Supporting Our Veterans

vetSen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has long been a champion for helping veterans receive the care and services they need and deserve.  Today, as so many service members return home to Vermont and elsewhere from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the senator has sought to help their transition and secure the resources needed by these men and women.  We have much more to do, but here are some of the recent successes in care for veterans.

Helping Soldiers Return
Sen. Sanders met with several veterans from the Vermont National Guard in his Burlington office recently to learn what obstacles they faced after returning to Vermont from war. The very next day, he delivered their message to Veterans Affairs Sec. Eric Shinseki. As roughly 1,500 Vermonters in the Vermont National Guard are winding down their deployment to Afghanistan, the senator has continued to fight to open veterans health clinics across the state, fund an innovative outreach program for returning vets, and recently sponsored a bill to provide a 45-day demobilization period so returning service members would receive basic pay and have access to physical and mental evaluations.  To read more, click here.

Sanders Provisions in New Vets Law
Sanders successfully included provisions to help the nation’s veterans in the recently-signed Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010.  One provision will greatly increase federal support for disabled veterans who need automotive assistance.  Veterans and service members qualify for this benefit if they have service-connected loss or permanent loss of use of one or both hands or feet, or permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to a certain degree, according to the VA.  The Sanders provision raises this support from $11,000 to $18,900, indexed for inflation. Under a second provision, veterans’ families will see an increase of the amount paid by the VA for burial and funeral of veteran who dies in VA facility or is eligible for burial at a national cemetery from $300 to $700. 

vetNational Research Center in Vermont
At a time when studies tell us that over 300,000 or nearly one out of every five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or major depression, there is no better time to expand and improve the nation’s leading facility for PTSD research.  That is exactly what happened when Sens. Sanders and Patrick Leahy recently attended the reopening of an expanded National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on the campus of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt.  Sanders said, “We must do everything we can to make sure our brave men and women in uniform receive the care they need when they return from war.”  Sanders worked closely with the chairman of the veterans committee, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), to bolster the budget for the White River Junction facility.  On January 24, 2008, they sent a letter to then-VA Sec. James Peake regarding the Center’s increased workload and relatively flat budget in recent years. To read more, click here.