs for staff.


I am extremely pleased that during the pandemic, the American Rescue Plan continues to provide our veterans with access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccinations and State Veterans Homes and covers co-payments for their medical care. In addition, President Biden’s plan will enable expansion of VA services for suicide prevention and women’s health services, enhancements for VA homeless programs, and increases in telehealth appointments to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.


It is now up to Congress to build on these successes and pass President Biden’s Build Back Better Act. This bill would make an additional $5 billion investment in the VA’s workforce and help to rebuild the physical infrastructure of the VA system, including the many hospitals that are over fifty years old and in need of serious repair. The funding will also bring needed updates to the support structures that serve our veterans.


The fact remains, however, that we can never fully repay our veterans and their families for their patriotism and sacrifices made on our behalf and that of our country. We must never give up on our efforts to express our gratitude and respect.


One way to fulfill our solemn duty and responsibility is to do everything in our power to find common ground as Americans to both heal and strengthen our democracy as well as protect our country and our American values from those who would do us harm.


As the greatest country in the world, when united we can and will meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. We owe this to our veterans, who must know that their sacrifices and service to our country were not made in vain.


May God continue to bless our veterans, our troops, our military families, and the United States of America.


Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard represents California’s 40th District, which contains the communities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Downey, Huntington Park, Maywood, Paramount, Vernon, and parts of Bellflower, East Los Angeles, Florence-Firestone, and South Los Angeles.