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Posted by Randy | July 16, 2014
Last month, a Veterans Affairs hospital in Michigan was ordered to conceal all Christian symbols inside of its chapel due to a VA policy handbook published in 2008, which states, “When VA Chaplains are not providing or facilitating a religious service for a particular faith group, the chapel must be maintained as religiously neutral, reflecting no particular faith tradition.”

In response, I joined 22 of my colleagues in sending a letter to the VA inquiring about the policy implementation in 2008 and urging the VA not to scrub its chapels of all religious symbols.

We are a nation founded on the freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Over time, this important concept has been distorted, and its misapplication has led the public to believe that the Constitution’s intent was to confine religion to the four walls of the church.  But the Constitution does not require the elimination of religious symbols from the public square – rather, it protects the free exercise of religion for every American. 

The 101 members of the bipartisan Congressional Prayer Caucus, that I founded, are in the thick of the fight for religious liberty every day. Learn more about our most recent efforts, here
Posted by Randy | June 23, 2014
An Interim Report from the Veterans Affairs Inspector General concluded that delays in access to care and wait lists are a systemic problem nationwide. If the VA can’t provide medical care to our veterans we need to get them care at a private doctor.

I supported legislation, the Veterans Access to Care Act (H.R.4810), that requires the VA to authorize non-VA care to any enrolled veteran who lives more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or has waited longer than the wait-time goals for a medical appointment. This bill passed unanimously in the House. 

Our veterans are our heroes, and deserve better than waitlists, delays, and abuses.  I will keep fighting to make sure they receive the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve. 
Posted by Randy | May 20, 2014
The abuses and deceptions that have occurred across the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system are an unforgivable breach of faith with those who have worn our country’s uniform. Our veterans dedicated their lives and sacrificed their health for our country, only to have those entrusted with their care at home systemically fail them in the most horrific ways. While I have great respect for General Shinseki’s service to our country, I believe that Secretary Shinseki should resign and that the VA should begin to fix this broken system without delay.

Also, this week I will vote on legislation, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, H.R. 4031, to give the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to remove employees of the Senior Executive Service, based on their performance, from government service completely or transfer them to another position within the current civil service system.  

It is in the interest of our veterans, and out of respect for their enormous sacrifices, that we must require that the problems within the VA are fully investigated, that we take whatever action necessary to correct the problems, and that we ensure the services our veterans need and depend on are being provided to them.

Posted by Randy | May 09, 2014
This week two prominent veterans' organizations called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.  The calls come amid increased reports of poor quality of care and cover-ups at veterans’ medical centers across the nation, including reports that 40 veterans died while waiting for access to care at a Phoenix, AZ veterans’ hospital.

Currently, over 300,000 disability claims remain backlogged – those pending for more than 125 days – at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department and the VA Honesty Project, has documented approximately 70 instances in which the VA has failed to respond to reporters’ requests for information.

Question of the week:  Do you believe that Eric Shinseki should resign as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs?

( ) Yes. 
( ) No.
( ) I don’t know. 
( ) Other.


Take the Poll here.

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | February 04, 2014

Last night, the House of Representatives passed legislation to extend in-state tuition rates to Veterans who are attending public universities or colleges on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, regardless of whether they have been stationed in a state long enough to establish residency. While the Senate must now take up this legislation, I was pleased to see this bill pass the House in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion. As my friend and Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Congressman Jeff Miller said, "The men and women who serve this nation did not just defend citizens of their own home states but the citizens of all 50 states," and it’s not only a privilege, but a duty, to recognize them in all 50 states.

 

Posted by Randy | January 29, 2014

Commissaries are a vital recruitment and retention tool, essential to maintaining our all-volunteer military. Even more than that, though, commissaries represent a part of our commitment to taking care of our servicemembers during and after their time of service to the United States of America. Not only are they beneficial to active duty and retirees, but also to their families, who sacrifice so much for our nation. While military members are deployed for long stretches of time, their loved ones back home can still enjoy the services that the commissaries and exchanges provide. Click below to watch the speech I gave on the House Floor, opposing any efforts to close down our commissaries.

 

house floor speech

 

 The men and women who volunteer to serve our nation are not the cause of our current fiscal crisis. Proposals asking them to carry the weight of solving it are unacceptable.

I am also strongly opposed to any changes to military compensation that would break-faith with the men and women who wear the uniform of this nation. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 3790, bipartisan legislation to restore the full cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees. I also supported H.R.3547, which was signed into law earlier this month.  It exempts all veterans who medically retire, those who receive Combat Related Specialty Compensation, those who receive Concurrent Receipt Pay, and surviving spouses in receipt of payments under the Survivor Benefit Program from the COLA adjustments. Additionally, while no changes will take effect until 2015, it is my hope that Congress will act quickly to pass both these bills and honor our servicemembers by ensuring they receive the benefits they deserve. Read more about my work on similar issues, here.

Posted by Randy | September 05, 2013
Late last Friday afternoon, President Obama sent a letter to Congress stating that he was reducing the pay increase for our nation’s servicemembers to 1%, rather than the 1.8% approved by the House in this year’s annual defense bill. 

This letter to Congress came just one day before the Commander-in-Chief announced that he would seek congressional “authorization for the use of force” in Syria.

At a time when we have troops deployed in the Middle East, and the administration has cut billions of dollars from defense and subjected our military to the devastating impacts of sequestration, I believe it is the wrong course of action for the President to reduce pay for members of the military. I will continue working to ensure that our nation’s heroes receive the compensation they deserve and have rightly earned. 

Question of the week:   Do you believe our men and women in uniform should have their congressionally-required pay raise decreased?   

( ) Yes.
( ) No.
( ) I don’t know.
( ) Other (leave your comments below).


Take the Poll here.

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | August 30, 2013
Last year, I met with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and sent a letter to discuss the current backlog of claims at the Veterans Benefits Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) efforts to turn back the avalanche of overdue claims plaguing the VA for the last three years.

On May 23rd of this year, I sent a follow-up letter to Secretary Shinseki requesting an update on the severe claims backlog.

This week, I received a response from the Secretary, noting that progress has been made over the last three months in addressing the backlog, reducing it by 87,000 claims, from the peak of 600,000 in March of 2013.  That means that there are still 513,000 veterans’ claims stagnated in red tape.  It is unacceptable that there are still over a half a million of our nation’s heroes waiting for the benefits they’ve earned and rightly deserve. Our servicemembers have made extraordinary sacrifices for this country and, while we can never begin to repay them, we have a duty to do our utmost to serve them once they come home.

While approximately 14,000 veterans’ appeals have been pending for over two years, two-thirds of employees at the VA received bonuses totaling roughly $5.5 million at the end of 2011 for “excellent” or “outstanding” performance. Until the claims backlog is eliminated, it is unacceptable for employees to receive bonuses. 
Posted by Randy | May 31, 2013

Last week, leading up to Memorial Day, the House passed three measures supporting our nation’s veterans: 

  • Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act (H.R.1412): To increase opportunities under the Veterans Affairs On-the-Job and Apprenticeship Training programs, available under the current GI Bill, and allow former servicemembers to receive job training outside of a classroom setting.  This bill passed the House 416-0
  •  American Heroes COLA Act (H.R.570):  To provide a permanent annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to the amounts paid to veterans for disability compensation and to their survivors for dependency and indemnity compensation.  The bill passed the House by voice vote.
  • Helping Heroes Fly Act (H.R.1344):  To direct the TSA to develop and implement processes to ease and facilitate an expedited passenger screening program for servicemembers who are severely injured or disabled, along with their families.  This bill passed the House 413-0.  

I also sent a letter to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Shinseki, expressing my continued concern regarding the disability claims backlog.  I met with the Secretary last year, and will continue working to ensure that these claims are processed, and veterans are afforded the benefits they deserve. 

Just as the men and women who are serving, and have served, our nation have fought to defend America’s spirit of opportunity and liberty, we too need to fight for them. Enacting legislation and providing the necessary funding to support our veterans is not just an honor, it is a responsibility. 

Without the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, our country would certainly not enjoy the freedom and liberty it does today.  I believe Washington can offer a collective vision to care for those who have served.   Just as our veterans have fought for the vision of America, we need to fight for a vision for them.  

As the 113th continues, what are your other legislative priorities related to veterans’ issues?  Weigh in on my blog or my Facebook page here.  

Posted by Randy | November 08, 2012

As our nation marks Veteran’s Day this Sunday, November 11th, we honor those who have served our country in the line of duty.  Our veterans are all around us in Virginia, where the 4th district is home to one of the highest populations of veterans in the nation.  I urge you all to pause and spend some time with a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. Whether still on active duty, the Reserves, or a former military member, these brave men and women have served their country and sacrificed so much for all of us. It is our responsibility to recognize their sacrifice and commitment, preserve the legacy of their service, and pass this on to future generations.

I hope you will use the opportunity Veterans Day gives you to take time to talk with a veteran and learn more about their service. It could be a family member, friend or someone you live near or work with that you think may have served but never took the time to ask.   If you know a war veteran, please consider interviewing them or taking a picture and sending it to me at HonoringVeterans@mail.house.gov. If you are a military veteran, I’d also love to hear from you directly. I look forward to sharing many of the photos or anecdotes I receive. 

I also suggest you all read and share stories on the Veterans History Project, which collects, preserves and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

To kick off this endeavor, here are two photos and an anecdote dear to my heart. My oldest son, Neil Forbes (below left) , spent eight years in the United States Army, serving in Korea, the 82nd Airborne Division and Virginia Army National Guard.  My father, Malcolm Forbes, (below right) also served in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Officer in World War II.

Shortly before the Normandy invasion in 1944, (my father was not a very religious man at the time but he did carry a pocket-sized bible in his chest pocket) he prayed for God’s protection and promised God that if he made it home, he would make sure his family attended church every Sunday. Well, he made it home and he kept that promise.  I cannot remember a Sunday that my Dad did not take my mother, my siblings and me to church.  Although my father died many years ago, I still have his pocket bible. It is one of my most treasured possessions and it serves as a strong reminder of my dad’s service to his country.