February 28, 2017

Senator pens letter to President Trump | Lincoln Journal

As a proud new member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I sent a letter to President Trump this week describing West Virginia’s priorities that I believe will benefit our state and nation.  While I firmly believe that the national debt is one of the greatest threats facing this nation, I also believe that we must continue to invest in the values and principles that make this nation the greatest country on Earth.  We must continue to take care of our children and help those in need; strengthen our economy and create jobs; keep our promises to seniors and veterans; preserve national security; and invest in infrastructure and energy independence.

Achieving a brighter future for our nation depends on us keeping our promises to our seniors and veterans.  To our seniors, Social Security and Medicare are not just any government programs; they are promises earned through years of hard work and sacrifice.  I am firmly committed to keeping our promises to seniors by protecting Medicare and Social Security as we discuss responsible ways to get the federal deficit under control. 

The sacrifices and patriotism of our veterans know no bounds.  Our veterans have answered the call of this great nation without any doubts and with a proud sense of duty.  Veterans deserve access to career training programs such as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program and Veteran Success on Campus program. It is common sense that our veterans deserve access to the best care that we can provide, and that means recruiting and retaining doctors, nurses, and staff who are committed to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ mission of caring “for those who have borne the battle”.  Moreover, our veterans must not be forgotten.  This is why along with Senator Blunt, I introduced new legislation that would award employers based on their contributions to veteran employment called the HIRE VETS Act.  Over the past couple of years, many American businesses both small and large have joined the effort to hire veterans and are now doing their part in the fight to reduce our veterans’ unemployment rate. This is tremendous news, but while many employers claim to be veteran-friendly, there is no nationally recognized standard for employers to aspire to, or for future veteran employees to seek out. This bill will change that, and it is one more step we can take toward making it easier for our service men and women to find opportunities for good-paying jobs. Five years ago, I was proud to form the bipartisan Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, which has worked diligently to reduce the veterans unemployment rate. I will continue to work with the caucus and my colleagues on this important issue.

I am proud that West Virginia has one of the highest rates of military service in the nation, and that is why it is essential that the Department of Veterans Affairs has strong leadership. For the past 19 months, I have watched Dr. Shulkin take over the scandal-ridden Veterans Health Administration and work diligently to improve it. While there are still changes that need to be made, I believe his efforts have helped. In both my private meeting with Dr. Shulkin and during his hearing, he committed to ensuring that veterans had access to quality, timely health care and improving the veterans appeals backlog. His previous experience as Under Secretary for Health will allow him to hit the ground running on his first day as Secretary and I look forward to him visiting West Virginia and giving him an opportunity to heard directly from West Virginia veterans.

West Virginians and all Americans are demanding that we get our financial house in order.  Yet, we must confront our fiscal situation by clearly aligning our priorities with our core values as Americans.  We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I look forward to working with President Trump, his administration, and my colleagues in Congress to put partisanship aside and set our nation on to honoring our promises to seniors and our veterans with fiscal responsibility.