On Memorial Day, as we should every day, we take time as a nation to pause and remember the brave Americans who gave their lives in defense of our country and we honor the sacrifice they made to keep us free. I honor those military men and women by investing in the success of those veterans who return home with the same values of service and sacrifice for the greater good.
As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I share in the responsibility of caring for our nation’s veterans. My duty as chairman is to make certain those who served can achieve success as they transition back to civilian life. The question I then ask, and will continue to ask during my time in Congress, is: What does success after service look like for our veterans?
The answers to this question will shape the outcomes the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will work to achieve for our veterans.
A Department of Veterans Affairs report titled “Veterans Keep on Serving,” found that 32 percent of veterans work in public service or charitable organizations, a rate 10 percent higher than non-veterans. Stepping into the legacy of veterans who came before them like Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush and John McCain, our newest generation of veterans — post-9/11 veterans — want to be civically engaged and find new ways to continue to serve. As chairman, I will rely on these veterans and their insight to help create policies the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee can advance to benefit and serve veterans around the country.
Veterans can and do thrive in this country because veterans are incredible advocates for other veterans. We have a society that supports them, and we have a Congress and VA that is dedicated to enabling veterans and creating a system that is worthy of their service and sacrifice.
While our veterans are eager to serve in new roles after they return home, post-9/11 veterans are facing higher rates of service-connected disability, higher rates of diagnosed behavioral health conditions and have fewer civilian peers who truly understand and relate to what military service means. Due to these challenges, our veterans need access to new and inventive means of support to help them succeed after their time in the military.
The support we provide our veterans must be met with resources that account for the specific challenges they face. Our country is more willing than ever to support our veterans personally, financially and philanthropically. With more than 45,000 nonprofit organizations established to serve veterans and their families, there is an overwhelming sense of goodwill that exists in America aimed at supporting our veterans.
Now is the time for our country to explore new approaches to caring for our veterans and aiding their transition back into civilian life. We cannot afford to be timid in challenging the status quo. Our health care, education and commercial systems are undergoing radical changes, and our federal programs must not only keep up — they must stay on the forefront of technological and social developments that will serve the next generation of veterans. A generation of successful veterans is our best investment as a nation to make certain we are living up to the sacrifices our fallen service members have made on behalf of all Americans.
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On Memorial Day — especially this year as we pay tribute to those who have served in new and innovative ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic — it is clear we have the will to do the right thing for our veterans. The key challenge going forward is to define what that right thing is. That will take creativity and collaboration, research, and leadership from our veterans, from the VA and from Congress. Together we can make certain our veterans have the right resources at the right time to achieve success after service.
Moran is chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and has served as a senator from Kansas since 2011.
Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org.