West Virginia has a proud tradition of sending brave men and women to serve in the armed forces. Nearly 10 percent of West Virginians have served, one of the highest percentages in the country. Our nation has always been able to rely on West Virginians to answer the call, and our veterans should be able to rely on us to support them.
When our veterans signed up to serve, we made a set of promises to them. We pledged to help them pursue higher education, provide health care, and help their families. Our service men and women put their lives on the line to protect us – more than 75 percent of West Virginia’s veterans have served during wartime, including my own father. As a member of Congress representing southern West Virginia, I pledge to ensure our veterans receive the services they deserve and see that we fulfill our promises to them and their families.
The week of Valentine’s Day – Feb. 14 – is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ annual National Salute to Veteran Patients Week, where Americans can personally thank the men and women who have served our nation. VA medical centers across the state open their doors to members of the community to come visit patients, and I visited the Huntington VA Medical Center on Monday to show my appreciation in person to our veterans. As we honor National Salute to Veteran Patients Week, I encourage you to think about how you can show your thanks to our veterans.
Since taking the oath of office in January, I have made it a priority to meet with veterans and learn about the issues affecting them. During my first month in office, I visited both the Beckley and Huntington VA medical centers, where I toured the facilities, spoke with veterans and administrators, and learned firsthand what issues the VA medical centers face.
At the Huntington VA, I met with a veteran from Logan County who has to travel to Huntington for care. While he did not like having to travel that far, he appreciated the level of care and the fact that his wife can stay at the hospital if he is being treated overnight. While we need to ensure our VA hospitals are providing high-quality and timely services, we must also care for their families as well.
In Congress, we started off the new year by passing several pieces of legislation to help veterans across the country. I am an original cosponsor of the Hire More Heroes Act, a commonsense bill that would allow small businesses to hire more veterans without being subjected to the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. The House voted unanimously to pass this bill in January, and I hope the Senate will take up this legislation quickly.
A second piece of legislation to help our veterans has passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting the president’s signature. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans aims to increase access to mental health care for veterans. This legislation, also known as the SAV Act, would implement programs to hire more psychiatrists at VA hospitals and improve the VA’s response to mental health issues. The House and Senate both voted unanimously to pass this bill – an example of the good we can do when members of Congress are willing to work together.
If you are a veteran needing assistance with your benefits or having problems with obtaining health care, I want to help you. Please visit my website at http://evanjenkins.house.gov to email me or contact one of my three offices. In Huntington, my office is located at 845 Fifth Ave. Suite 152, and can be reached by phone at (304) 522-2201. In Beckley, my office is located at 223 Prince St. and can be reached by phone at (304) 250-6177. In Washington, my office is located at 502 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 and can be reached by phone at (202) 225-3452.
I will continue to support legislation to help veterans secure good-paying jobs and access to a world-class VA healthcare system. We owe these men and women a debt of gratitude for their service, and keeping our promises to them is the best way we can thank them for keeping our nation safe and free.