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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.  

 

                

Posted by Randy | June 11, 2012

Today, I called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to address the underlying causes of the severe claims backlog plaguing the Veterans Benefits Administration.

In spite of considerable efforts to reverse this negative trend, the Department of Veterans Affairs has seen its claims backlog jump from just 390,000 at the beginning of 2009 to over 904,000 at the end of May. Our nation’s veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices, and they are deserving of far more expeditious and accurate claims decisions from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  In some cases our veterans have been forced to wait for months or years to get an adjudicated claims decision – this is simply unacceptable and an egregious breach of faith with those who have served our nation honorably.

In a letter to Secretary Shinseki, I expressed concern that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ actions thus far have not rolled back the enormous claims backlog that has ballooned over the last three years. “Considering that claims receipts are expected to reach 1.25 million in 2013, prompt, substantive action is required to both critically assess and address the root causes of the claims backlog and more importantly implement meaningful reform to the claims processing system,” I wrote.  The full text of the letter is available here.

Current claims backlog figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs are available here.

To read more information on my work on behalf of veterans, please visit my website here.

Posted by Randy | June 05, 2012

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” – General Dwight Eisenhower, D-Day, 1944.

On this day sixty eight years ago, Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in a pivotal display of resilience.  Although the mission seemed impossible, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said we would “accept nothing less than full victory.”   More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies held Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded -- but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

On that day, June 6, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a prayer to the nation.  The prayer began, “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.  Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.  They will need Thy blessings.  Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong.  He may hurl back our forces.  Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph."

You can read the full text of President Roosevelt’s prayer, entitled, “Let Our Hearts Be Stout,” here.

Today, our nation pauses to honor those soldiers who were a part of D-Day.  I invite you to share a story of someone who served in WWII. 

 

Posted by Randy | February 02, 2012

As you may know, Arlington Cemetery has been under an ongoing investigation regarding burial mismanagement that was revealed in June 2010.

This week, two House Armed Services Subcommittees will hold a joint oversight hearing to review findings from the Army’s new “Arlington National Cemetery Gravesite Accountability Task Force” report provided to Congress at the end of last year. The hearing will also look at efforts to address accountability issues.   

The hearing will be streamed online tomorrow via a live webcast.

Joint Hearing: Update on Accountability at Arlington National Cemetery

Friday, February 3, 2012

11:30 a.m.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

(Note: Timing of the hearing is subject to change if votes are called in the House.)

The Arlington Cemetery burial mismanagement reports continue to be tragic for us as a nation and for the families of the men and women who have selflessly and faithfully served our nation. I’m hopeful that this hearing will prove that the accountability issues are being rightfully addressed.

Posted by Randy | January 10, 2012
This weekend, I traveled to Fort Lee to celebrate the return home of the last support battalion to leave Iraq. The 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion served a 10-month mission and became responsible for bringing American troops home -- they directed logistics for the remaining military personnel and supplies until the December 31 complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  These men and women were a part of the last unit in Iraq, signifying the end of the conflict.

I was filled with gratitude for their service as I shook the hands of our military men and women who were returning and watched as families were reunited.  We are so very grateful to be amongst men and women of such courage.

Here are some photos of the ceremony as we welcomed home our heroes. Let’s express our gratitude for their service to our nation:

Posted by Randy | December 09, 2011
"No religious items (ie: Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."

Those words were included in a memo issued September 14 by Walter Reed Medical Center, one of our nation’s primary medical facilities for thousands of wounded military men and women.  

The policy was brought to the attention of my colleagues and me, along with valid concerns that family members or pastors would not be able to bring Bibles or other religious materials to visit their wounded sons or daughters or husbands and wives. My colleague Rep. Steve King pointed out that “It means a priest that might be coming in to visit someone on their death bed couldn’t bring in the Eucharist, couldn’t offer Last Rites. This is the most outrageous affront.”

Our troops have risked their lives for our freedoms and liberties - including our religious liberties. To deny them this freedom when they return home is deplorable.

This week, I hosted a meeting with officials from Walter Reed regarding the policy. The officials said that the policy was not properly vetted and has been rescinded. The following apology has been posted on their website:

We are in the process of rewriting our policy and would like to offer the following statement:

Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded. We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.

Please know that at admission, all patients are asked for their religious preference and a chaplain associated with their preference visits them regularly to provide spiritual services. In addition, their families may also bring religious material and we will not refuse any religious group entrance.

WRNMMC provides multiple venues at WRMNMC for religious expression and worship. There is daily Catholic Mass as well as Protestant, Hindu, and Muslim services. Eucharist is also available at the bedside. There are weekly Torah studies, multiple weekly Christian bible studies, as well as weekly Qur'an study. Furthermore, chaplains coordinate spiritual needs for those whose faith groups are not represented by staff chaplains (such as Latter-Day Saints, Buddhist, and Christian Scientist).

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center remains committed to supporting the religious preferences of all our patients and we will continue to ensure their spiritual needs are met.

I have requested background information about the policy, how it was implemented without proper vetting, and what forces were behind its implementation. Additionally, Rep. Steve King was featured on Fox and Friends this week to discuss the situation. You can view his comments here.