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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.
Posted by Randy | December 07, 2011
It is a marker that defines the Greatest Generation. It is one of the darkest days in the pages of our nation’s history book.  It has indeed become a day that “live[s] in infamy.”   

70 years have passed since the message rang across the Oahu naval base: “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Today, the first-hand experiences from the day are becoming increasingly rare (the youngest survivors are in their late 80s). But as our immediate connection to the day flickers, we are resolved to remember. We are resolved to pay tribute to the members of the Armed Forces and those civilians who died in the attacks, and the subsequent 320,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives in World War II for freedom across the globe. 

As we remember the attacks on Pearl Harbor, I want to share with you some online resources that help tell the story of the day:

Timeline, Videos, Interactive Maps, and Photos
History.com

The USS Arizona Memorial
National Park Service

United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor
National Park Service

After the Day of Infamy - "Man on the Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Library of Congress

The Pearl Harbor Radiogram
National Archives

“Day of Infamy” Speech
National Archives

Stories from the Veterans History Project
Library of Congress
Posted by Randy | November 23, 2011

Last week, I had the opportunity to celebrate America's heroic lineage of veterans and Armed Forces members at a DAR luncheon in Chesapeake. We are grateful for the many years of service represented at that luncheon and throughout Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District.

Here’s a look at the luncheon.






Tell us in the comments section -- who in your lineage has served our nation as a member of the Armed Forces?
Posted by Randy | October 24, 2011
I am happy to share with you that both the nation's largest congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization and the nation's only veterans organization comprised of wounded veterans have put their support behind my resolution, H. Res. 441, that recognizes further cuts to national security funding may cause irreparable harm to United States interests. The American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart have championed the resolution for recognizing that any decision on spending levels should be based upon a strategic determination of threats, capabilities, available resources, and risk.

National Commander, Fang Wong of the American Legion has said that the resolution shows a "willingness to truly meet the commitment to protect vital budgetary resources for our veterans and defenders” and National Commander William Hutton of the MOPH has called legislation "very timely and very much on target."

You can read the letters of support here and here.

While this resolution alone cannot stop the onslaught of looming cuts to our national security budget, it nonetheless sends a clear signal to lawmakers considering further cuts that our national defense will only be weakened and our nation's ability to protect vital interests will be significantly limited. Any decision on spending levels should be based upon a strategic assessment of threats, needed capabilities, available resources, and risk--not budgetary constraints.  Members of Congress would be wise to reject the long-term damage these cuts would inflict on veterans, service members and their families, and our ability to defend U.S. interests.

Learn more about my efforts to ensure a strong defense and a strong America here: www.forbes.house.gov/strongamerica