FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 23, 2015
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Chairman Isakson on Top Priorities for Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
‘Dedicated to veterans, for greater good’
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, authored the following op-ed on his priorities for the committee this Congress:
Dedicated to veterans, for greater good
By U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson
As published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution here.
“Freedom is the greatest gift that we, the United States, have been granted and as such it is our responsibility to spread it. For it to become a permanent fixture in our future and our children’s future, we must give our all to those that desire it.”
In May 2005, a young man wrote this to me in an email sent while deployed in Baghdad, Iraq. I was deeply touched by the words of 1st Lt. Noah Harris of Ellijay, who became my pen pal while he bravely served our country in defense of the freedom he so deeply believed in.
1st Lt. Harris died at an Army medical center less than a month after sending this email, but his memory and the words he wrote have stayed with me all these years. Noah made the ultimate sacrifice in service of his country, and I am forever indebted to Noah for his sacrifice and inspiration.
I have been blessed to represent the great state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate since 2005. Now, I have the honor of serving as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. I take very seriously the challenges that lie ahead, and I intend to dedicate my service and leadership as chairman to Noah Harris in tribute to the life that he gave – and the lives so many others have given – on behalf of the greater good.
Noah was committed to serving his country and his fellow man, and he would sign every email with the phrase, “I do what I can.” During my tenure as chairman, I will carry on Noah’s motto, and I make the solemn pledge to our nation’s veterans: I will do what I can.
As chairman, I have laid out five broad goals the committee will pursue over the next two years.
In Congress, we are responsible for providing critical oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year, Congress passed sweeping reforms to address serious and systemic problems and give the VA the tools required to help improve the quality and timeliness of care by giving veterans a choice.
My first and ongoing priority as chairman will be overseeing the implementation of the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act to ensure the VA fully and efficiently utilizes the Veterans’ Choice program to improve the quality and timeliness of care.
Second, we must act as a committee to drastically improve the experience service members and their families face while transitioning from active duty to veteran status. There needs to be direct inter-agency collaboration between the Department of Defense and the VA to make sure this transition process is seamless and efficient in all respects.
A third goal for the Senate VA committee will be to make certain we are doing what we can to protect victims, male and female, of military sexual trauma. We will not overlook this serious issue affecting both men and women any longer. We are committed to reducing the stigma associated with military sexual trauma and to providing access to care and support for veterans who are victims of this terrible trauma.
Fourth, we will work with the VA to achieve its goal of eradicating and preventing veteran homelessness. It is an insult this problem even exists. I will do what I can to see that veterans have access to adequate housing, food and support.
Finally, we must work to ensure the VA provides access to adequate and timely mental health care and services. This problem deserves our immediate attention. That is exactly why the first item of business when I took over as chairman earlier this year was to pass bipartisan legislation – the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act — to help our veterans.
In Congress, we are responsible for sending our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to the battlefield. We owe our veterans nothing less than everything to ensure their well-being when they return home. I will be fiercely committed as chairman of the Senate VA committee to making sure the Department of Veterans Affairs rises to meet the challenge of implementing necessary reforms on behalf of Noah Harris and all of America’s veterans.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.
Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.